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I chose an international affairs programme in Washington DC to be at the heart of global debates on foreign policy, and to interact with leading practitioners and academics in the field....
Meet Mark Bailey
at Georgetown University
What are US postgraduate programmes looking for? US universities will evaluate your application on the following criteria: relevant academic preparation and achievement, compelling reasons for pursuing a postgraduate degree at their institution and extracurricular involvement. To have the best chance at admission to a competitive university, it's important to pair a good result and/or admissions exam scores with a thorough, carefully considered application package of essays/personal statement, recommendation letters and a CV that cover these areas.
US universities, like UK universities, will be looking for academic preparation, achievement and potential in the first instance. This will be measured by your undergraduate or, if applicable, postgraduate degree results which will be recorded in your transcript, comments made by your academic referees and admissions exam scores. See each admissions exam page for more information on how these are used in the admissions decision.
Students educated in the British system will generally be expected to have a minimum of a 2.2 on their first degree or Pass in their postgraduate degree to be considered for entry into a US postgraduate degree course. However, as you can imagine, the more competitive the programme, the higher results they will expect. To ensure that you receive full, accurate and up to date information, we recommend that you contact individual universities about whether your qualifications are sufficient to be considered for admissions if you have any questions. If you have already completed a postgraduate degree, you may be awarded advanced standing by US university you attend.
Unfortunately, there is no official grade conversion between US grades and UK results. Each university will have its own policy. On the transcript page, you will find more information and a chart with approximate conversions between the US and UK marking systems.
In some cases, it is possible to change fields at the postgraduate level in the US. Check with the department first before applying. If you do not have an undergraduate degree in a related field, you should also demonstrate interest or knowledge of the field, perhaps via relevant work experience or coursework.
It goes without saying that the stronger your academic record inside the classroom and on admissions exams, the stronger your chances of admission. However, academic achievements alone will not guarantee entrance to competitive US postgraduate programmes.
Universities will be looking for a clear and coherent study or research plan in the personal and/or research statements. It is very important to convey a strong interest and knowledge of your field. You should be able to articulate what your short- and long-term goals are and how completing the course will help you get from point A to point B.
US universities (and Fulbright staff for that matter!) know that there are excellent programmes in the UK. So why do you want to go to the US? Part of your job in the application is to convince the university that if given a place and/or funding you will take them up on the offer. Make them feel confident by giving compelling reasons for studying in the US. It’s a good exercise to make sure the US is right for you before going through the application process.
Universities will also be looking for a detailed explanation of your interest in pursuing a degree at their institution. It is imperative that within your application you demonstrate compelling reasons for pursuing that specific postgraduate degree at that particular university. To achieve this, we recommend that students compile a thoughtful list of reasons why they believe each of their chosen universities is a good match for them, as well as why they are a good fit for the university, and refer to these lists when writing their personal statement. Again, the aim is to convince your reader (and yourself) that you are a good fit for the university.
US universities will also want to have a sense of your personality, personal and professional interests after reviewing your application. By highlighting your involvement in extracurricular activities at university or within the community, you will be able to tell them more about who you are as a person, as well as placing your academic achievements in context. Students that perform well academically whilst balancing extracurricular activities, such as sports, performing arts, community service, and/or leadership roles, are more likely to gain admission to a US postgraduate programme than a student that has not participated in an activity of any sort. You can also demonstrate personal characteristics that will help you succeed as a postgraduate student, such as a strong work ethic, leadership skills, determination, interest in your community, communication skills, the ability to work with others, etc.