Senior students usually have three things on their minds: graduation (how, when and what to wear?), existentialism (what is the point of life anyway?) and master applications. Today the focus will be on the latter, with another Master Plan installment on the scary, exciting and often difficult application process. After you have chosen your study program, whether that is your bachelor, master or Phd program, it’s time to apply for it. Often it’s way more complicated than simply applying for it, as for most study programs you need to fill in quite a few forms, gather some official documents and write essays or motivational letters. Usually the process of a master application takes a lot of more time than expected or it’s just a lot more difficult than you previously thought.
For me personally, applying for my master program of choice was definitely more difficult than I expected. Back in Fall 2016, I very ambitiously proclaimed I would finish my application during the Fall break and when that time came around, I just couldn’t. I didn’t feel motivated at all, I really felt I wasn’t ready yet, I just didn’t want to. I knew that my official deadline was in April, so I decided to postpone the entire application process until the Winter break, which finished just two weeks ago. I made the deal with myself to finish my master application before classes started again and I handed in my application the last weekend of my break. It was quite a struggle, as I kept postponing it, I didn’t feel motivated, I still didn’t feel ready – but I had made a commitment to myself and I was going to keep it.
Now, for this second installment of the Master Plan, I’m sharing my tips for getting through the master application process.
// start on time
This sounds like the most obvious and, frankly speaking, stupid thing in the world, but it honestly really helps if you know exactly when the official deadlines for your application are. Simply go to the university website (or any other school that you’re applying to, for that matter), find those hard deadlines and write them down in your calendar. Writing these dates down makes them become more real and more as a concrete deadline (in the sense that you’re pretty dead if you cross that line and probably don’t get accepted to your study program of choice).
Additionally, what really helped for me, is set a personal deadline a while before the actual deadline. This way, you feel like you’re making all that effort for yourself, for your education and for your own benefit, instead for any random educational institute. This can really help you if you struggle with motivating yourself to dedicate time and effort to your master application.
// break it down
When you have found out the deadline for your application, it’s time to actually start working on it. Usually, a master application involves a couple of formal documents (for example GPA transcript you have to get from your current or previous school, diplomas, certificates, etc.), some forms from the university you are applying to which you have to fill in and a couple of things you need to write yourself. All this combined, the entire application process might seem a bit daunting and overwhelming, and like a lot of work that you don’t really have time for.
What I would suggest, is to break down the entire process into little assignments for yourself. Instead of writing down in your calendar “finish master application”, make a concise and complete to-do list of all the things you need to do in order to complete your application. For me that was fill in the courses yet to completed form, complete a writing sample (essay), write a motivation letter, make a curriculum vitae and collect a recent transcript with GPA. So I wrote down all of these tasks and scheduled to finish one task every day. This really helped me to get an overview of my process and to turn this big, daunting and terrifying project into tiny and totally do-able personal assignments.
// don’t panic
I think we’ve all fallen into the trap of panicking by the thought of a big, important, potentially life-altering decision. At times, I felt really nervous and panicked by the thought of my application process, because I made it into this hugely important thing that would alter the course of my forever. I put a lot of pressure onto the application and onto myself that, in hindsight, really wasn’t necessary. Sure, applying for a master is really important and should be done with a lot of focus and attention, but it’s not going to be the end of the world if you mess it up and don’t get accepted. As soon as I wrapped my head around that, I was able to think more clearly about the application. While I was working on it, I just considered it as a project that I could pour all of my passion, interest and ambition into and as long as I tried my absolute best, I had no reason to panic.
// work together
One of the many great things about being a senior in college is that you’re not the only senior in college. There are hundreds of other students who are in the exact same situation as you are. So my advice would be to find like-minded souls and work together. Of course, don’t write your application essays or motivation letters together, but you can help each other with motivation, practicalities, deadlines, etc. If you have a specific problem or issue you can ask a friend or classmate if they know something more about it, or you can brainstorm together about essay topics or discuss elements of your curriculum vitae – there are just so many benefits of working
// check check, double check
Again, this is probably pretty straight-forward advice, but do double-check your application before sending it in. Hell, even triple-check! Just do everything in your power to make sure your application is complete, free of spelling and grammar mistakes and showcasing your best effort. Double-check that your application cannot be any better, that the documents you send in are really something that you are proud of. Besides checking your application yourself, it can be really beneficial to ask someone to double-check it for you. It’s really easy to overlook mistakes that you have made yourself or perhaps someone else interprets things differently and he or she can then point it out to you.
These were the five things that really helped me while going through the entire process of my master application. I now have one application that is completely finished and handed in, which is my first choice and I am really really hoping I get accepted. But just to be sure, I’m also applying to some other options in case I don’t get accepted for my first choice. I hope these tips are helpful to you when you’re applying to a new school and to get you through the process!