Undergraduate or Masters?

The first question is which level of study are you aiming at?

This may sound a little odd, because the two levels are obviously distinct and different. However, the skills you will need to apply for either level are strikingly similar.

Critical thinking

Western universities are focused on developing your ability to think critically, to diagnose issues and to problem solve. They are not about rote learning or some kind of right/wrong exam-based scheme of knowledge where you get rewarded for feeding back the lecturer’s notes to them.

So, to apply for a management program at either level, it is highly important that you are able to demonstrate the capacity for critical thinking. You will obviously need to evidence the right kind of grades that the university requires for you to be accepted on to a program. But, if you can evidence your ability to think critically, it will put you ahead of all of those who cannot do so.

The importance of your personal statement

The personal statement is the place where you can show your capacity for critical thinking. This may be as simple as giving an example of troubleshooting a problem in a specific environment and showing what you learned by trying to bring about change in people to remove the problem or to otherwise solve the problem by other means.

The important thing here is that you show your capacity to learn by doing. Typically, what you learn from problem solving in an organisational context is that everything is bound up in complexity. There are no simple answers because the people who hold the problem between them are themselves complex.

So, often your critical thinking learning is about emergent thinking and realisation, about taking incremental steps and using feedback loops that engage all the stakeholders of the problem with its solution.

Give succinct, brief examples that you can support with evidence or talk about with confidence

You have a limited number of words to make your personal statement or application rationale. So, you need to make very word count. Set out the examples you give so they tell a learning story about you.

The university is going to be interested to have students with a track record of real-world learning on their program. So, you need to be able to show how your ability to think has evolved in ways that you can evidence or defend.

Remember, many universities will use your application as the basis for an interview. They will hone in on anything that interests them. They will want to see you be able to talk about these experiences in a real way that show their impact on you.

If you cannot do this, you are unlikely to be offered a place on the program because you will come across as inauthentic or someone who exaggerates and overstates the value of their experience.

Academic writing

Western universities require you to be able to write clearly and powerfully in a way that demonstrates both the clarity of your personal thinking and the rigour of your academic research, expertise and domain knowledge. Academic writing of this kind is a specialist skill that most education systems fail to train in to secondary school or even undergraduate students.

So, you are strongly advised to take a course in academic writing to prepare you for the rigours of your program. This is so important to your success, it cannot be overstated.

If you are on a one-year Masters program and spend most of that time trying to learn to write in the way the university requires, you will not make the most of your program. If you are able to write well from the beginning, you can put your focus on making the most of every element of the learning that is going to appeal to an employer and to boost your grades.

The point here is that employers value graduates who can write clear and concise reports with recommendations that any reader can understand. You need to use your degree program to master this skill in ways that you can demonstrate to employers if you want to get the best jobs going in the global economy market.

Undergraduate placements, sandwich programs and projects

Increasingly, employers judge the value of a management program on the amount of real-world business experience it involves. At undergraduate level this is most often evidenced through placements, internships or paid sandwich work assignments on which final practice-based dissertations may be based.

So, at undergraduate level it is important to find programs with really strong work-based elements that expose you to the workplace and that allow you to talk to employers about the hands-on reality of your working experience.

Masters projects

At Masters level you are most likely to be asked to deliver a complex piece of project work commissioned by an organisation to solve a real-world problem they are facing. Here, you need to choose programs with a good track record of working with a wide variety of employers in ways that have delivered business impact.

Again, the skills you will need to show are the ability to work in a team in a complex environment while writing reports that are clear and meaningful for all stakeholders to read. While the academics will be looking for your ability to reference academic research, the employers will be looking for your ability to navigate the complexity they are facing in ways the drive clear, simple and easy-to-understand solutions.

Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate with teamwork, teamwork, teamwork

Increasingly business and co-creative innovation success relies on your ability to collaborate with others and to work successfully in highly diverse teams. So, everything you are looking for in a western management program must be able to evidence these skills.

The more you can talk about your collaborative learning in teamwork situations as you apply for a program, the more you find yourself equipped to benefit from all the program has to offer.

Fortune favours the prepared mind

Finally, you are advised to start your program with a plan in hand. This should include making sure you create strong relationships with the faculty and locally available entrepreneurial ecosystems so that you can network their networks to create opportunity.

And, perhaps to set up peer-learning relationships with other students as you start the program so you can maximise the collaborative benefit of sharing your learning. This can be most important if your goal is to set up an entrepreneurial organisation through the course of your program. If this is the case, your collaborative peer-learning partners may very soon become your future business partners, not least because you will have learned how to trust the learning and critical insight you bring to each other.

ScotsGrad is a pioneer in establishing the UK, especially Scotland, as a premier destination for higher education among students in India. They provide end to end advisory services including psychometric assessment, personalised interactions, university and visa application assistance, and career guidance. The personalised interactions with our members, former graduates of leading UK universities, ensure a holistic and systematic approach. They are also the only consultancy in India enabling “career success” for any student going to the UK.

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All the Best!