When I was thinking about applying for a Masters, I honestly had no idea how to even go about starting an application. It can be daunting and quite stressful, as it was for me. But don’t worry! It’s natural to feel like this. Luckily for you, I have written this blog to help reassure you and provide some helpful advice I wish I knew before I applied.
Be prepared and start early
Usually, when applying for a Masters course, you do so via the university website. The application involves providing an Academic Transcript, Personal Statement, and additional supporting documents, such as your CV, evidence of financial support, references, or examples of previously written work.
The biggest mistake I made when I applied is that I left it quite late. For most courses, there isn’t a solid deadline, and you can apply throughout the year up until the course starts. To me, this translated to “you’ve got plenty of time, don’t worry about it, get other work out the way first”. Whilst it may be tempting to leave the application until later or when you have more time, try not to do so. From my experience, I kept on getting busier and busier, and so I kept delaying and delaying. It got to the point where I was overwhelmed and stressed with the size of the application to do in a short period of time, alongside writing my final dissertation!
To avoid this, I wish I had created a plan. Having everything written down really helps relieve stress as it will take up less mental headspace, especially when applying. In addition, setting deadlines will help make sure it all doesn’t pile up and the workload is evenly spread throughout the year. It will also help you create the best application possible, as you’ll be able to put the right time and dedication into each part, rather than just rushing through (like I did).
Take your time on your Personal Statement
When applying, the Personal Statement is your chance to get noticed for the unique talents and experiences you have. This can really make a difference if you want an offer, so you want to put some careful thought into it to give the best possible impression.
For me, this was the hardest part of my application as I tend to go blank when someone asks me to talk about myself. In addition, I started it quite late, so I didn’t give myself enough time to perfect it! What I wish I did was start early so I could come up with some drafts. This way I could have asked friends and family to check it and give advice on where I could improve.
Even so, writing a personal statement is a big task, as it feels like another essay on top of the rest of your work. This can be particularly challenging if essay work isn’t your strong point. I’ve written many essays for my course, but I still found it stressful and confusing.
Looking back, my advice to deal with these feelings is to make a checklist of things to include. For example:
- Demonstrate your passion for the course
- Relevant experiences and skills
- A particular area of interest
- Why you would make the most of the course
- Future ambitions, what you want to achieve
It took me a few attempts, but I got there, as will you! Just remember it’s your opportunity to tell those reading your application why you really want to study this subject and why they should give you the chance!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
No matter what you do, sometimes your feelings can overwhelm you. The stress, anxiety, and worries I had before, during, and after applying really affected other aspects of my life. I tend to try and bottle up my emotions and wait for them to go away. From experience, this did not work and only made things worse. When I did finally speak to someone, I felt much more relaxed about the situation.
There are many people you can talk to should a similar situation arise. You can speak to friends and family if you need to get anything off your chest (just check they are ok with it before doing so!). If you’re struggling with workload, speaking to your academic supervisors can help. When I asked them for help, they gave me advice on my applications and even granted me extensions on some of my assignments. If you feel you need more support, there are a variety of online resources and services available from the university, such as Open Door or Nightline.
The main advice I’d give is to seek help sooner rather than later. Don’t let it build up, prioritise your health first. Speaking to someone really helped me, so hopefully, it will help you too!