Competition is stiff for many postgraduate courses, so it definitely pays to do the research and enter an application on time and word perfect.
Paper Application Forms
Application for most postgraduate courses in Ireland is via the college’s standard official application form. A few specialised courses use their own individual forms. All forms are available from either the Postgraduate Admissions Office, or the particular school or faculty office. You might also be able to download a ‘PDF format’ application form from the college website.
The forms are generally fairly standard, with space for your name, address and other personal information, and your academic achievements. You may also be asked for information on any professional qualifications, employment experience and scholarships that you have received.
It is standard procedure to send the completed form along with all other necessary material by post to the college’s postgraduate admissions office.
Six institutions require applicants to use the PAC (Postgraduate Applications Centre) system, which can be accessed at www.pac.ie. They are: University College Cork, Dublin City University, NUI Maynooth, NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, and Waterford Institute of Technology.
Some courses in these institutions are not applied for through the PAC system; so make sure to check the application status of your course with the Postgraduate Admissions Office. Applicants can apply for a number of courses (three to five typically).
Beside standard postgraduate applications to the six listed institutions, applications for the following two courses are also carried out online: Postgraduate Diploma in Education (UCC, UCD, NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth) and the Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health Nursing (NUI Galway, UCC, UCD, St Angela’s College, HSE).
The PAC’s online forms have fields for all the same information as their traditional printed equivalent. Some courses and most research programmes will have extra forms that have to be printed out and filled in.
You receive your own PAC application number and can then follow your application online. Candidates receive emails from the PAC as their application progresses, including, hopefully, one offering you a place on the course that you want. You can apply to each institution separately, unlike in the CAO, so you can get offers from all six, and then decide.
Postgraduate Applications Centre
1 Courthouse Square
Tel: 091 549260
Fax: 091 563056
Academic Entry Requirements
All students on a postgrad course have to prove they have reached the necessary standard before being accepted. This proof generally means you have been awarded at least a 2.2 honours undergraduate degree in a relevant subject, while some courses may require a 2.1 or higher result. For some courses relevant work experience is a useful attribute, while for other courses (e.g. the MBA) it is a strict requirement. PhD and other research programmes usually require a certain level of research experience for entry.
Statement of Interest
Most colleges want to know more about candidates, including their motivation and personal experience. The Statement of Interest can be the most important part of an application, and it pays to take it very seriously. You should aim to communicate your enthusiasm for the course, why you feel that you are particularly qualified, and what you hope to gain from the experience.
Many people think of a statement of interest as similar to the cover letter submitted with a CV when applying for a job. If you have relevant professional and extra-curricular experience, mention it here to distinguish yourself from other applicants who might have similar academic achievements. Link your proposed studies with professional and/or personal goals.
Other Application Material
Candidates applying to a college they did not attend at undergrad level, usually have to submit official transcripts showing the subjects they studied and the results they achieved. Most institutions do not accept photocopies; official duplicate transcripts can be obtained from your previous university (this can take some time to arrange).
All postgraduate courses will require that you submit academic references. Think carefully about who to approach and try to ask somebody with whom you have built up a good relationship, and whom you think you can rely on to remember specific details about your achievements.
A number of programmes request a curriculum vitae and a copy of the applicant’s birth certificate. Applicants for places on research postgraduate courses generally have to submit a research proposal – discuss this in detail with your tutor or lecturer, as they will offer key advice. Applicants whose first language is not English may be required to submit evidence of their competency, e.g. TOEFL or IELTS results.
All postgrad courses charge an application fee, which ranges from about €30 to €50, and is non refundable. A fee of €45 applies to PAC applications (except for the PDip in Education - €80 for a standard application).
Closing dates for applications vary for different courses, even within the same institution. Some courses have a rolling system where they accept some applicants during the year and then hold a number of places over until final results are announced during the summer. Research postgraduate programmes tend to be more flexible, with students applying and starting some programmes throughout the year. Contact the college in question for details regarding your course.
Some postgraduate programmes (more specialised courses with a smaller intake in particular) hold interviews as part of the selection process; these tend to be similar in style to a job interview. You will usually have to answer questions about the specific field of study, your career plans and your academic and professional experience.
As with a job interview, it is important to show enthusiasm for the work at hand by exhibiting a keen interest in the topic, asking appropriate questions and doing your preparatory research beforehand (i.e. what are the research interests of the interviewers? What kind of questions might they ask you? Can you stand over the results of a research assignment you may have carried out as part of your degree?). Interviewees should also convey their ability to work and communicate effectively with others, particularly if seeking to join an established research team.
Applying to a university in Ireland - Checklist
Applications for taught postgraduate courses at Irish universities typically require the following: