The secret of successful postgraduate applications

What to expect from a postgraduate course application form, and how to make yourself stand out.

When applying for postgraduate study, you will need to demonstrate a genuine interest in the programme to which you are applying and outline why you are a strong applicant.

Application forms

Application forms can differ from college to college and from course to course, but there are certain things you can expect to be asked where ever you are applying: you are likely to be asked about academic achievements, professional qualifications, employment experience and whether you have been awarded any scholarship.

Dealing with the dreaded personal statement

You may be asked to write a personal statement (or ‘statement of purpose’) in support of your application, particularly if you are applying for business courses such as MBAs. Although it’s often regarded as a chore, the personal statement is a great opportunity to convey a sense of who you are and your motivation for applying, so make the most of it. If your statement is fresh, lively and different, you’ll be putting yourself ahead of the crowd. Pay attention to presentation: type the statement if your handwriting is poor. Read and re-read your statement very carefully, and spell- and grammarcheck it. Get your final draft checked by friends, academics or a careers adviser. Some courses also interview candidates as part of their selection process, especially for careers that demand high levels of interpersonal skill, such as teaching or social work. Don't use the same statement for all applications: each will need a slightly different emphasis, depending on the college you are applying to.

What if...

I'm a mature student?

Mature students frequently have a diverse range of skills and life experiences to share. It is important to be able to link the relevance of these skills and experiences to the particular course, and thus convey your suitability for the programme. Think about how you can show that you will be able to cope with a particular programme. You may be asked the following questions:

  • Do you feel your work experience is relevant for this course? Why?
  • Do you feel that your previous courses (if any) are relevant? Why?
  • Why should we choose you?

I'm thinking about part-time study?

Students applying for part-time programmes should be able to convey excellent time management skills and an enthusiasm for the course. Showing an ability to multitask, such as juggling various commitments, will help strengthen your application.

I'm an international student?

Students from outside of Ireland whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language ability meets the required standard for admission. The required standard is the results of an acceptable English language proficiency test undertaken no more than two years prior to the commencement of your programme at the institution. For details on the English language proficiency tests TOEFL and IELTS, see and These websites include information on testing centres and dates.