So, for whatever reason, you did not do as well as you wanted to in your degree. The good news is that doing a masters is still a definite possibility. The bad news is that it is going to be trickier to get yourself considered, and it is going to take a bit of extra work on your part.
The first thing you have to do is to really ask yourself why you did not get the grades you were expecting? This is a really important step, as it determines what to do next. Did you, for example: 1.
Have extenuating circumstances, like health or family problems?
Did you not do your best academically because you were dedicated to extracurricular activities like student media, theatre or something outside of university like running your own business?
Or did you just underachieve generally because you were not focused or engaged, but need a higher qualification to get into your career of choice?
We will focus on each of these in turn, but a note for everyone before we begin. Although many courses will accept you, others may automatically filter you out based on your grades before anyone on the admissions team even sees your application. With this in mind, try to deal with real people as much as possible in your applications process. Look at courses that do not require you to fill in an online application form, as this might just a waste of your time.
Extenuating circumstances Whatever these extenuating circumstances are, obviously they are personal to you, and you do not have to go into details in your application process. Conversely, the admissions officer is not going to be won over by a sob story. This is postgraduate education, not The X Factor auditions.
If it was a medical problem, however, you should get a letter of extenuating circumstances from your GP. Get this sorted out as far in advance as possible, as it will most likely need a consultation with that GP before they will write it, and as urgent as it feels to you, it is not a priority matter for a GP. Also bear in mind there may well be charge for it as it is not an NHS service.
If it was a personal or family problem, it is probably worth mentioning in your application (without too much detail) as something that held you back but that you have now overcome. Focus on how you are ready to move on and really focus on your studies rather than dwelling on how it set you back as an undergrad.
Too dedicated to extra-curricular activities Admissions officers will often forgive slightly lacklustre results academically if you can demonstrate your commitment to the course in other ways. An MBA program, for example, might accept your lower grades if you can show that this was because you were forging success as a businessman. Similarly, a journalism program might accept an extensive writing portfolio – or experience as an intern in a magazine – instead of a 2:1. Courses differ, though, so do your research.
The trick is to really focus on your skills and successes in your application. If your academics seem to show a lack of attention and engagement, you have to demonstrate these traits in other aspects of your application.
General underachievement If you fall into this category, you have to ask yourself a hard question – are you really ready to do a masters degree, or is the same pattern going to emerge at postgraduate level as it did at undergraduate? If the answer is no, then it might be best to take a year or two out, gaining experience in the field of your choice or taking additional courses to get you ready for the increased demands of a masters.
Even if the answer is yes, it might be worth leaving it a year. Although with struggle you could get into a postgrad program, a year of additional experience and expertise will go a long way towards getting you into a really good program. There are plenty of courses that will essentially take anyone who can afford the fees, but these might not be the courses that industries really respect – or that you will actually enjoy. One of the most important things is to choose a course that is right for you.
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