If you are thinking about applying for an MA in History now is the time to start putting those thoughts into action. On top of final year madness it can seem a bit impossible, but if you approach MA application with a certain mind set you should be ok. The most important thing is to be organised as this time round there is no UCAS system- it really is all up to you!
Although it might seem a bit obvious you really need to think about what you are going to apply for. First of all you need to pick between a research or taught masters.
Research masters mean you are a little bit of a lone wolf who feels so passionately about a topic that you want to do some major investigating and writing on it. Unlike the taught masters there is not much in the way of lectures and seminars; instead you and your supervisor have individual meetings about your research. I do not wish to dissuade anyone from undertaking such a masters, but you MUST be mildly obsessed with your research topic to have the self-motivation to complete one. If you don’t fit this category than I think a taught masters is best.
Whilst you may be generally interested in History, taught MAs are normally a time to become more specialised in a chosen field. Think about the particular elements of history that gets you all geeky and excited and then see if there is a course tailored to them, such as Manchester University’s MA in War, Culture and History or Modern European History.
Look on university websites and if a course seems promising contact the postgraduate admissions officer- don’t feel embarrassed they will be expecting these phone calls and it shows you are enthusiastic!
From this you should hopefully be able to find three or four universities. Any more than this might get you in a bit of a muddle as the next stage is the endless application questions.
Possibly the worse thing about applying for any MA is the paperwork that goes with it. Each university will have their own application form (normally online) that wants to know everything from your academic achievements to your shoe size! This said there are certain elements that are really important like work experience and your personal statement.
Unfortunately, work experience is quite an essential part of the application. Some of you may be fine on this front, but if you really don’t have any experience relevant to history (and I stress relevant as they don’t really care if you worked in Tesco for two weeks) don’t despair too much. I had been rather lazy in this area but managed to get an internship set up for the following summer. This meant that I could excuse my empty ‘work experience’ page in my personal statement by stating it was all in the pipe line.
The personal statement is much the same as the one you wrote when applying for an undergraduate degree. It’s all about showing off how fantastic you are and how other people have appreciated your fantasticness with certificates and medals etc etc.
However, one crucially different part is that you must discuss what you wish to write your MA dissertation about. Now I am not one to condone lying and it really is great if you have a topic in mind, but you need to be imaginative here. Don’t think that what you write here has to be what you do, just think about historical events, methods and theoretical angles that you might want to use and go from there. I think what is important is that they think you are thinking about it which leads them to think you are dedicated history student.
Once you have completed these sections approach lecturers for references. A lecturer that likes you is normally a good bet for this, but if that is a problem ask someone who at least knows your name. You might want to leave them a little time to write the references before the application deadline as lecturers are busy, busy people! They normally send the references themselves to your chosen university so if they agree enter their contact details on your form and then send it off.
Phew and that’s it. The fun of funding applications doesn’t begin until you have been accepted on a course so you just need to sit back and nervously wait for a response! Lastly – GOOD LUCK!