We spoke to Admissions Officer Gemma, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), to find out what she considers important in an application:
Is there anything which immediately turns you off an application?
Incomplete applications - If there is a checklist do make sure you use this and tick every box. Sending in a complete application ensures it is processed quickly.
Vague work experience with gaps - Ensure you include lots of detail of work experience, avoiding any gaps in your CV. For example, if you studied for one year at undergraduate level and decided to withdraw from a course, include this as it shows you have studied to that level. As Admissions Officers we need a complete picture of an applicant's academic and professional experience. This information helps us get a fuller picture of your level and we can also work out your fee status.
A weak personal statement - The personal statement is extremely important in your application. Your qualification (e.g. 2:1, 70%) only shows that you are meeting the minimum requirement for entry. The personal statement explains to us why you are choosing to apply to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, why this course in particular, and how you are planning to use this course to enhance your career. As applications are extremely competitive, the personal statement is very important in deciding who will be offered the course.
Not sending in a detailed transcript - A scan of a degree certificate is not sufficient. A certificate only shows the overall pass; not a detailed list of modules undertaken. A transcript is used to make an assessment of academic ability.
For those sending in scanned transcripts and documents, please also scan the back page. Often with transcripts the back page includes various explanations to the transcript. We require this information to understand the grading system of your previous university. Please remember that applying for a postgraduate course at the School is a competitive process.
Translating an overseas qualification, yourself - If it is called a ‘Licenciatura Laurea’ or a ‘Maitrise’, please call it that and do not automatically translate it to a 'Bachelor's' or 'BSc'. The Admissions Staff do the assessment of what it is, they have the resources to do this. Keep the qualification title in the original language.
Including a photo with your CV - At the School we prefer for applicants not to send in a photo with their CV. This varies across universities; if in doubt ask the Admissions staff.
Are there any factors which consistently come up in discussions between you and your colleagues? What areas of the application does your institution place an emphasis on which others might not?
Professional experience, paid or voluntary - The length and amount isn't the issue, but having some is the important thing as it shows motivation.
A comprehensive, complete application - Treat your application to a course as you would an application to a job. In your mind you should be submitting an excellent comprehensive application.
Applications and CVs organised in themes - We would recommend you keep your studies and work experience in a chronological format, either recent first or vice versa. Ensure also that you include a location - e.g. Wellcome Trust India, London etc
Does an applicant's social media activity ever play a role in the admissions process?
What guidance is available for international applicants who are worried about what stage their application is at?
We have a lot of useful information on our website. You can also email or call us. We would recommend that you are patient as applications take 6 to 8 weeks to be processed. Ensuring you submit a complete application should reduce queries and make the process faster.
How highly do you rate improvement in grades?
This would be a comment for our Course Directors. Admission Staff do not deal with this.
What advice would you give to someone who is about to be interviewed by a university?
Be honest. Revise your subject, especially Maths. Be clear about why you want to study the course. You can do this by demonstrating how doing the course will show academic and professional progression (as you would in the Personal Statement). Have humility; there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance.
There is a difference with excellent applications from various countries, age groups and subject areas. Seeing how hard someone has worked and what they have achieved given their circumstances is more highly valued than excellent grades. With grades, you might meet the minimum entrance requirements but it doesn't guarantee a place.
From your time in Admissions, is there an application which stands out in your mind, whether for good or bad reasons? Tell us about it.
A personal statement that was just two lines in length. It is worth remembering that we are not just ticking criteria; we are making a qualitative assessment.
Good applications are never on our desks long enough as they are quickly processed!
Find out more more about LSHTM and the wide range of courses they offer, such as their course in Public Health.
How to write a personal statement for Masters courses
A good personal statement can mean the difference between getting an offer and being rejected. Your personal statement should show us that you are the right person for the course.
Learn how to:
Planning your personal statement
A personal statement is a piece of writing that you submit as part of your application. It is a statement of academic interests and should not contain any autobiographical information about your personal life.
