Deciding on a specific program and university is the first step that one needs to take in the process of starting your Master’s. The second hurdle that needs to be overcome is the application procedure.
The formalities for the application procedure are different for all Master’s programs; however, some components appear in almost all applications. Many Master’s programs require you to submit a well written résumé and a motivation letter. Recommendation letters can play an important role in steps towards getting accepted into the program of your choice as well. Finally, interviews often drastically increase your chances of getting accepted into selective programs, so getting them is very important. Remember, all these pieces of information are part of one larger picture that the University you’re applying to wants to form of you. The University you’re applying to will take many factors into account, so make sure that you provide them with a coherent and complementing story.This page aims to cover the most typical situations when applying for Master's programs.
Almost all Master's programs require a résumé and a motivation letter. More information on how to write these can be found on the tab "CV and Motivation Letter".
The interview is the final stage in many application procedures. The interview is your opportunity to impress the interviewer on a personal and academic level. It is often your final possibility to distinguish yourself from other students. Reading your motivation letter again is a good start before the interview, but doing a role play with a teacher, tutor or just a friend can prove helpful as well. As a last note, it always helps to be in control of the conversation, so that you limit the possibility of being surprised by difficult questions. Using the answer that you give to one question to lead into one of your competences or a particular interest in the Master’s discipline can make you come across as more confident. Make sure to leave enough room for the interviewer to ask all questions he or she wants to ask you and prevent that the interview changes into a monologue.
Transcripts & GPA Requirements
Your transcript contains information about the courses you have taken, the grades attained for these courses and your general GPA. A transcript filled with a 4.0 GPA is not necessarily better than one comprised of lower grades. The committee of the graduate program you apply to usually takes into account that an A for a general 100-level will generally not be more impressive than a B for a 300-level literature or economics.
Your GPA gives an overview of the average grade you obtained for your courses. It is not simply a measure of intelligence, but also of motivation and long term performance. Whereas in the Netherlands you can always enter a graduate program after completing your Bachelor's regardless of your GPA, foreign universities often require a minimum GPA. More prestigious universities ask for a higher GPA. These minimum requirements can vary officially from 3.0 to as much as 3.5, and in practice might be even higher. However, remember that your transcript is only 1 aspect of your application and that extracurricular activities on your CV, an extraordinary motivation letter or a very positive recommendation letter help the application committee in assessing your application.
You can request these documents from the reception by filling in the Document Request form.
Certain programs require you to take certain courses or have a number of credits in a specific field. As Liberal Arts & Sciences students you have had a very broad education and might not have taken enough courses in a specific field to be admitted straight into a Master's program. Therefore, you might be required to take a pre-Master's to make up for those courses you were not able to take at UCU.
Fried Keesen, the director of education of UCU, has the following tips for avoiding a pre-master's:
"Now that over 10 cohorts of UCU graduates have found their way into highly rated graduate schools, UCU’s name is established and some programs that were once reluctant are now actively recruiting at UCU. But in some places you may still have trouble getting in, especially in programs that are geared toward entry into a specific professional community, such as barristers or clinical psychologists. If you don’t want to lose time and/or money on a premaster before enrolling in a master program after your graduation from UCU being proactive is the key. You can be proactive in your strategies in two ways:
- First and foremost: make sure that you are well prepared content wise. Start orientating on your master’s no later than your third semester. Look at the entry requirements and plan your study program accordingly. Take off campus courses and/or courses on exchange if there are gaps in the UCU curriculum with regards to the prerequisites. Tailor your thesis subject towards the criteria and use your report as your show case in the admissions process. And - especially if you want to do your master at UU – it may also be a good idea to have your work supervised by a professor who is involved in your envisioned master program, thus connecting strategies 1 and 2.
- Be an actor in the application process. Do some research into the practices of the admissions committee of the master’s that you want to get admitted to. Some still count the number of EC in courses of “their own bachelor”, while others have moved towards a more generic approach of assessing skills and knowledge. The former category may be troublesome, while UCU students are usually welcomed by the latter. That is: if they know UCU at all, so find out and make sure they know. Ask UCU alumni who went the same way for their experiences and advice. Get in contact with faculty and staff of the master program and maintain relationships, so that you become a person they remember instead of a number they can overlook.
Be flexible, especially if you want something that is difficult. For certain programs neither strategy will give you a 100% guarantee to avoid premaster’s programs completely. But if you do a bit of work on both, the worst case scenario is that you will at least be aware of extra requirements timely to make arrangements and minimize the extra requirements. Or you could consider a similar program at another university."
GRE and other standardized exams
American graduate programs in particular can require you to take a standardized exam. The different tests are the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), which tests verbal, quantitative and analytical abilities for graduate programs in general, and the following tailor made tests for specific programs: Law School Admission Test (LSAT) for law school, Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) for medical colleges and the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) for graduate business programs. These exams are aimed at helping the admission committees determine which students are best fit for doing the Master's program. The philosophy behind these standardized tests is that different universities might have varying grading standards, which makes it hard to compare two students with similar GPAs from different universities. The standardized exam is there to compare these students in an equal setting. Next to that they are also used to determine which students should receive a fellow- or scholarship.
The requirements for a specific program you can find on the website of the University you’re applying to; sometimes specific programs require a certain score for one of the tests. You can often take these tests at fixed times during the year, you can also retake the tests a number of times a year if you have not reached the envisioned score. You can for example take the LSAT 3 times within 2 years and the GRE 5 times a year and not more often than once a month. However, keep in mind that taking one of these tests will costs between 150 and 250 euro per test, so study and only retake the test if you feel that you can improve your previous score.
Recommendation letters are often a required part of your application procedure. They are usually written by one of your professors, tutor or your thesis supervisor and discuss your qualities, your experiences and your motivation. Make sure that the person who writes your recommendation letter is someone who knows you well and can provide detailed and valuable information to the application committee. However, keep in mind that a professor has a professional integrity; you should choose a teacher in whose course you performed well. A professor or thesis supervisor will have to be honest about your scores and performances and it is not likely that your professor will lie or hide these results in order to get you accepted into a certain Master’s program.