Applying for further study

Students and laptop

Searching for and choosing courses

Use the course search facility on Prospects, www.postgrad.com or www.findamasters.com. As well as searching for courses by subject, you can also explore profiles of the universities and academic departments you're interested in.

Your research should include:

  • entry requirements
  • reputation of the institution and course
  • specilaism of the institution and its academics (you will need to also choose a supervisor if you're considering PhD research)
  • graduate destinations
  • links with industry/sector
  • possibilities of funding

Check what documents you will need for your application and request them in good time. You may need to obtain an official transcript from the University, so find out how to obtain official documents.

There is no central admissions system for most postgraduate courses, so you will need to submit individual applications for each course. There may not be a deadline, but check this for the course you're interested in, and remember popular courses fill up quickly, so submit your application as early as possible. 

Some vocational courses (teacher training, law, clinical psychology, nursing, dentistry, medicine) are made via a clearing house. This means you can apply for several courses through one application form, usually incorporating a personal statement. Admissions tutors will consider your suitability for the profession and your motivation, as well as your academic ability.

Applications and personal statements

You will usually have to complete an application form, though some universities ask for a CV and research statement. In some cases an application fee is payable.

A personal statement or supporting letter is a good opportunity to express your motivation and enthusiasm for a course and your understanding of the subject to be studied.

The personal statement might be part of the application form, with a strict word limit – or a separate statement with no limit specified. In that case, one side of A4 is about right: keep it concise and only include information relevant to the course.

Learn how to write a winning application for your postgraduate course.

What to include in a personal statement...

Vocational courses

An effective personal statement should include the following:

  • Why you are interested in this type of work and why you think you will enjoy it and gain job satisfaction. What has influenced your decision, how your ideas have developed and what research you have carried out to confirm your interest in this career
  • Why you feel that you are suited to it. Include details such as relevant skills and personal qualities – provide brief details of evidence to support your assertions
  • Details of any relevant work experience (paid and unpaid) which you have undertaken and what you have learned from it
  • The relevance of your degree to the course to which you are applying. Sometimes this will be obvious, in which case you should highlight particularly relevant modules, research projects or dissertation topics.  If it is less obvious then you must demonstrate why you believe it is relevant, by highlighting some of the specific topics studied and skills gained throughout the course
  • Mention any extra-curricular activities and interests that are relevant to your application
  • Indicate your knowledge of the career area and demonstrate that you have a realistic understanding of the nature of the work
  • Mention your long term career plans/specific areas of interest (eg if you are applying to social work you might mention an interest in working with children and families)

If you would like a second opinion on your personal statement, book a careers advice appointment via Careers Gateway.

Non-vocational courses

Applications to ‘academic’ taught courses (Masters) should explain your interest in the subject and demonstrate the relevance of your previous studies and how they have prepared you for the course to which you are applying.  However, do provide other details where they are relevant - for example, a year in industry as part of a science degree will be relevant to an application for a postgraduate science programme, and time spent doing voluntary work in a developing country will be relevant to courses in Development Studies. The following points should be covered in a personal statement:

  • Your reasons for applying to the course.  Explain your interest, perhaps highlighting particular features of the course such as specific modules or electives if appropriate. You will need to convince admissions tutors of your enthusiasm for the subject and your desire to learn more
  • Highlight the relevance of your previous studies.  Mention (as appropriate) specific modules/topics studied, research projects undertaken, dissertation topics, literature reviews, poster presentations, field trips, laboratory skills, IT skills, time spent abroad (particularly for language students), work placements, etc. You could also give an indication of your marks/grades to date (if known)
  • Why you are applying to the specific institution (eg reputation of the department, recommended by your current lecturers, staff whose interests reflect your own, reputation/quality of the teaching and research)
  • An indication of your career aspirations
  • An indication of your research interests and ability (particularly if the course includes a dissertation)

If you would like a second opinion on your personal statement, book a careers advice appointment via Careers Gateway.