Masters admission is all about convincing the admissions officers of your selected programme that you made a well-informed choice of programme and that you have the potential to grow and contribute during your graduate studies.
The aim of Master’s studies is to take the next step in your professional development. Graduate studies build on your first university degree adding the specialised knowledge, skills and focus for a professional career in your chosen field.
Here are the elements of the application for admission to a Master’s degree programme.
You can apply for admission to a Master’s programme only after you graduate from university with either a Bachelor’s or another Master’s degree or their equivalent. The Bachelor’s degree is the required minimum. In some countries there are Master’s degree programmes with a full course of study of five or more years, but these are not in the field of management and business, but rather in law and medicine. Application for such programmes can be done immediately after graduation from a secondary/high school.
When applying for admission you should submit a copy of your university diploma as part of your application package. It should be a verified copy of the diploma with an Apostil accompanied by a certified translation in English. Please make sure you check with each of your targeted universities or business schools for any additional requirements.
Your university diploma should be accompanied by original official academic transcripts which list the courses taken, the scores achieved, the final GPA and other academic details. Certified translations are required if the original academic transcripts are not in English.
When you are applying for a Master’s degree programme, your GPA and score in subjects related to your chosen Master’s course of study will be important for admission. Please check whether your chosen universities have requirements for a minimum GPA.
The majority of Master’s degree programmes in management and business related areas will be open to holders of university diplomas in any subject area. For example, if you studied sociology or languages for a Bachelor’s degree this will be fine to apply for a Master’s in management, marketing or other. However, there are some programmes which will require your first degree to be in a relevant subject area or require you to take a prerequisite course before you begin your Master’s degree study.
The majority of Master’s degree programmes are targeted at fresh Bachelor’s degree graduates. However, some Master’s programmes, such as the Master’s in Finance at certain schools, will – just like MBA programmes – require applicants to have some relevant professional work experience.
Your experience is presented in your Master’s application CV or resume. The resume is a shorter version of a CV, which is focused on your Master’s programme application. It presents only the information which is most relevant to higher level academic study in your selected subject area. The resume includes details of your professional, personal and academic life and accomplishments. Some of the facts in your resume will also appear in the letters of recommendation.
There are different formats of CV/resume. Please check with your targeted business schools whether they have any preference or requirements.
Language test scores
To be able to enrol in a Master’s degree programme taught in English, you should be fluent in reading, writing, speaking and listening in English. This is why business schools require official scores in internationally recognised English language proficiency tests.
Please check with your targeted university or business school what their requirements are for a minimum score in these tests. For initial orientation, you may assume that you need a score of at least 100 (out of 120) in the TOEFL iBT and 6.5 (out of 9.0) in the IELTS.
The scores of these tests are valid for two years after the test date. Admissions offices normally ask to receive official original score reports.
Aptitude test scores
Official scores in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) are often required as well. These are not language tests, although they are conducted in English. GMAT and GRE are aptitude tests which assess the level of your skills needed for graduate management education, such as quantitative, analytical and reasoning skills.
The scores of GMAT and GRE exams are valid for five years. These tests are usually much more challenging than English language tests and require more time for preparation.
Please check with your targeted business schools what their requirements are for a minimum score in these tests. The GRE is a much more popular test when it comes to application for admission to Master’s degree programmes, while the GMAT is more needed for MBA and Master in Finance admissions.
Letters of recommendation are an outside source of information for the admissions committee about your potential for higher level academic studies. They are part of the application package. For most programmes you will be required to submit academic letters of reference, but in some cases one of the recommendations may be related to your professional experience if you have this at the time of application.
Most universities will have their own forms for the recommendation letters, as well as instructions and guidelines for the recommenders. Make sure you read these instructions carefully and provide them to your recommenders.
It is very important to select your recommenders according to the requirements of the universities. Also, allow enough time for your recommenders to prepare the letters. Finally, each recommendation should be school-specific. You cannot submit ‘general’ letters of reference.
Essays/ Statement of Purpose
Essays or the Statement of Purpose are one of the most interesting and challenging parts of the application package. Admissions committees pay a lot of attention to them.
Each university or business school provides one or more essay topics – usually two or three. The topics vary between universities and programmes. As with recommendation letters, your essays should be specific. You cannot have one and the same essay for different business schools, even if the essay topic is the same. This is because the universities and programmes vary and you cannot have exactly the same arguments for selecting one or the other.
Some programmes will require a Statement of Purpose, not an essay. The Statement of Purpose (SoP) may or may not have any specific topic or question asked by the programme. The SoP is a presentation of your motivation for choosing the field of study, the programme and the university. It should provide a clear description of your career goals and how this programme will help you reach them. The SoP should also illustrate how you will fit into the programme and what your contribution will be.
Your application package should be accompanies by an application form. Each business school has its own application form. Most often it is submitted online.
The application form contains important details about your profile, your academic and professional experience and other information related to Master’s admission. The information which you provide in the application form should be coherent with the rest of the documents in your application package. It is recommended that all documents are submitted as a package so that you can double check before submission that all facts are correct.
Most universities will charge a non-refundable application fee in order to review your application package. The fees vary greatly between universities and programmes, but the average is about 70 Euros.
Some universities will conduct an interview with applicants for admission to their Master’s programmes, but this varies greatly. Interview policies differ between business schools. Some programmes will interview all applicants, others will interview just the preselected ones. Most schools usually conduct only one interview.
If you are invited to an interview this only means that your application is of interest to the admissions committee. In no way does it mean that you are admitted. The actual competition is still ahead of you.
Your performance during an admissions interview has a lot of weight on the decision for admission, as well as if you apply for a scholarship. Make sure you prepare well for the interview. Start early. Do not wait until the interview invitation, as it often comes at very short notice.
The value of the application package
The application package is the second most important part of your Master’s degree project, the first one being selecting the best university and programme for your goals, profile and potential. Many universities will make the pre-selection based only on your application package.
Preparing a well-thought-out application package takes time. Start working on it as soon as your selected universities and programmes open the application process for the intake of your preference. This may be about 12 months before the actual start of your Master’s studies. There are usually at least two or three months during which the actual application process is open before the application deadline.
Preparation for language and aptitude tests should be done in advance. Plan for about four additional months for preparation, taking or retaking the tests, and official score reporting. It is very practical to first take the tests and then shortlist the universities and programmes based on your scores and their requirements, among all other factors.
Check out How to Prepare Your Masters Application