How to write a winning application for your postgraduate course

Jo Moyle, careers counsellor at Oxford Brookes University's Careers and Employment Centre, explains how you can write a great application for your postgrad course.

Leave yourself enough time to apply for a postgrad place

Applying for a course is time-consuming, so don't leave it until the last minute. Check the closing date for your course, especially if it's a competitive one as these tend to fill up more quickly, and submit your application well in advance of this date.

The best way to approach your application is to 'plan carefully and break the form down into smaller tasks,' advises Jo. Look at the requirements and tackle one section at a time. Brainstorming and drafting ideas into paragraphs are useful ways of collecting and organising your thoughts before launching into the application itself.

Jo also recommends thinking ahead to who you could ask to act as a referee, and what sources of feedback and support are available.

Gain a place on a postgrad course with research

A good postgraduate application will show evidence of research into both the course and the institution providing it. Writing bland, unsupported statements or quoting at length from the prospectus is neither original nor impressive.

Compare the course you are applying for with courses offered by competitor institutions, and consider what it is that appeals to you. Is there a particular specialisation that interests you, modules that are not offered elsewhere, an academic you would like to work with, or links to industry?

Draw attention to specific and relevant achievements that support your application. Evidence of a visit to the institution or that you have spoken with a course tutor (and current students of the course) before applying won't go amiss either.

Show admissions tutors you’ve got a postgrad mindset

Admissions tutors look at your specific subject knowledge and skills, but they are also interested in academic credentials such as critical analysis and communicative skills, as well as evidence of an informed and mature career decision. Show that you can manage yourself, meet tight deadlines and are motivated to do high levels of independent research, but don't forget that your written communication skills are being assessed too. Indeed, Jo believes that poor grammar and punctuation is the main reason why applications don't succeed.

Get your further study application checked by a careers adviser

An integral part of a university's careers service is providing feedback on applications and this service is available to you for some time even after you graduate. The more people who can look at your form and give you feedback the better, whether it's peer review, parents, career advisers, academics or professionals in the field.

How to submit your application

It sounds obvious, but follow the instructions that accompany the application form and include all the information required. If you can choose to submit your application by e-mail or post, then it's down to personal preference. Admissions departments are bombarded with e-mails, but applications tend to be circulated to assessment panels in paper form, so if you send your application by (registered) post you are in control of how it looks when it's printed out. There's even no harm in doing both!

More tips on applying for places for postgraduate degree