Applying For Postgraduate Programs (Tips & FAQ’s!)

When you live far away from home, you get that tickle in your heart when an old pal asks how you’re doing. I recently had a video call with a good friend from college where we caught up with so many things – personal life, professional life, our former org, and plans for our respective futures. Our conversation was mostly on post-graduate studies life. I have had a couple of friends messaging me about it too; so I’ll be sharing what I did and how I did it!

Why did you pursue a Master’s Degree?

I never had a formal education in journalism, so one of the primary reasons is that I wanted (and felt) I needed it. My Bachelor’s in Literature did train me to write, analyse and deconstruct texts – which are fundamental skills in the field I am in. I wanted formal training in the journalism industry so that I could have a better work ethic when I apply what I study. I wanted to enhance my career in that aspect.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, even as a kid. I started my blog in 2012 (my blog turns 7 years old today!), began contributing for online magazine WheninManila.com in 2014 and became a student correspondent for the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2017. As much as I have experience in writing, I felt my knowledge of the industry is still lacking. I hoped that taking a Master’s Degree in journalism would help me improve as a journalist. And as of writing, I’ve been learning a lot from the program.

London College of Communication in Elephant and Castle

Why did you choose the University of the Arts London?

This is a funny story. I enjoyed my student-exchange life in Lille so much that I didn’t want to go home anymore. I started finding a way to ‘extend’ my Europe stay by applying for transfer to other schools. I wanted an English speaking country and I wanted journalism, so I applied to London. After good research and dooly-dallying around the university’s website, reviews and student forums, University of the Arts got me sold.

UAL has a reputable journalism program and has produced renowned journalists of today that now work in highly regarded media/publishing companies such as the Guardian, the Sunday Times, Daily Mail and CNBC. Aside from that, I checked out UAL’s ranking and reputation as an institution. University of the Arts London is one of the leading specialist universities for arts and design in Europe, and is currently ranked number 6 in the world. The programme is also taught by professors with a remarkable background in journalism.

I had a look at the different programmes offered by the institution, too. UAL has seven different colleges – and each college caters programmes for specific fields such as fine arts & design (Camberwell College of Arts) and communications (London College of Communication). I wanted a ‘specialisation’ that catered to what I felt was fitting as a journalist. The MA Arts and Lifestyle Journalism programme is offered only in UAL, and it best fit both my personal preference and professional interests.

Why did you apply abroad?

I’ve been educated in the Philippines all my life and I wanted a fresh start elsewhere. As I have mentioned earlier, I was impressed with the academic system in Europe; how furnished the equipment is that is fundamental to a student’s learning, the opportunities provided by the university (inclusive of the program), among many things.

Don’t get me wrong – the Philippines has great institutions too. In fact, the University of the Philippines and my very own alma mater, De La Salle University, are a part of the latest rankings of top universities in the world. I suppose it’s a matter of an individual’s preferences.

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I did a campus tour of Boston University and Emerson College in Massachusettes

How did you choose your school/s?

I had two factors. First is the school, second is the location.

Other than UAL, I applied to other schools that had a good journalism/communications/media program. I kept my options open in terms of the programs that I applied since I wanted to work around the mentioned fields. I looked at the reputation of the school and the specific program and also asked around. I read student forums, watched YouTube videos of current students and even reached out to some alumni of the universities I applied to. Education is a gift, but is also hefty in terms of finances, so I wanted to see if the program is worth spending (just being practical here.. 🙂 ) as well as if I will get the maximised education as I opted (aka, why I chose to study).

Location, I greatly considered the United States and the United Kingdom because they have big media hubs. The media, communications and journalism industry in those places are highly-regarded. In essence, these places have trained and produced good journalists. I hoped to get the same training as them from the schools they came from. Additionally,  I have a good number of friends and family from both countries so it would be easier for me to visit during my spare time. (A sense of family and home is good!).

Do I need to have work experience to apply for grad school?