Instead, it should show us that you are the right person for Sussex by telling us why you want to study your course, and any extra information about your achievements to date.
See our Masters courses for more information
When you have finished planning your personal statement, you can use our postgraduate application system to start your application.
You need to:
- carefully read the information required of you
- research the course you are applying for, so that you can explain why you want to study it. If you are applying for more than one course, do not use the same statement for all applications.
The following questions may help you plan your personal statement:
- Why do you want to study a Masters and how will it benefit you?
- How does the course fit your skill set?
- How do you stand out from the crowd - e.g. work experience?
- What are you aspiring to be/do in your future career?
- How can your work contribute to the department/University/society?
If you're applying for a subject that is in a different field to your undergraduate degree, tell us why you have decided to change your direction of study.
- how you will bring fresh insight to your course as a result of your undergraduate degree
- the reasons for deciding to change your field of study
- how changing your direction of study will help you with your future career.
Use a tight structure in your personal statement and make sure each paragraph logically follows on from the one before.
Your personal statement must:
- have an eye-catching and interesting introduction, and an engaging middle part and conclusion
- have an introduction that acts as a framework for the rest of your statement, with the main part of your statement detailing your interests, experience and knowledge
- be between 250 and 500 words
- have short sentences of no more than 25-30 words
- use headings (if you wish) to break up the content - for example, 'Why this university?' 'Why this subject?' 'Ability', 'Personal experience' and 'Career aspirations'
- use a sentence structure where you: make a claim and back this claim up with evidence. This can be achieved by talking about your work experience and academic interests.
'My passion for Psychology stems from my interest in how dementia affects the personality of patients suffering with the condition. That's why I spent my gap year working with the Alzheimer's Society, supporting patients and families by visiting them at home and holding surgeries to give sufferers and carers someone to talk to.'
- don't start with cliched and overused sentences: 'I have always wanted to study' or 'I feel I have always had a passion for this subject.' Instead tell us what has influenced you to study this course.
'It was not until my grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and ischaemic dementia that the link between brain functioning and cognition became a passion.
Although a most unpleasant experience, the enormity of the precision at which the brain functions to produce our cognitive abilities, socially acceptable behaviours and intricate physiological processes astounded me.
I found myself questioning the cognitive functions and human behaviours I had previously just accepted, desperate to understand how the unseen and seemingly small entities within the brain could impact our daily behaviour.'
- the conclusion should sum up your main points, reflect on your main accomplishments and clearly show your desire to study.
Your personal statement is where you show us your commitment, dedication and motivation for studying the course. It is your chance to show us the course is for you.
Your personal statement should:
- give strong reasons as to why you want to study the course at Sussex. This could be for your future career or because of the University's reputation
- mention relevant study - including projects, dissertations, essays - or work experience
- provide evidence of your key skills including, research, critical thinking, communication, organisation, planning and time-management and show how you can contribute to the department
- show what makes you stand out as a candidate
- explain who your main influences have been and why
- draw on your other experiences: for example are you a member of a society, have you written any papers or won any awards, scholarships or prizes?
- highlight your career aspirations and show how the course will help you achieve them.
See an example personal statement [PDF 31.95KB]
Your tone should be positive and enthusiastic. It should show your willngness to learn and persuade us you have what it takes to suceed on one of our courses.
- use fresh and exciting language to make your application stand out, and use engaging opening paragraphs
- use accurate grammar, punctuation and spelling
- use clear language in short sentences and avoid extravagant claims
- avoid using generic terms and talk specifically about the course.
Don't: 'I was inspired by the University's world-renowned researchers and world-leading facilities.'
Do: 'I was inspired to study Animal Biology because of the groundbreaking work into the behaviour of bees that is being led by Sussex Professor Francis Ratnieks. I follow the work of the University of Sussex Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects and would be proud to study in such a renowned department and contribute to its highly ranked research.'
- proofread your statement and ask a friend or relative to read it.
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