Friday, March 2, 2012

Mastering a Master’s Degree

Early planning is critical for successful postgraduate studies 

By Lukas Vallo

The decision to pursue a master’s degree is one that has to be made after critical evaluation of all the factors concerned with such an important professional step.

This article is not meant to convince you that you should study for a master’s degree. It is only to give you some important tips if you are considering applying for master’s programs here or abroad.

When should I start?

First of all, if you think that this issue does not concern you because you are not yet a senior, you are wrong. It is too late to think about your dream education when you are just finishing your undergraduate degree. The research and valuable experience you will need to get admitted to the university of your dreams must begin much earlier. 

Whether it is a renowned university such as Harvard or the London School of Economics, or smaller universities with no renowned name, you have to be prepared to show that you are one of the students who fulfill all the requirements for acceptance in a particular program. Be prepared to challenge other candidates in testing not only your knowledge, but also your analytical thinking, reading comprehension and performance in personal interviews. Universities, especially the high-ranking ones, realize that they have a wide range of candidates to choose from, and you have to be prepared to show that you are the one they are looking for.

Is it important to have a good Grade Point Average (GPA)?

Do not underestimate the importance of your GPA. You can easily find yourself in a situation when you realize that it is too late to increase your GPA, and your chances of getting accepted to a prestigious university are decreasing rapidly. Be aware of the fact that when applying for a master’s program, almost all universities will ask you to send your undergraduate transcript. Any outside-of-school activities may also help show that you did not waste your free time doing nothing, but that you are a proactive student who thrives on new experiences. 

The application process differs from university to university. Some may require only your personal information and previous academic and professional records, while others may want a very detailed history of your education supported by a personal statement, your goals and objectives for the future, recommendation letters and even your transcripts from high school. Here is a list of documents that a student should have prepared when he or she wants to apply for a master’s degree at any foreign university:

  • Motivation letter or personal statement
  • Curriculum vitae
  • 2 letters of recommendation (it is best to have one from a professor who knows you well, and the second from an employer)
  • Academic history and transcripts
  • Employment history
  • Professional certificates
  • Passport-sized photo
  • Scan of passport

These are only some of the documents and information that a university may want. 

Where can I get help? 

Mrs. Shaana Aljoe
If you have no idea how to write a motivation letter or compile a curriculum vitae, there are several ways to learn. Your first choice may be to go to the writing lab on the first floor in the main UNYP building to visit Mrs. Shaana Aljoe, who can help you with these matters.  Another step you can take is the Career Development Seminar with Mrs. Higgs, where you can learn how to write all the documents needed for any postgraduate programs, and for job applications later in your career. At UNYP, these are the best things you can do to increase your chances of sending professional documents with high standards.

Where should I apply?

Once you have decided to continue your academic career after finishing your undergraduate degree at UNYP, there are some important issues to consider in choosing where to apply:

  • Concentration of the program you want to study
  • Ranking of the school and of the chosen program
  • Price of the program
  • Does the school offer living accommodations?
  • What are the living expenses in the particular country/city?
  • Will the school provide you with the study materials, or do you have to buy them?

Deadlines for sending the application (differ from school to school, and country to country)

Are there any tests required?

Once you have good undergraduate academic results and sufficient professional work experience, you don’t have to worry about getting accepted to universities that do not require any additional entry tests. 

However, in order to have the widest possible choice of universities without limitations, you should get a good score on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE). These are standardized tests required by some universities, depending on the major you want to study. Both of these tests consist of three parts: Analytical
Writing Assessment, Quantitative section and Verbal section (details on the web site: http://www.impeloverseas.com/standardized-tests.aspx

These tests are required by 1,800 schools and 4,000 programs around the world, thus there is a good chance that the university of your choice will require one of them. However, keep in mind that testing requirements depend on the individual university, and are not mandatory for all majors at all schools.

Universities that offer programs in English often require students to prove their language proficiency by supplying the results from either TOEFL or IELTS English tests (details about those can be found at: http://www.impeloverseas.com/standardized-tests.aspx). But check with your university of choice, as some require only confirmation that the student’s undergraduate program was conducted in English.

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