To apply for a place on a postgraduate course at an American university, you’ll need to go directly to the website of the school you hope to study with, find their admissions section, and then begin the process. Most institutions now ask prospective students to create an account with the university and sign in each time they visit. Creating an online profile can save a great deal of time when it comes to completing the necessary forms and also protects your privacy. However, this is just the first step in quite a lengthy process.
Here are some of the other elements that will go to make up your finished application.
Application forms vary between institutions but most take the form of a job application. You’ll be asked for your personal details, along with your academic grades and job history. Give complete answers in each section, but always try to be concise. The most important questions on the form will be competency based, usually beginning with a phrase such as “Describe an achievement you are most proud of…” or “Give an example of when you influenced others…”. Compose your answers to include the skills you know will be needed on the postgraduate course you are applying for. Bear in mid that although some people believe they work best under pressure, when it comes to filling in a postgrad program application form, it’s best to allow yourself time to reflect on your answers over a number of days.
Although the prospect of having an academic interview can be daunting, bear in mind that only a small percentage of the people who apply for a postgraduate course are selected to attend an interview. The interviewer is not interested in catching you out; they just want to establish whether or not you are right for the program. The best way to ensure the process runs smoothly is to prepare for the day well in advance. Take care to research the US university and the course you are applying for, and consider what career you’d like to pursue afterwards. Enthusiasm is highly prized by interviewers, so a little background information can go a long way. You’ll almost certainly be asked questions relating to the answers you gave on your application form, so reread your application form from a critical perspective and consider what you may be asked about. Finally, have a few questions ready for your interviewer to show that you are engaged with the process.
Most universities ask for at least one referee who knows you in an academic capacity; the best person to ask either your personal tutor or course tutor on your first degree. If you got on particularly well with a project supervisor you might consider asking them. It’s important that you had more than a fleeting relationship with the person who acts as your academic referee, because as well as commenting on your intellectual abilities, they will also be asked about your personal attributes – so they do need to know you well. When you have selected a person who you think would be suitable, ask their permission before you list them as a referee. If they agree, give them a helping hand by supplying a copy of your CV and a covering letter with more information about you and the course you are applying for. This ensures they can go into detail about your past work and create an accurate description of your academic strengths.
Your personal reference refers to the type of character you are and is usually written by a mentor or former employer. Although they are inherently personal in nature, these references cannot be written by a family member or friend. It could be a person you have known for six months or someone who has acted as your personal referee for many years having employed you in an early job. If their knowledge of you is applicable to the course you’d like to take and they can provide details that are relevant, then they are ideal.
Your personal statement gives the university a better sense of who you are, it’s an opportunity to write about something you feel is of value – not what you think an admissions tutor wants to read. Share your views on a topic that interests you, allow your personality to shine through and enable the people who read your statement to feel they know you better.