The supporting documents that you have to send with your Masters application can vary  from programme to programme.  In this post, we cover the documents that are generally required.

1.  University Application Form

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Every Masters application starts with the university application form.  This is almost always an online form that you can work on and save until you’re ready to submit it.

In the application form, you provide basic information, such as your personal and contact details, as well as information about your academic and work history.   You can also uploaded some of the documents we cover in this post.

Universities either use their own online application system – or an external one.  However, you will find that even where universities use the same external application system, their application forms can look different and the wording they use can vary.

2.  Academic Transcripts and Certificates

master application tips for international students

Some of the most important documents that you will be asked to upload with your application are your academic transcripts, and often also your degree certificate.

An academic transcript is a detailed record of your undergraduate studies:  the subjects/modules/exams you took and the grades you achieved in each of them.  The transcript usually includes a calculation of your average grade and an explanation of the grading system. Sometimes an academic transcript may also give your class rank.

Always include an academic transcript with your Masters application, even if you haven’t yet taken all of your exams.

Your degree certificate, on the other hand, is an official document that confirms your qualification, subject, year of completion, name of the university and possibly your final grade. It doesn’t give details of your modules or individual exam results.

You don’t have to include your degree certificate with your application – unless you have already finished your degree and received your certificate.

We would recommend not sending your original certificate as it’s difficult to replace if it gets lost or the university cannot return it to you.  If the university asks for your original certificate, you can always check if they will accept a ‘certified copy’ instead – this is something the university issuing your degree, a solicitor or a notary public can give you.

3.  English Language Test

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If English is not your first language, you may need to complete an international English language test.   Your university will tell you which tests they accept, and what scores are required for your course.  Or, the university may be able to accept another qualification instead, for example if your first degree was taught entirely in English.  But it will depend on what degree it is, and where you took it.

When you apply, it’s important for the university to have an idea of your English level.  Always include your latest test result, even if they don’t match the scores the university asks for.  This helps the university assess whether you can realistically improve your proficiency to the required level, before your course starts.

It’s worth knowing, that if you need a student visa to study in the UK,  the UK visa authorities will recognise only specific English language tests.

4.  Admissions Tests

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Many Masters courses don’t have admissions tests.  But some universities have them as a standard requirement for all or most their Masters courses.  Other universities may have admissions tests for specific subjects only.

If there’s an admissions test for your Masters course, it’s likely to be one of the following:

      • GMAT (mostly for MBA courses and also some degrees in Finance)
      • LSAT (for Law)
      • BMAT (for Medicine and Veterinary Medicine)
      • UKCAT (for Medicine and Dentistry)
      • CRE (for any Masters subject, but not all universities require that you sit this test)


5.  Personal Statement

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Your Masters personal statement – sometimes known as a ‘statement of purpose’ – is a very important part of your application.  It can often make all the difference to whether you get an offer.  The personal statement is your chance to convince the university to choose you over other applicants.

In this document  you tell the university about yourself:  Why you’re applying to the course, how you’re qualified, and what your future career or academic plans are.

6.  Academic References

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As part of your Masters application you will also need to include academic reference letters – usually two.   Similar to your personal statement, your references are a very important part of your Masters application.

Some universities allow you to upload ‘open’ references with your application before submitting it.  However, most universities will ask you to provide the contact details of your referees so they can contact them directly to ask for confidential references for you.

7.  CV or Resume

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For Masters courses with a strong professional focus, you will need to include a CV.  This is for example if you’re applying for an MBA programme.

In your CV, don’t simply list your work responsibilities. It matters more to highlight your skills, experience and achievements.

There’s not need to send your CV if the university doesn’t ask for it.  The only exception is if your if you have a long work history that you can’t fit in your application form.

You should also include your CV if you’re requesting entry onto a Masters course based on your work history.

When including your CV make sure you still complete the relevant sections of the university application form – don’t simply write ‘see CV’.

8.  Writing Samples

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For some Masters courses you may need to send one or two samples of your written work, for example an essay or a short story.  The word limit and topic can vary.

Work examples are often required for courses in literature, media studies, philosophy, history, sociology – or similar subjects.  But a university could make them part of the entry requirement for any of their courses.

 Usually, writing samples help the university assess:

      • Your ability to express yourself
      • Your analytical abilities
      • Your critical thinking
      • That you can write in a logical and clear manner
      • Your ability to build and defend your arguments in an academic way
      • Your creative writing skills (If you’re applying for a Masters in Literature or an Arts subject)

9.  Portfolio and Video Audition

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If you’re applying to a Masters in a creative subjects you will probably be asked to send your portfolio to show examples of your work.

Or, if it’s a performance-based course, such as in music or drama, that involves an audition,  you may need to send a video audition if you’re unable to travel to the university.

Always check the university’s guidelines for how to submit this type of supporting evidence.

10.  Passport Copy

master application tips for international students

This isn’t actually relevant when the university is considering your application.  However, UK universities will ask you for a copy of your passport for their files – if you need a student visa to study in the UK.

Providing a copy of your passport with your Masters application can prevent delays later.  If you receive and accept an offer, the university can only send you the documents you need to apply for a student visa if you have sent your passport copy.

11.  Originals or Copies?

master application tips for international students

The university might ask you to send your original degree certificate and academic transcript, in addition to uploading them online.

Send the original transcript if asked to – you can usually request additional copies from your university.

However, a degree certificate is usually difficult to replace if it’s lost or a university is unable to return it to you.  The degree certificate isn’t usually needed to make you an offer.   However, the university might want to see if they make you an offer and you decide to enrol on the course.

Yet, even in this case, you can ask the university if they will accept a ‘certified copy’ of your certificate instead. Certified copies issued by the university that awarded your degree, by a public notary or a solicitor are acceptable in most situations.

12.  Certified Translations

master application tips for international students

If your transcript, certificates or references are not in English, you may be required to have them officially translated.  The university will probably specify that translations should be by a certified or sworn translator – a person who has the required licence to work as a translator.

Usually, the translated documents would be expected to include the following details:

  • The full name of the translator
  • His / her or the translation company’s contact details
  • Date of translation
  • A statement confirming that the translated document is an accurate translation of the original document

Summary: A Checklist

Here’s a summary of the supporting documents that you might need to include with your Masters application.   Remember though that requirements can vary.

  • Academic transcript (either a final or a provisional one showing your grades so far)
  • Qualification certificate (if you have completed your degree)
  • English language test results (if English is not your first language)
  • GMAT or other admission test results
  • CV/Resume (particularly MBA applications or other professional courses)
  • Writing samples (required for some subjects)
  • Portfolio or audition recording (if the course requires them)
  • Copy of your passport (if you need to apply for a student visa)

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