When it comes to applying for a master’s degree, things tend to be a little bit more tricky. For an undergraduate degree or some other kind of undergraduate course, the application process was simple. You applied through UCAS, which alongside your sixth form or college, would be constantly reminding you of the important details and guiding you along the way. One such important detail that both your college and UCAS would be constantly reminding you of is your deadline to finish and send off your application.
Sadly, for a master’s degree application, students don’t have this same support as you’ve already left sixth form or college and UCAS isn’t typically used for master’s degree applications. However, you don’t have to worry, with this article you’ll get all the information and guidance that you need to help you understand when you should apply for a master’s degree.
In short, you should apply for a master’s degree in the UK as soon as possible. This is particularly for competitive courses as you may lose out on your chance of getting a place on the course if you take too long. If you are a UK student, you should apply at least 6 months before the course is due to begin. If you are an international student, you should apply even earlier than this to help you arrange your visa and other important aspects.
Continue reading to learn more about applying to a master’s degree course and when is best to do so. This article will take you through important facts and the dos and don’ts of when you should apply.
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When is the application deadline for a master’s degree in the UK?
For an undergraduate degree, you apply through UCAS and so there are 2 set deadlines regardless of the university that you’re applying to. One deadline is for early application, which is for students studying medicine, dentistry or veterinary courses or those who wish to study at either the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge. For the 2023/24 admission cycle, this deadline is 16th October 2023.
The other application deadline is the main one and is for all other courses. This is on 31st January 2024 for the 2023/24 admission cycle. You can learn more about all of this in this Think Student article.
However, when it comes to master’s degrees, you’re applying to the university rather than through one standardised system, such as UCAS. Due to this, when your application deadline is will depend on the university that you’re applying to.
However, if your course is set to start in September or October, you will typically have an application deadline that is set somewhere in either June or July. For more information about this, check out this page on the UCAS website.
Although, some universities may even accept master’s degree applications later than this. For example, Durham University set their final postgraduate application deadline for 14th August 2023 for study in the 2023/24 academic year.
It’s also important to note that international students, who need a student visa, will likely have a slightly earlier application deadline. For Durham University, the international student final deadline for the 2023/24 academic year was 31st July 2023. You can learn more about this by checking out this page on the Durham University website.
How early can you start applying for a master’s degree?
As previously mentioned, the master’s degree application process isn’t exactly standardised. Due to this, all the specifics will depend on the university that you’re applying to. As a result, the information below is generalised and so it is best to check when the application process opens for whatever university you wish to apply to.
Despite this, master’s degree courses will typically open for applications around a year before they are due to start. As most master’s degree programmes start in September or October, this will mean that you have from the autumn of the year before to start applying.
However, it’s still important to check when your course is due to start. This is particularly as some will start in January and so you will have from the January before instead. You can learn more about this by looking at this article by Prospects.
Also, at some universities, master’s degree applications are accepted all year round. This is known as the university having “rolling admissions” for their master’s degrees. This may mean that students will be able to apply for a place on a master’s course as soon as the previous admission cycle has ended.
In this case, you would need to be careful that you’re applying to the right entry year. You can learn more about this by checking out this guide on The Profs website.
Can you apply for master’s before graduating in the UK?
As previously mentioned, you can generally start applying around a year before your course is due to start and you will typically need to apply by June or July for an autumn start.
If you’re planning to go onto a master’s degree straight after finishing your bachelor’s degree, for the majority of this application window, you will be in the last year of your course. This may lead you to wonder if you will be restricted in when you can start applying until after you graduate.
In the UK, you can apply to a master’s degree before you graduate from your bachelor’s degree. This would be done by submitting your current attainment grade as well as completing all other aspects of the application process as you normally would. You can learn more about this, by checking out this article by The Profs.
If you apply before you’ve graduated and you get onto the course, you will likely receive a conditional offer. A conditional offer is pretty much the same as it is for an undergraduate application, it is simply where the university is offering you a place with the condition that you meet the requirements. You can learn more about it by checking out this Think Student article.
What is the best time to apply for a master’s degree in the UK?
Now that we’ve looked at the entire window of when the master’s degree application process is open, we can now properly consider when the best time is to apply for a master’s degree in the UK.
Unsurprisingly, it is recommended that students apply as soon as possible. Other than just being a good rule of thumb, it’s also a good idea as it’s possible that the course may get filled up. Therefore, particularly for the more competitive programmes, it is vital that you apply to the course that you want as soon as you can within the window, typically starting a year before the course will.
For more specific advice, it is recommended that you apply to the master’s degree programme that you want at least 6 months before the course is due to start. If you are looking at a course that begins in September, then you should try to apply by at least March and so on.
If you are an international student, it is best to apply slightly early than this. This is in order to manage the logistical side, such as your travel arrangements, your visa and other important aspects.
You can learn more about all this by checking out this UCAS guide.
How long does it take to hear back from a master’s degree application?
Regardless of when you decide is the best time for you to apply for a master’s degree, there are other important aspects on your master’s degree application timeline, particularly ones that come after.
One of these important aspects when it comes to this timeline is when you actually hear back from the university or universities that you applied to. Just like everything else we’ve looked at in this article, hearing back from a university for a master’s degree application works slightly differently to that of an undergraduate degree.
Master’s degree applicants will typically get a reply from the university that they applied to within a couple of weeks of sending their application. This appears to be a lot faster than it would be for an undergraduate degree qualification.
However, as this isn’t a standardised process, it will be down to each university to decide the timeframe they give when it comes to master’s degree applications. Due to this, some universities may take even less time to give their response but also some universities may even take a couple of months before you hear back from them.
In order to avoid unnecessary delays within this process, you should make sure that you have correctly submitted all the right documents needed as a part of your application. In fact, you can even check with the university that you’ve applied to in order to be sure that this has been done.
You can learn more about all of this by checking out this Think Student article, which will give you a much more detailed answer to this.