How to prepare for Master's Admission
Master's admission is all about convincing the admissions officers responsible for your selected programme that you made a well-informed choice of and that you have the potential to grow and contribute during your graduate studies.
The aim of Master’s studies is to help you take the next step in your professional development. Graduate studies build on your first university degree, adding the specialised knowledge, skills, and focus necessary for a professional career in your chosen field.
Here are the elements of the application for admission to a Master’s degree programme:
You can apply for admission to a Master’s programme only after you graduate from university with either a Bachelor’s or another Master’s degree or their equivalent. The Bachelor’s degree is the required minimum. In some countries, there are Master’s degree programmes with a full course of study of five or more years, but these are not in the field of management and business, but rather in law and medicine. Aspirants can apply to such programmes immediately after graduation from a secondary/high school.
When applying for admission you should submit a copy of your university diploma as part of your application package. It should be a verified copy of the diploma with an apostil accompanied by a certified translation in English. Please make sure you check with each of your target universities or business schools for any additional requirements.
Check out: How I Selected my Business Master's Programme
Your university diploma should be accompanied by original official academic transcripts which list the courses taken, the scores achieved, the final GPA, and other academic details. Certified translations are required if the original academic transcripts are not in English.
When you are applying for a Master’s degree programme, your GPA and score in subjects related to your chosen Master’s course of study will be important for admission. Please check whether your chosen universities have requirements for a minimum GPA.
The majority of Master’s degree programmes in management and business related areas will be open to holders of university diplomas in any subject area. For example, if you had studied sociology or languages in your Bachelor’s degree programme, you could still apply to a Master’s in Management, Marketing or other. However, there are some programmes which will require your first degree to be in a relevant subject area or ask you to take a prerequisite course before you begin your Master’s degree study.
The majority of Master’s degree programmes are targeted at fresh Bachelor’s degree graduates. However, some Master’s programmes, such as the Master’s in Finance at certain schools, will - just like MBA programmes - require applicants to have some relevant professional work experience.
Your experience is presented in your Master’s application CV or resume. The resume presents only the information which is most relevant to higher level academic study in your selected subject area. It includes details of your professional, personal, and academic life and accomplishments. Some of the facts in your resume will also appear in the letters of recommendation.
There are different formats of CV/resume. Please check with your target business schools whether they have any preference or requirements.
Language test scores
To be able to enrol in a Master’s degree programme taught in English, you should provide proof of your English language proficiency. This is why universities require official scores in internationally recognised English language proficiency tests.
The most popular of these tests are TOEFL and IELTS. Please check with your target universities or business schools what their requirements are for a minimum score in these tests. For initial orientation, you may assume that you need a TOEFL iBT score of at least 100 (out of 120) and a IELTS score of 6.5 (out of 9.0).
The scores of these tests are valid for two years after the test date. Admissions offices normally ask to receive official original score reports.
Aptitude test scores
Official scores in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) are often required as well. These are not language tests, although they are conducted in English. GMAT and GRE are aptitude tests which assess the level of your skills needed for graduate management education, such as quantitative, analytical, and reasoning skills.
The scores of GMAT and GRE exams are valid for five years. These tests are usually much more challenging than English language tests and require more time for preparation.
Please check with your target schools what their requirements are for a minimum score in these tests. The GRE is a much more popular test when it comes to application for admission to Master’s degree programmes, while the GMAT is generally required for MBA and Master's in Finance admissions.
Letters of recommendation are an outside source of information for the admissions committee about your potential for higher level academic studies. They are part of the application package. For most programmes you will be required to submit academic letters of reference, but in some cases one of the recommendations may be related to your professional experience if you have this at the time of application.
Most universities will have their own forms for the recommendation letters, as well as instructions and guidelines for the recommenders. Make sure you read these instructions carefully and provide them to your recommenders.
It is very important to select your recommenders according to the requirements of the universities. Also, allow enough time for your recommenders to prepare the letters. Finally, each recommendation should be school-specific. You cannot submit "one-size-fits-all" letters of reference.
Essays/Statement of Purpose
Essays and the statement of purpose are one of the most interesting and challenging parts of the application package. Admissions committees pay a lot of attention to them.
Each university or business school provides one or more essay topics – usually two or three. The topics vary between universities and programmes. As with recommendation letters, your essays should be specific. You cannot submit the same essay to different business schools, even if the essay topic is the same. This is because the universities and programmes vary and you cannot have exactly the same arguments for selecting one or the other.
Some programmes will require a statement of purpose, not an essay. The statement of purpose (SoP) may or may not have any specific topic or question asked by the programme. The SoP is a presentation of your motivation for choosing the field of study, the programme, and the university. It should provide a clear description of your career goals and how this programme will help you reach them. The SoP should also illustrate how you will fit into the programme and what your contribution will be.
Your application package should be accompanied by an application form. Each business school has its own application form. Most often it is submitted online.
The application form contains important details about your profile, your academic and professional experience and other information related to Master’s admission. The information which you provide in the application form should be in line with the rest of the documents in your application package. It is recommended that all documents be submitted as a package so that you can double check before submission that all facts are correct.
Most universities will charge a non-refundable application fee in order to review your application package. The fees vary greatly between universities and programmes, but the average is about EUR 70.
Some universities will conduct an interview with applicants for admission to their Master’s programmes. Interview policies differ between universities. Some universities will interview all applicants, others will interview just the preselected ones. Most schools usually conduct only one interview.
If you are invited to an interview this only means that your application is of interest to the admissions committee. In no way does it mean that you are admitted. The actual competition is still ahead of you. Your performance during the admissions interview greatly influences your admission and scholarship chances. Make sure you prepare well for the interview. Start early. Do not wait until the interview invitation because it often comes at very short notice.
The value of the application package
The application package is the second most important part of your Master’s degree project, the first one being the selection the best university and programme for your goals, profile, and potential. Many universities will make the pre-selection based only on your application package.
Check out: The Most Challenging Part of My Master's Application
Some universities ask applicants to submit official scores of aptitude tests such as the GMAT, GRE or a school test. These tests are quite challenging and achieving a good score takes discipline and several months of preparation. Successful GMAT test takers invest about 100 hours in study and practice. They can spread this over three or four months. However, depending on one’s starting level and intensity of preparation, achieving a high score can take about six months – and more than one sitting of the test. The same applies to the GRE. You should add another month for booking a test date and one more before the official score can be reported to you and business schools. The preparation for the TOEFL or the IELTS can add another couple of months to your test prep calendar.
Check out: How to Prepare Your Master's Application