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How I got accepted after being rejected from all universities for my Master’s

The admissions season is here again. Many of you might be busy drafting your application essays, asking for recommendation letters, shortlisting universities and preparing your applications. The entire process of applying for universities and waiting for decisions can be tiresome and exhausting.


During my undergraduate studies, I did everything I could to increase my chances of getting into a good school, but I still ended up getting rejected from every program I applied to the first time. The following year, I made some critical changes to my application which secured my acceptance into some of the best universities and programs in the UK. I will now share my insights with you:



1. Subject Depth > Subject Breadth


I have worked with many professors and almost everyone told me that having greater depth in one subject is better than doing superficial work across many different subjects. The admissions committee looks for people with established interests, which get developed by spending large amounts of time researching one particular domain.


As a PhD applicant, showcasing a strong interest in a specific area can be extremely beneficial since it conveys that you are well-informed about your interests, advisor, program and the university you are applying to. If you are yet to develop your interests, you can always take up positions such as Research Assistants or even internships under people working in subjects that interest you.



2. Statement of Purpose (SoP)


In an application, your résumé highlights your experience and achievements while your SoP conveys the story behind them. Many times, people spend too much time on making their SoP creative rather than informative.


Your SoP is an opportunity to present the goals, ambitions and experiences that shaped your decision to apply for a particular program. Some questions that you should answer in your statement of purpose are:

  • What motivated you to apply for this program?

  • How have your internships, projects, and work experience shaped your decision to pursue this program?

  • How would this program help you in reaching your goals?

In addition to answering these questions, you can also mention relevant courses, faculty members, past projects and papers from people you want to work with. This would show that you have truly researched your options and are well-informed about your decisions.



3. Using Social Media to your advantage


Social media is something I discovered during my second attempt of applying to grad school. Platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn are treasure-troves for finding open PhD positions, the latest research in your subject area and new programs being launched by various universities.


For example, I got to work as a research assistant at Emory University after coming across a tweet mentioning this opportunity. I also discussed research papers in my SoP after reading about them on LinkedIn. Using these platforms for improving your applications can be a game changer, but most students don’t know about this.



4. Seek professional guidance


Applying to graduate school is an expensive process and investing more money for seeking professional guidance might not seem logical. However, investing in the right organisation can help you save money. While applying, numerous organisations will try to sell you their products and choosing one becomes impossible.


I have had my share of bad experiences with these organisations and that’s due to one simple reason - the sellers haven’t gone through the admissions process themselves! Whilst advisors might have a lot of experience helping students in their current position, they often fail to approach the process from an applicant’s perspective.


Hence, I place my trust in organisations run by current graduate students, like AcademiaOne. This organisation is different from others since the people guiding you are past applicants who have gone through the application process and excelled in it.


They know what works in an application and stay updated since newly accepted students join them to provide guidance each year. Sometimes, spending a little money on such a system can greatly improve the chances of your acceptance. If anyone is interested in this, they can DM me directly.



5. Reaching out to professors


Reaching out to prospective supervisors can greatly increase your chances of getting accepted. Not only does it help you stand out, but it also gives you a chance to find out more about supervisors’ expectations. Many times, an academic who seems like a perfect match might not be looking for new graduate students and it is important to know about this before applying.


Prospective supervisors are also able to give you a better idea about which program or department might be a better fit for your profile. However, getting a professor’s attention is not easy since their inbox is always flooded with similar emails. The trick is to write a short, informative email expressing your interests and scheduling it so that it appears at the top of their inbox in the morning.



The above tips are some of the elements that I either included or improved in my second attempt to apply for graduate programmes. Applying to grad schools is a complex process with a lot of ambiguity. Many times, even the best applicants get rejected from their safest options. However, every effort that you make towards improving your application counts and can turn things in your favour.


 

Raman is a student at the University of Edinburgh currently pursuing an integrated MSc and PhD in Biomedical Artificial Intelligence (Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare). He is interested in researching techniques that can make AI algorithms safe to be deployed in a real-world setting. He is also interested in creating content around admissions for graduate school and my articles have also been published by Business Insider.



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