On Preparing Your Documents for Postgraduate Study
I might not the tidiest person, but I do prepare and arrange my timeline thoroughly, and that's also one of my reasons to resign my previous job, to have full concentration for this, because I realize these documents need my full attention to really give my best, particularly in how to show off myself through texts.
1. IELTS (Aug - Sept 2016)
I did survey for IELTS simulations to Swift, Cilacs UII, and Real English. I ended up choosing RE since I have experienced doing simulations in Swift and Cilacs. Also, RE offers more advantages of its flexibility because it provides schedule everyday, and we get to have the written test report form in one week. Sure it costs more too, but considering my tight deadline, I think it’s worth the try to really measure my level, particularly in writing and speaking as I don’t have someone to check on my work. At first I was not sure since I have had not really satisfying experience with RE before, but I still chose RE because the other two don’t give a written test report at the end and in 2015 I have had my simulations in the other two. For my last simulation, I did in RE in August 10th, 2016.
For the official test, I also did a survey. So far the only institutions available to hold IELTS test in Jogja are IDP (in UKDW) and RE (again). Lucky me, just in time I was searching for it, I also went to P2EB FEB UGM where I did my TOEFL ITP in 2013, as far as I knew they had no IELTS, but when I went there they’re having their first IELTS and they even offered discount on student week! Comparing the price and test place, I chose P2EB. It was the cheapest (around IDR 2,7 million, but even their undiscounted price was still the cheapest), the test place is familiar for me, they have adequate facilities, and I have had nice experience with them before. IDP uses fixed price in IDR (P2EB & RE uses USD) and they don’t have a fixed place (they use UGM too), while RE was the most expensive.
I took my official test on September 10th 2016 and now I’m still waiting for the result. On the day of the test, make sure to wake up early, get dressed properly, be as comfortable as you can, have enough breakfast, go to the place at least half an hour before. It gives you time to relax.
The test started from around 9 am, but I got there around 7.30 since they told me so since we had to be photographed and finger-scanned. It began with listening, no break, reading, no break, and writing. Ended by around 11.30 am, we were permitted to leave and come back at noon to have the speaking test.
I don’t know anywhere else, but it’s nice that they gave us lunchbox ☺
I had my turn for speaking test around 4.30 but we were supposed to be there half an hour before 4 pm. I got there by around 3 pm, and waited a long time since the IDP team were late to be back. Finally I had my round few minutes before 5 pm. First part, I got question about the city, how I am fond of walking, my experience about it, how’s walking in the city. Second part, the card question, I got favorite leader. Third part, about leadership, how’s the future of our world and so on. I think I got it well done. Well, I hope.
2. Letters of Recommendations (August - Sept 2016)
I gave it a deep thought as well, on whom I should ask it to, the right people that can really have the power to recommend me. S/he has to be qualified, has certain level of position, good reputation, and is quite close to me to be able to give some insights about me thoroughly. Absolute choices were Mbak Ala and Pak Andi, who were my previous supervisor and head of my previous laboratory.
The third choice came to me was Bu Bertha, who happened to be my supervisor in previous workshop event, and currently is Head of Industrial Engineering programme. However she has tight schedule and I thought it could be hard to reach her, then my friend Intan reminded me to go to Pak Heri, who was my academic supervisor for 4 years and currently is Secretary of Academic Affairs of Faculty of Engineering, who was absolutely the right choice! Pak Heri is also very nice for getting it all done for me easier.
For all my references, I drafted different letters of recommendations which each of them support different strength of mine. You see, letters of recommendations are very personal, depends on how the referee interact with you. The letters have to really reflect your strengths, in differrent ways of other people. So, personal stories there are. For example, I put my persistence of learning, leadership skill, and cheerful personality for Mbak Ala's letter, since it was really backed up by evidences at previous workplace. For Pak Heri's letter, I emphasized my academic strength and on how I balanced academic and non-academic activities, while for Pak Andi's letter I pointed out my capability of working both in team when I was working in laboratory and working individually when I was working on my thesis.
The important things to do is (again) structure your letters and choose your words really carefully. Nice pick of words can really boost up your letters, and don't repeat words too often otherwise it'll make your letters look boring. The admissions committee will read all your letters and if they find it quite repetitive I don't think they will find your letters strong enough. Get some wider vocabulary. For example, I use "determined" in one letter, so don't use it again in other letter, be it letters of recommendations or your personal motivational letter.
The last thing I can suggest is structure. Structure really matters. I usually do the first paragraph for purpose of the letter, introduction, and simple statement of support. Then choose two or three core themes and elaborate each in one paragraph with specific examples. Finally, the last paragraph is to sum up the paragraphs above of why you are recommended and restate his/her confidence that you will succeed. The point is, each paragraph has to have a point.
At first, I thought I'd only make it particular for Nottingham with the hope and the confidence that I will get the Letter of Acceptance, but then I did make others for Birmingham, Chevening, etc. If you wish to apply for more than one, just make sure the letter has the right address.
3. Personal Statement/Motivational Letter (Sept 2016)
Funny story, at first I didn’t put much attention to this, it was when I was applying for Manchester online and I had to submit it. So, yeah, the first letter I wrote was actually for Manchester 😅 after that then I made my letters for the other.
The important thing (that I read everywhere else, and of course, agree) about a personal statement is to get it really personal. Throw some personal story, elaborate your clear plans, explain your personal reasons, anything that you're sure the admissions committee won't read it from anyone's letters. Don't get typical.
Write honestly and write from your heart.
I, spent a lot of time writing the personal statement too. And again, structure matters. Basically it covers on why you’re interested in studying your chosen programme (what you know about it, what’s your purpose, how’s your background story) and why you’re qualified to be an ideal fit for them to choose (past experiences, skills, passions, with examples of course). I began my letter with introduction of myself, purpose of the letter, and brief explanation of why I think me and this course match. Then for the next three paragraphs I tell my story about why I want and need this, about particular reasons and future goals, and how I can achieve it by continuing my study there. Remember to be very personal. Next paragraph elaborates the details of my qualifications, make it as pretty as possible. And finally, the closing paragraph, to state how you really look forward to their favorable reply.