Post graduate personal statements
Late May and early June can be a very stressful time for final-year undergraduates, though not necessarily in the way you might expect. Yes, doing those final exams highly stressful. But it's a short-term stress that magically evaporates after the final paper is scooped up off the exam-hall desk by the invigilator. After that, there's nothing but euphoria. Well, for a few days or weeks at least. Because after that, the reality that university is over kicks in, along with the realization that there has to be a next step in life. For some students, this isn't a problem. They've already made plans, whether they take the form of jobs, travelling or further study.
But this isn't the case for everyone. And if this applies to you, then you'll know that feeling of dread about the future. You've probably got ideas about what you'd like to do, but haven't yet turned them into solid plans.
It's that last bit that we're here to help you with. We'll look at job applications in another post; today we'll focus on the steps you need to take to continue your studies.
Contrary to the way they felt when they were in the midst of a storm of coursework and exam revision, many students find after all that has been conquered that they'd actually love nothing more than the opportunity to carry on studying their subject. However, they worry that it may be too late to get into a master's course for the upcoming academic year.
In fact, this isn't the case. While undergraduate application season mainly runs until mid-January, the majority of postgraduate applications come over the spring and summer. So if you're interested in continuing your studies, there's still time to get things sorted out.
You'll need to approach the task with a degree of efficiency, though. It's not just a question of picking a course; you also have to convince them to let you into it. And many students take a wrong turn at this stage, thinking that the admissions process will be essentially the same as when they filled in their UCAS form.
But it's not, and an awareness of this will save you a lot of time when it comes to applying, and also vastly increase your chances of being offered a place.
Here are the key differences between undergraduate and postgraduate applications, along with how you can take steps to make sure you don't fall into the trap of just rehashing your undergraduate application:
1) You need to know about the course in much more detail, and go into more detail about it on your personal statement.
You apply directly to the university at postgraduate level, and they want to know exactly why you've chosen them. Unlike with your UCAS statement, then, you need to go into the level of talking about specific modules that your chosen course offers, and why they're of interest to you.
2) You need to display a much greater level of subject knowledge
Talking about why the subject interests you in vague terms simply won't cut it at postgraduate level; you need to be able to demonstrate that you have developed a sophisticated appreciation of your chosen subject during your time as an undergraduate, not to mention a true motivation for it.
3) Your admissions statement should only talk about things that are directly relevant to the course, unless you're told to do otherwise.
UCAS personal statements usually spend time talking about part-time jobs and hobbies. This is because when seventeen-year-olds apply to university, admissions tutors are looking more for a generic set of personal qualities than subject expertise. But now you're a grown-up, and so they're not interested in the potential of who you could develop into. They're purely interested in your abilities as a student, and perhaps also how their course fits into your future career plans. So cut out the Duke of Edinburgh stuff!
If you follow these three guidelines, and act swiftly in putting together a personal statement, then come September you could well be returning to student life, rather than twiddling your thumbs and drifting through those post-undergraduate months. Good luck!