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Starting your Graduate Studies Application: The Tips & Tricks

Starting your graduate studies application, I must say, is a stressful process if you are not well informed about the right course of action to follow, but here are some tips and ticks. This post is about a step-by-step process on how to begin your application process, complete your application for a study abroad program, and actually gain admission to study abroad with adequate scholarship and funding opportunities. After finding a list of schools from your preferred destination country for your study abroad following the key areas discussed in the other posts, you are now ready to apply to the program.

 See, Country Selection Guide and  School selection Guide

Identify the Program of Study

The first thing to do when starting your application is to identify the program or course and whether the program is funded for the defined length of study. Some of the questions to answer here are: Is there enough funding or scholarship package for the preferred program of study? How is the funding awarded? You should be making a decision about your applications based on whether the program is fully funded or partially funded, and if it is partially funded, what other opportunities are there for you to pay your fees such as research fellowships, external grants, student loans or bursaries. If there is not enough information about these opportunities on the program website, please reach out to the department via email to inquire further. 

Required Documents & Admission Requirements

The next thing to do after identifying the program and funding opportunities for the defined length of your study is to review the required documents for your graduate studies application. The reason I’m talking about the required application documents here is that some of the documents may take longer to obtain, while the other documents will require some more time to complete. Hence, it is important to start gathering the required documents as early as possible. Among the required documents are: A Written Statement of Intent; Academic References; Curriculum Vitae (CV); Sample Writing; Undergraduate diplomas and transcripts. It is important to check the program requirements and university admission requirements to be sure you meet the minimum requirements. Note that, most of these schools offer entrance scholarships that are awarded on highly competitive basis, and it is important to meet the minimum admission requirement to stand a chance of getting into the program with funding.

Research Interest and Potential Supervisor

Once you have decided to apply to the program and began the process of gathering the required documents, you need to start thinking about your research interest and how to contact a potential supervisor. Here is a brief and concise explanation of the process, but I will be expounding further on this to help you gain the level of understand that is required to be successful in securing a potential supervisor. 

  • Identifying a research interest and a potential supervisor for your research project in graduate school. Note that the graduate program is more research-based, that is, a Major Research Project (MRP) or a Thesis stream, and as such, identifying a research interest or area and a potential supervisor is central to your success in the application process. Whilst some schools make it mandatory to reach out to at least two or three Professors about your research interest and whether they will agree to supervise your project, there are other institutions where this is not a requirement. However, I always advise aspiring international students to contact a supervisor with your proposed research interest beforehand. Whether it is required to contact a potential supervisor in the application process or not, there are some benefits to this, and I will be discussing this in much detail in the coming weeks.
  • Identifying a research interest can be daunting, but being able to choose a research interest that aligns with a faculty’s research area can be more difficult and requires the right skills to complete. The easiest way to complete this step is to review the department’s web page for the faculty information, and read the information on each faculty to know their research areas and specific interests. Once you identify areas the faculty is interested in researching, begin reading more into those research areas and see how they connect to your research interest. Note that, no matter how good your transcript is, a school will not hire a professor from another school solely to supervise your research, but they will have an easier choice to make, that is, decline the student’s application.It is important to secure a supervisor as it can have a tremendous impact on your application

Submit your Application 

Once you have gathered all the required documents – that is, both the university and program-specific required documents, – create a student account from the institution’s application portal and submit your application. Make sure to read the specific program or institution application requirements before submitting your application, and submit your application early. This will allow your referees enough time to submit reference letters for you.  



The process of submitting a graduate studies application can be a tiring one. But with the right information about what to do, you can complete your application with ease. Ensure that the program is funded, allow enough time to gather all the required documents, contact and secure a potential supervisor, and apply early. See the Scholarships tab for graduate programs with scholarships and funding opportunities for you.


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