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What is a Pre-Masters?


In the post-covid era, admissions into universities and their degree programmes has become even tougher for many international students. You may be facing unpredictable financial difficulties, covid restrictions in your home country, travel bans, or even interruptions in your professional career.

In situations such as these, many international students find it difficult to meet all conditions of the eligibility criteria for masters programmes worldwide. This is because masters programmes at some universities require professional experience, excellent academic grades and several other conditions for you to be accepted.

Luckily for you, international students affected by these issues can choose to enrol in pre-masters courses before you apply for a masters degree programme. So what are Pre-Masters programmes? Why should you pursue a pre-masters degree as an international student? And what other similar programmes can international students pursue to increase your chances of admission in masters programmes?

What is a Pre-Masters Programme?

Pre-masters programmes are preparation-focused courses that ready you for a masters degree. Pre-masters programmes can last anywhere between 4-6 months and an entire year, with some even lasting for 18-24 months. These courses are meant for students who have completed their bachelor’s and are looking to study a masters programme at an international university.

The requirements and benefits of a pre-masters course can differ from country to country, and even from one university to another. In the United Kingdom, for example, many world-leading universities offer pre-masters courses. Upon completing a pre-masters in a UK university, you are usually guaranteed admission into the same course at masters degree level in the university. Typical minimum requirements to qualify for a pre-masters course as an international student are at least three years of higher education and a minimum IELTS score of 4.5.

In the USA, on the other hand, pre-masters courses are generally named Graduate Pathway programmes and are only offered by a few universities. Pace University in New York, for example, offers international students a Global Graduate Pathway Program that guarantees admission into Pace University’s Masters programme. The minimum requirements for this programme are a bachelor’s degree with at least 3.0 GPA and a TOEFL score of at least 55.

Why choose a Pre-Masters

There are multiple reasons for why an international student should consider a pre-masters degree. Read on to find out if you are facing any of the situations described below.

Change in Career

After a few years as a professional, international students might begin to consider a different career path than the one they had planned after completing their bachelor’s. For example, a financial accountant may decide to work in supply chain logistics, or a political science major may decide to pursue an MBA and work in management consulting.

In such situations, it is likely that you may not fulfil the eligibility criteria for admission into your chosen masters programme. Pursuing a pre-masters programme related to your new career plans is an excellent way to show universities that you are prepared to complete a masters degree in a different field than your bachelor’s degree.

Build Strong Foundation for Masters

Even if you have the required professional experience and bachelor’s degree for your preferred master’s programme, you may find yourself in between jobs and with time on your hands as an international student.

In such cases, provided you have the financial ability or required scholarship, you can pursue a pre-masters programme to both fill up your time as well as prepare for an excellent performance in your masters programme. Universities will take note of the fact that you have worked extremely hard and chosen to spend your time by preparing yourself to excel in your desired masters programme.

Increase Academic quality

Unfortunately, many international students are unable to secure the sky-high academic grades required for a masters degree at one of the world’s leading universities.

In such situations, completing a pre-masters programme is an ideal way to prove to universities that you have the academic ability to compete with world-class students in your masters programme and be a great learner in the classroom.

If you feel you have underperformed in your bachelor’s degree or standardised tests as an international student, you should consider pre-masters programmes in order to strengthen the academic element of your masters application.

Improve Language Skills

University destinations such as the USA and the UK require international students to show that they are proficient in English in order to receive a student visa for that country. International students are usually asked to prove this by taking tests such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS.

If you do not think that your English skills are up to the mark yet, you can easily pursue an English language-focused pre-masters programme to build up your fluency, improve your ability to learn academic concepts in English and show universities that you are prepared for advanced academic discussions and courses taught in English.

Alternatives to Pre-Masters for International Students

Pre-Masters with Internships

Many UK-based universities offer international students an integrated pre-masters course which combines academic teaching with an online or in-person internship related to your chosen masters field.

This will enable you to gain both academic ability as well as professional experience in your field, and international students lacking in both academic and professional qualifications should consider these programmes.

Online Mini-Masters Courses

Many global universities, including Harvard University and Northwestern University offer an entire collection of courses which form ‘mini-masters’ degree programmes via online platforms, including Edx and Coursera.

In the post-covid era with travel restrictions and social distancing, completing a course online may be a better choice for you as an international student, as it will give a similar boost to your application to an on campus pre-masters degree programme.

International students facing financial restrictions should also consider online programmes. Where on-campus pre-masters degrees at universities can cost upwards of 15,000 US Dollars per year, online programmes offered by the same universities could only cost you about 1,000-2,000 US Dollars.

Whichever type of programme you decide to pursue as an international student, you should keep in mind the eligibility criteria for your preferred masters degree and work towards fulfilling all the conditions stated by your ideal university.

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