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The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

Preparing for postgraduate study

Find out how to succeed in postgraduate study with our guide on preparing for a master's degree

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Finished your undergraduate degree and thinking about undertaking a postgraduate course? Or maybe you’re mid-way through your undergraduate programme and starting to think about your next steps? No matter where you in the decision-making process, we’re here to help you prepare for postgraduate study.


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Why do a postgraduate degree?


What’s the difference between an undergraduate and postgraduate degree?


Do you want to stay at the same university?


How should I prepare?


Postgraduate fees




Why do a postgraduate degree?

Students choose to continue with higher education for a number of reasons, but there are a few that seem to remain the same. Firstly, if you have a specific career in mind such as a lecturer, business consultant or occupational therapist, you will need to have a postgraduate qualification in order to progress. For other jobs you may not necessarily need to have a masters, but it can make you a more appealing candidate. You might want to think about whether you have a specific goal and if a masters is going to help you achieve it.


Do you want to remain at university to develop your knowledge of a specific subject area prior to starting to work? Whatever your motivation for doing a postgraduate degree, it’s a good idea to start asking yourself questions like this to avoid making the wrong decision. Studying a master’s degree isn’t going to be cheap, so you want to ensure that this next stage of your education is going to benefit you in the future.


What’s the difference between an undergraduate and postgraduate degree?

As with an undergraduate degree, you’ll need to manage your time effectively. In this sense, there are many transferrable skills that you will have gained from your undergraduate course which can be applied to a masters.


If you’re doing a postgraduate course, it’s likely that you are interested in a particular field and want to expand your knowledge and make a contribution to that field. While you’ve learnt to work independently on your undergraduate course, this will be of even more importance at postgraduate level. Some masters include a dissertation which you will have to start within the first couple of months of your course. So, it pays to be prepared.


On your undergraduate course you might have skipped a few lectures here and there. Or maybe you decided to miss out a few of the required readings? On a postgraduate course, it is vital you stay up to date with each lecture and prepare in advance. Otherwise, you’ll fall behind, and you won’t have much time to catch up with all the looming deadlines ahead.


A postgraduate degree might feel fast-paced compared to your undergraduate degree of three or more years. In most cases, you can decide between doing a full-time or part-time master’s degree which is one or two years respectively. If you decide on one year, you might be surprised at how fast this time will pass and how much work you will be expected to do. As with anything though, you’ll adjust and get used to your new routine.  


Do you want to stay at the same university?

If you studied abroad for your undergraduate degree, you need to ask yourself whether you’d like to experience somewhere new or if you want to remain at the same institution. If you decide to stay at the same university, you could be offered discounted tuition fees for your masters. This will however depend on the university. If you completed your degree in your home country, then this might be the first time you’ve travelled abroad for your education. In that case, you can refer to our guide on how to apply for a postgraduate degree.



How should I prepare?

Academic preparation

We advise starting your postgraduate research six months to a year before applying so you can prepare all of the necessary documents.


These include:

  • Academic transcripts
  • Personal statement
  • Two references
  • A research proposal
  • Copy of your undergraduate degree certificate
  • Proof of English language proficiency
  • Copy of your passport

Don’t worry if you haven’t received your confirmed academic transcripts, your tutors will be able to provide your expected grades.


Application deadlines

For postgraduate courses, universities tend to set their own application deadlines which are usually open all year round, unlike undergraduate courses. So, check the website of the university you want to apply to for key dates and deadlines. You can also use our search tool to browse the universities offering the course you want in different countries around the world.


Personal preparation

Studying abroad can be challenging on a personal level too. Especially if this is the first time you’ve lived away for your studies. You may experience homesickness and culture shock as well as missing your family and friends. But don’t worry, this is common for all international students. However, if this is affecting your ability to work or your mental wellbeing is suffering, it’s important to ask for help.


In fact, one way to prepare for this is by accepting that you might face some difficulties during your time abroad. Before you start your course, think about ways to combat these challenges so that you know what to do. One way could be researching the dates of the university societies fair, where you can speak to other students and get involved with campus initiatives. You could plan to call your family on a regular basis to help with feeling homesick. Often just hearing a familiar voice can be reassuring. It is of course important not to dwell on the challenges too much. Remember to let yourself feel excited about this next phase too.


While the summer before your first semester is a chance to relax and enjoy yourself, it is also the perfect opportunity to make a start on your reading list. You could also take the initiative to email your course leader to find out what else you could be doing to prepare. This way, you should be able to participate in lectures and have an idea of what’s going on.


Postgraduate fees

Another way to prepare for postgraduate study is by planning your finances in advance. Studying abroad can be expensive, particularly at postgraduate level. So, you need to think about whether you can afford to pursue another course. Are you able to ask family for support or do you need to take some time out to save up? The great thing about a masters is that you can do it at any age, once you feel ready. Make sure you also check to see if you are eligible for any scholarships to help with the cost of tuition fees.



Finding somewhere to live for your studies can be stressful. Particularly if you’re doing your research from a different country. As an undergraduate student you might have become indifferent to dingy flats and loud flat mates, but when doing a postgraduate course, getting enough sleep and living comfortably is extremely important. We advise staying away from student halls, unless they are for master’s students specifically.


The key for preparing for a potential foray into postgraduate study is to ensure that you are clear on your motivation for embarking on a new academic chapter and have done your research on key aspects of the endeavor, like budgeting and costs. Postgraduate study can open many new opportunities and allows you to explore your intellectual curiosity while enhancing your knowledge. 


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