Careers Service

Applying for Further Study

Applying for Further Study

How to Apply

Unlike undergraduate entry, applications for most postgraduate courses are made directly to the course provider.

Details of how to apply should be available on the institution's website. Check the application process for each institution carefully. Applications may be made by completing the institution's own application form (often online) or by submitting a CV and covering letter (more common for research places). Informal enquiries about research degrees are usually encouraged before applying.

Central admissions services also handle applications for a number of vocational courses, including:

The website manages applications for postgraduate teacher training, eg PGCE, School Direct and SCITT. For a comprehensive guide to the application process, see our Applying for Teaching section


UCAS manages applications for MA/MSc courses in social work, nursing, medicine, LLB accelerated courses and the Physician Associate course. These are located in the UCAS undergraduate section.

UCAS also manages applications for practice-based music, dance and drama courses at UK conservatoires.


CAB is for full-time graduate law conversion courses (GDL/CPE). Part-time applications should be made directly to the institution.

Clearing House (Clinical psychology)

Clearing House deals with applications for postgraduate courses in clinical psychology.

When to Apply

Apply as early as possible to give yourself the best chance of securing a place and any available funding. During the autumn term (or about 12 months before planning to start your course) is an ideal time to make applications.

If you make a late decision to pursue postgrad study, it's advisable to make direct enquiries to the institution to see if places/funding are still available.

There are no official closing dates for applications to the majority of postgrad courses, although there are often cut-off points by which you must apply to be considered for any available funding.

Some popular vocational courses have application deadlines which fall in the year preceding entry, to allow time for interviews and assessment to take place.

If you are unsure about a course deadline, be sure to check the website for the course/institution you are interested in. For specific queries contact their admissions department.

We've listed some deadlines for applying to some specific sectors below:

  • medicine, dentistry, veterinary science: 15 October 
  • social work and nursing: by UCAS 'early application' deadline (usually in Jan)
  • music performance: 1 October
  • most dance, drama and screen production courses have a 15 January deadline. Check the conservatoires' websites for details.

Completing Your Application

Writing applications for further study is very similar to completing job applications. You need to demonstrate relevant skills, experience and knowledge. You also need to show motivation and commitment to the proposed course of study.

Personal statement

Often the most important part of your application, personal statements should be relevant, focused and well structured. See postgraduate personal statements for useful tips and advice.

Research proposal

If you're applying for a research degree, eg PhD, MPhil, MLitt, it's possible you will also have to submit a research proposal outlining your project. A good research proposal is clear, concise and focused.

Check any guidelines offered by your chosen institution such as word limits, suggested structure etc. These vary considerably. The following websites offer examples and advice on putting together a winning proposal:

Please note, while we offer face-to-face feedback on applications for postgraduate study, we are unable to do so on research proposals. It is advisable to seek guidance from a prospective supervisor or other academic related to your chosen field, before submitting your proposal.


Application forms often ask you to indicate how you plan to finance your course. This is so admissions departments can assess how many applicants are seeking, or competing for, funding awards. If no funding is available through the department, you should state your most likely source of funding. You don't have to have a definite source at this stage. 

For more information on financing postgraduate study, see Funding Further Study.


Good academic references to support your application are often critical to the selection processes, so select your referees carefully. For example, it might not be a good idea to ask your personal tutor if you've only met with them once or twice.

Think about approaching other members of staff who might know you better, such as your dissertation or project supervisor. Similarly, if you are undertaking a vocational course, it might be more appropriate to choose a past employer as a referee.

You should always seek permission before adding details of referees to your application.

Involve your referees in the process by sending them a copy of your application or CV that they can refer to before writing your reference.

Personal Statement

Your personal statement is a vital part of your application. Use it to create a positive first impression by demonstrating your experience and skills, motivation and commitment.

Don't be tempted to use the same personal statement for each application. Find out what is relevant for each course and institution and focus on each application independently.

Watch the Careers Service's online Masterclass presentation: ‘How to write a personal statement for postgraduate study.'

To view the presentation with subtitles, click the subtitle/closed caption button in the player. You can also view a full-screen version.

What to include

What to include

Why you have chosen a particular course or research

Think about the following questions:

  • How did you decide on this subject?
  • What has influenced your choice?
  • Have certain people influenced you?
  • What did you do to find out more about it?

How your academic experience relates to the area you want to study or research

Demonstrate how your academic experience is related to the area you want to study or research:

  • Do you have relevant knowledge gained through a module, dissertation or project?
  • How well did you perform in relevant modules?
  • Have you been awarded any scholarships?
  • Do you have relevant technical or scientific skills?

Non-academic experience

Consider your non-academic experience and how it may be relevant:

  • Have you done voluntary or paid work in a related area?
  • Do you have a personal interest in the subject?
  • Are you involved in related extracurricular activities?

Relevant personal skills

Show that you have carefully considered the demands of postgraduate study by giving evidence of your ability to:

  • work independently
  • communicate effectively in written and oral formats
  • meet tight deadlines
  • manage your time effectively
  • show resilience and determination

Think about demonstrating other skills specific to your chosen course or research area. Remember to give evidence. Don't just say you have a particular skill - prove it.

Why you have chosen a particular university

Think about the following questions:

  • Are there certain academic staff you want to work with?
  • Do they specialise in certain research areas that interest you?
  • Does the structure of the course attract you?
  • Does the university have a good teaching or research record?

Try not to repeat what you have read on the university website.

Your career goals

It's not essential to have a definite plan or goal. It is important to show that you have considered the options and how this course will further your objectives.

Presenting your statement

Presenting your statement


Your statement needs to have a definite structure that includes an introduction, main body and ending. 

  • the introduction is important; it should interest the reader immediately and should logically lead into the main section
  • the main section could contain information on your experience, knowledge and interest
  • your conclusion should sum up your evidence and reasons for application

You should keep your information relevant to the course/research area and the university.


Make sure your statement is grammatically correct and has no spelling mistakes. You should also keep language simple and clear to ensure your statement is easy to read.

Use a positive and engaging writing style to show your genuine interest in the subject.

More help

More help

We can give you feedback on your statement in an online 1:1 appointment. Log into MyCareer, click on 'Book', then 'Appointments' and use our Appointment Finder to book the right appointment type for you.

Alternatively, you can send your personal statement to us for written feedback - this can take up to 5 working days. Click on Resources in MyCareer (top right-hand corner) to submit your query and upload your statement.

See Prospects: Personal Statements for Postgraduate Applications, and shared example postgraduate personal statements on The Student Room


More Help

Use the following for further support in your application.