Are you toying with the idea of doing your postgraduate degree abroad? I’m doing my Master in another country myself, I can assure you that it is a fantastic and highly valuable experience. However, don’t let the fancy travel photos fool you. I honestly have to say it is a lot of effort to organise and has probably led to a few worry lines and grey hairs. But it is all worth the effort in the end (at least I hope so)!
I have to warn you, though, you definitely need some serious motivation and organisational skills to get through the application process. Three words: paperwork, paperwork, paperwork! I don’t want to scare you off, I just want you to realise that the easier way is probably to do your degree in your home country. But: Everything you do now is for your future. So do something today that your future self will thank you for!
Because, after all the effort, you’ve learned countless things, you’ll stand out from the crowd, and it doesn’t look too bad on your CV either 😉
WHEN TO START THINKING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES
Well, it certainly depends on when you want to start with it. I did a half-year break between my Bachelor and Master, so I started looking into Master programmes in my final Bachelor semester. If you want to start your postgraduate degree immediately after your undergraduate, you should definitely start in your last year of study. This way you have enough time to do research and not get stressed with deadlines. For the sake of convenience, I am going to assume that you’re starting your postgraduate in autumn/winter, like I did.
Another advice: Actually start thinking of what kind of programme you want to do even earlier. This does not necessarily mean a specific course, but the general direction you want to go. What do you want to focus on? Do you want to specialise in the field you’re currently studying? Or do you rather want to do something else?
For some programmes, you need to have attended certain classes in your undergraduate studies. Please be aware of that. If you start thinking about possible directions early on, you’ll still have time to take the required courses. It’s no problem to change your mind later on, but rather have the skills than not have them and have regrets. I, for example, did take some extra statisics classes during my Bachelor. Some Master’s programmes I could myself imagine taking did require these credits. In the end, I’ve decided to do another degree which did not require statistics. However, I was glad that I had the choice!
But now, let’s start with the actual planning of your postgraduate degree abroad.
With a general pathway in mind, you can research for your postgraduate degree abroad. In March, start researching possible destinations: What countries appeal to you? Where can you imagine yourself living for a longer period of time? Narrow your choices down to 2-3 countries.
- Now you can look for programmes and schools that suit you. I had a more or less clear idea in mind what I wanted to do for my Master (New Media), so that made researching easier. I consulted some university ranking sites (google “country XY university ranking”). Then I took a closer look to the websites of the universities and the course programme. Narrow down your choices and pick around 5 to 10 programmes.
- Find out what the requirements for the programmes are. Thoroughly research the programme’s modules – often, programmes do have the same name at different universities but the focus of teaching is different. Make sure you know what you’re going to study.
- For most study programmes abroad you will need at least one or two references, usually academic ones. Find professors and tutors who are willing to write you a reference when you are still at your old university. That makes it a whole lot easier to contact them. The references should be addressed to the universities of your choice and should contain some information about you as a student and your study interests.
- Book your language certificate test date. Don’t postpone it to the last minute, it is usually one of the main requirements for your course! Start studying for the test early on. You will feel a lot more confident in the exam when you know what is going to happen. Those tests usually follow a certain structure (e.g. first listening, then reading, writing, and, at last, speaking).
- Write your application and get all your application materials. Don’t worry if you do not have all certificates at hand. You are allowed to hand it in later. I, for example, didn’t have neither my English language certificate yet nor my Bachelor degree certificate.
- Wait for a Response.
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AROUND JULY / AUGUST
You Got In! For the sake of this article I’m just going to assume you got accepted, yeaah! Congratulations!
Don’t rest on your laurels now. There is still a lot to organise and prepare:
- Apply for a visa if you need to. This takes a few weeks probably, so do it as soon as you get your acceptance letter.
- Think about your budget and apply for scholarships. Again, this involves a lot of paperwork. If you’re looking for ways to save up some money for your postgraduate degree abroad, I strongly recommend you to read my post “3 Ways to Save Money for Studying Abroad“.
- Start searching for an accommodation. Do you want to live in a private one or do you prefer halls? If you want to live in a university hall you probably need to apply for it as well.
- Organise insurance!
If you need a more detailed information on the things you shouldn’t forget before you go abroad, follow this link.
Now can do a happy dance because you’ve made it! Pack your suitcase and book the plane tickets! If you have any questions about a postgraduate degree abroad (especially in the UK or in Germany), please feel free to shoot me an email. Good luck!