Guest blog written by Noor Fatima Butt, MSc Clinical & Health Psychology
My choice to do an MSc in Clinical and Health Psychology, and continue studying at the University of Manchester, was not a simple decision. I explored several different options and spoke to students and tutors before making my choice. I hope that my experiences can help you with choosing and applying for your own postgraduate courses.
Choosing your master’s course
The first step to choosing a course was considering whether completing a master’s was the best decision. I chose to continue my studies because I wanted to boost future job applications and gain more research experience. As a master’s provides more in-depth information and independence compared to an undergraduate course, it would let me explore my research interests in further detail whilst building skills for graduate roles.
When choosing a master’s programme, the most important thing to consider is whether you are interested in the modules. I spent days reading over the modules for my current MSc and the other programmes I was considering. For at least a year you will be surrounded by these topics and might do a dissertation or research project on one of them. Make sure you are interested enough to study them in depth. It is worthwhile contacting programme directors to gain more information about the dissertation process too.
I also found talking to other students currently on the master’s helpful for understanding the course. I asked my undergraduate academic advisor if he knew any students currently on any of the courses that I was considering, and he put me in contact with one. She was able to calm my nerves about the application process and helped me to envision what the master’s would involve. I would advise anyone to reach out to current students or alumni if you want more information about a course from a student perspective.
My decision to stay at Manchester was an easy one. It is a good university with great services and, as a commuter student, it made more sense for me financially. My programme also reduced my course fees because I was an alumnus, so make sure to scope out whether the university you are interested in offers any bursaries or scholarships, and remember to compare the costs of different courses.
Applying for a master’s course
My main advice for a master’s application is to apply early. Application deadlines vary across programmes and universities, so be aware of deadlines and always apply for the earliest one if there are multiple. Plan enough time to write the application, especially if they request a personal statement or research proposal, to avoid last minute application stress. Use the Careers Service application resources, research the expectations of the university, and start early. Draft your application and have it reviewed by supervisors, friends or the Careers Service; this will help you put forward the best version. I re-wrote my research proposal multiple times; although it was tedious, the final version was far better.
Contact your references early as well. This sets a good impression with the referee and means you know whether they will be able to give a reference. Unfortunately, I learnt this from experience: close to my deadline, one of my referees could no longer provide a reference. Thankfully, I was able to find another, but if I had contacted her earlier, I could have avoided the uncertainty.
As I pass the halfway point in my course, I can definitely say that I made the right decision. The time I took to research the course made the transition smoother as I already knew what to expect. The master’s has also helped narrow down my career interests and distinguish aspects of psychology I enjoy, and I have been able to question lecturers and experts about their career paths, helping me understand my options.
I know the process of choosing and applying can feel very daunting, but take it one step at a time. Don’t feel discouraged if one of your applications gets rejected: I learnt there are many variables which can influence if your application is accepted or not. Not everything is in your hands, so just aim to make the best application possible as that will give you the best chance of success.
Remember that you can access the Careers Service as a student and for up to two years after you finish your course. This means you have access to all of the postgraduate study resources, applications advice and on-demand services on the Careers Service website and CareerConnect.