A guide to looking into Masters Degrees

Are you in the final year of your undergraduate degree? Are you freaking out? Here’s a guide to help you apply for a Masters Degree, based on my experience thus far.

Figuring out what you want to study

A lot of people go on to do a Master’s because they’d like to further specialise in their field, or need one for the career path they’ve chosen. Some do them out of sheer post-grad panic. I’ve known for a while now that I wanted to go onto a Master’s, but in what? For me, it was a toss-up between a couple of different things that I had studied in my BA that I wanted to further my knowledge in. So if you’re at this stage, I’d recommend looking back over your course critically to see if you can find a trend in the things you enjoyed. This could help narrow down your options, so it doesn’t seem quite so scary.

Alternatively, you could go about this in a more forward-looking manner: what are your future career goals? Which qualifications do you need to do this? This can be straightforward if, for instance, you’d like to get your teaching qualification; but for some people, although it might have seemed clear when you started your degree, things may have changed, and that’s okay! I know people who have done BioMed degrees and realised that Medicine isn’t actually the best next step for them, and so have started thinking about what they really see themselves doing – these things are important to examine. What do you think will make you happiest? Remember, it’s not worth doing if you don’t think you’ll enjoy it.

Finding courses

This part is tricky in a very different way. Once you’ve narrowed it down, I’d recommend making a list of some keywords that may come up in your degree title and jumbling them around in UCAS under the postgraduate search engine. Also, think about whether you want to do a Taught or Research-based degree and look into your options. The UCAS site is definitely only a springboard into looking at programs though, as it can be weird and miss things out and be inconsistent. Still, this will give you a general sense of where and what to start looking for.

From this point, start looking at the individual unis which have popped up. When applying for a Masters degree make sure to look through all the possible courses available in your department to see if there is something you’re missing as well – don’t just assume the first one you see is all they have! If you have an interest in any particular universities, take a look at their courses and see what they have to offer.

Deciding which specific course is right for you

The first steps brought you down to a more reasonable pool of choices, but now you need to start looking at modules. Look at the variety and see if you actually like what’s on offer. For me, this mainly involves seeing if Literature modules focus on older or newer topics, as I’m much more focused on the contemporary. Figure out what’s important to you and make sure that the modules are in line with what you want to do – this is about your after all!

I’d also recommend looking at how you’ll be assessed. All universities operate differently, so this will be a good gauge of whether they’re the right fit for the kinds of learning and work you want to do.

Don’t stress about prestige

So you’ve found a course that sounds perfect for you, but it’s a uni you’ve hardly heard of? This may be controversial, but I think you should be judging based on your interest in the course and not external factors! Many of my lecturers have told me that the uni’s name matters far less than what you’ve gone to study, and more importantly, how much you’ve gained from that experience.

However, I would recommend looking into the area the university is in. There are some cities/towns you won’t feel comfortable living in, no matter what, and you need to realise that maybe this makes that uni a no-go. The best way to suss this out would be to visit Open Days!

Start working on your applications

Before starting this process, remember that each application costs money to make, so don’t waste time filling out the same boring personal details for places that you won’t want to pay for. I’d personally recommend applying for three, but feel free to go for more if you can pay for it.

Once you get to the stage to fill in your Personal Statement, pause. I’ve personally been keeping a document with all available information on each uni’s requirements for their Personal Statements. This means I can aim for all of their conditions individually and be able to tell which bare bones of my Personal Statement’s skeleton are necessary for which applications, so I can tweak where needed.

Make sure you fulfil all possible special requirements for the course you’re applying to. For example, most Creative Writing degrees require a portfolio of work. This may also include a CV, or a research proposal – check the entry requirements tab on each university’s website for your course.

What now?

Once you’ve figured out your Personal Statement, fill in your references and start sending them off. I haven’t reached this point myself, so I can’t tell you much about the wait or the process from here on out… but, hey, I guess we’re in this together.

Frances Tuoriniemi

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