Many universities look for samples of your work when you apply (especially in the arts) so yes, I suppose it would be fundamental for your application. Some schools require x number of work experience. The reason why they do that? They want to see how well-trained the applicant is in the field. The work experience will also train you for the school work you’ll be doing in graduate school. Do not be discouraged, however, if you lack work experience. It will help impress evaluators to see how knowledgable you are in the field based on what you’ve done in your respective industry, so it’s best to show them your experience; whether paid work, internships, volunteering, etc.

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During the International Student Orientation

When studying abroad, are you on a tourist visa?

No, I am on a Tier 4 student visa where the British government allows me to work part-time for a maximum of 20 hours a week. The duration of my visa is also the duration of my programme.

Once you get accepted by the school, they’ll help provide the required documents by the embassy to process the papers needed for your visa.

 HERE ARE THE GENERAL REQUIREMENTS I PREPARED (it varies per school):

  • An accomplished online form indicating basic information about yourself – name, age, birthday, nationality, address, etc. I’m not sure if there are still physical copies for application but usually, the school will provide that electronically. For undergraduates applying, in the US, there’s a portal used like the CommonApp; the UK’s is UCAS. For my postgraduate applications, all the schools I applied to no longer went through a portal but on the institution’s website itself.
  • Educational/Qualification Details. Transcript of records, certificate of employment, normally the technical stuff.
  • CV
  • Personal statement/essay about career/education objectives
  • Photocopy of Diploma
  • Application fee*. *The schools I applied to in the States required a fee. For the ones I applied in the UK, none.
  • IELTS/TOEFL scores**. The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or the TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language) was a requirement on my end because even if my first language is English, it is required by an  applicant who lives in a country where English isn’t their official or native language.
  • GRE/GMAT scores***. The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is a requirement to many graduate schools where it assesses the applicant’s critical thinking, analytical writing, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning. The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is for those who wish to take an MBA.

For other schools (like the Philippines), they may require:

  • Two recent & identical passport photos of yourself
  • Marriage certificate
  • NSO/PSA Birth Certificate
  • Letters of recommendation
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Inside the London College of Communication

 How long is the application process? When do you find out results?

It depends on the school. I got my earliest results between 3-4 months and some even took longer. Evaluators sometimes will email you asking for extra documents or contact you if they wish to interview you (in person or via online video call). Because I was targetting to begin my studies the soonest academic year (Fall), I started applying late December to early January. Most programs start during Fall, so around August/September.

TIPS FOR APPLYING TO GRAD SCHOOL

  • Acknowledge your goals! Just like a regular job, remember that applying (and eventually going!) is supposed to be driven by the passion you have whether for your work or personal interest.
  • Submit all the requirements on time. Make sure you make the deadline! If you have difficulty gathering the documents, ask someone for help. If you need clarification (i.e., some programs do not require the GRE), always ask the institution. You can save money from processing the extra documents!
  • Research on the school you wish to apply to. Look up your school’s reputation. What institution in your preferred area offers this course? Does your school have a good programme for your chosen course? How are the professors and the students like? Is it a research-based university? Who graduated from here? Knowing these will be a huge factor in decision making by the time results of your application come in. These websites might be helpful:a. Find a Masters
    b. Masters Portal
    c. Times Higher Education World Rankings
    d. The Complete University Guide
    e. The Student Room
    f. Masters Studies
  • Ask around. Did your sister’s best friend study here? How about your dad? You want to know how the culture is in the school as well as your chosen program. Take in as much information as you can about the school before you apply
  • Build a strong CV and portfolio. Work experience is very important as evaluators want to see how well you know or skilled you are in the industry. Make it precise and don’t forget to include the skills you have. For your portfolio, place your best foot forward by choosing the best works! You may include academic work as well.
  • Build a strong personal statement. It helps to be as frank as possible so that the evaluators will get to know you as a person and as a professional. Do not use flowery words if you have difficulty composing them – the evaluators want to see what your goals are in entering grad school as well as what you want to do after. Eventually, these evaluators will help you reach your goals so being honest will help.
  • Breathe. You got this!!!!

And there you have it! Wishing you the best with your application!