The Trials and Tribulations of Post-Grad Applications

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By Jessica Fish

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 10 of VARSITY News.


When it comes to applying for post-graduate degrees at UCT there are far too many grievances about the process. It can be time-consuming, painful and bring with it many anxieties. Here’s your chance to learn how to survive the post-grad application process and coping with all that comes with it. Learn through the mistakes of those of us who have gone before you.


You have to jump through so many hoops

It’s a little ridiculous how much is expected from you. Depending on the degree you apply for, you’ll need documents, transcripts, letters of motivation, portfolios and reference letters. When I applied for Honours last year, I felt like I was writing a short novel jus based on the sheer amount of information required from me. It may all seem somewhat unnecessary, but it is unavoidable. Since you want them to like you and accept you, you gotta do what you gotta do.


Punctuality is key




Nothing tells the selection panel that you’re uninterested and indifferent like an application handed in late (or one handed in minutes before the deadline!) There are so many stories about students missing application deadlines for funding and post-grad courses due to a printer glitch or because Vula was down. Don’t play games with fate; make sure everything is handed in at least 24 hours before the deadline so that if you do happen to be missing any documents you still have time to submit them in time. Be pedantic about details.


And so is Patience

The “Hurry up and wait” saying is most prevalent with all thing concerned with UCT admin. The rush and stress to get applications in on time is followed by those endless weeks of waiting. Keep yourself busy while you wait and try to focus on studying for those final exams so that your marks reflect someone who is capable and excited for a post-grad degree.


Prepare for the late notice




When I came to UCT in my first year, I was only accepted on the 8th of January. I had spent the entire vac after matric thinking and preparing for a degree at a different university and city. My entire world turned upside down when I got an email from UCT saying I was accepted. Be prepared for the uncertainty that follows your application and think about the impact a single email has in changing your future.


Have a Plan B (and C, D or E if need be)




Not to be the glass-half-empty kind of girl, but things won’t always work out. There’s a reason “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is such a classic saying. Don’t just apply to one post-grad program, don’t just apply at UCT. Give yourself back-up plans for when life doesn’t play out according to your carefully constructed plan. It is terrifying, but you have to be realistic and prepared for any outcome.


Dealing with the anxiety…

Emotions are irrational things and when you don’t have control of a situation and your entire future is in some else’s hands, it isn’t uncommon to feel incredibly anxious. I, personally, conquered my anxiety by doing research. The more I knew about the situation, the less anxious I felt.

Ask questions and find out everything you can. Ask questions like, how many students does the course usually accept? How many students usually apply? What kind of marks do you need to be accepted? When do they expect to announce who was accepted? Speak to others in your class who are also applying and ask them to let you know if they hear anything. It is comforting knowing that there are others going through the exact same situation as you.




Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that asking a few questions will magically make the anxiety disappear. I was there last year. I had applied for Honours and didn’t know what was happening with my life. If I got accepted I could stay in Cape Town and be with my friends, boyfriend and the life that I had spent the last three years creating for myself. If I didn’t get accepted I would have to move home to a small village 1800km away and live with my parents again whilst I searched for a job. Such big consequences and vastly different environments hung in the balance and it left feeling me terrified.




For those of you applying, I know how miserable a place it can be. But hang in there. It doesn’t get easier and things don’t magically work themselves out, but do everything you can to ensure that your application will be successful and then surround yourself with loved ones until you know for sure what the verdict is. Strength for the waiting!




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