The beauty of the internet is that research and information is always at your fingertips. There is always some website, some email, some forum where you can find the answer to whatever question is on your mind. However, this amazing amount of information can also be a downfall to many because at times the information is simply too overwhelming, so we reach out and send the same email over and over to get individual responses. I admit, I have done this myself, you get conflicting information for you’re simply too overwhelmed to read yet another forum, when you could simply email the source for the information.
It seems that writing as an International Blogger has made me a source of information, which is wonderful, but like those who monitor these sites it can be tasking to get the same question over and over, so I’ve decided to share with you the five most popular questions students seem to have for me and my honest to goodness responses, unfiltered, unedited and genuinely what I believe to be the truth.
1. “I’ve been accepted for [X program] but I need a scholarship to attend. How do I go about writing the application and supplement pieces?”
Firstly, congratulations on your acceptance! Westminster has wonderful scholarship programs, which is one of the reasons I was first drawn to apply and how I ultimately was able to afford my studies so I understand where you’re coming from. If you haven’t already read all of the scholarship FAQs and guidelines, actually don’t just read them, study them because they will give you all the bare bones that you need.
The supplement information is where you get to stand out so make it count. A genuine answer will go a lot further than a sales pitch so write from the heart and be honest about why you need financial aid. DO NOT make up some story you think they want to hear, explain your situation as best as you can, this is your chance to share you story and make you unique and not just another candidate. Money can be a delicate situation and those reading the applications are aware of that and will appreciate your open canter on a sensitive subject.
*A note for all types of applications: treat them with as much care and preparation as you would your dissertation. Your application can show a lot about your attitude as a student: are there a lot of typos, grammar issues, inconsistencies, does it come across as fake? Remember that admissions read hundreds and hundreds of applications, many of whom have similar qualifications so don’t be cookie cutter in your responses.
2. “Life in London is so expensive, can you work enough to pay for your studies on a visa?”
You are so right, London is an incredibly expensive city and while you might be able to work on your visa it is not a good idea to rely on that work to pay for your studies. I’ll explain, you will have a restricted amount of hours attached on your visa, typically 10 or 20 hours a week. That might sound like a lot but at the maximum 20 hours a week that is 80 hours a month and with the average hourly rate of around £9 you’ll be making around £700 before taxes. Take into account travel expenses, food and other basic living costs you’ll still be short. While I think working alongside your studies is a great idea and it has helped me loads, it was not my primarily means of paying for my course as I don’t think it’s realistic.
*Another note, if you’re thinking of internships these will count as part as your hours regardless if they are paid or unpaid so keep that in mind as well.
3. “I feel like a one year degree is too hectic and I should look for a two year program so I have enough time to write my thesis. Was a one year degree stressful?”
Personally, I think any postgraduate degree is going to be stressful and hectic, but no I don’t think a two year program would be any less stressful. I actually only looked for one year programs because you’re learning everything in such a short period of time I felt I would be more focused and on top of my studies. If you’re just taking a one year program you’re less likely to get into that lull period where you’re “over” lectures.
4. “What’s the atmosphere and social life like in London?”
This is tricky for me because it wasn’t as if I didn’t know anyone when I started my course having studied in London before, and I wasn’t living in student accommodation. So while I can’t tell you about student accommodation and life in halls, I can tell you about the atmosphere in the classroom.
I think the most important thing is you will be in a room full of different cultures, ethnicities, ages, the ultimate melting pot of opinions and perspectives. That being said you will not be friends with everyone, there are a lot of different personalities that continue their education at postgraduate level and you might not click with all of them. The good thing about diversity in the classroom is that there will be someone you like and like any social situation it’s all about what you put into it.
Personally, my friends and I found ourselves at pubs for drinks and dinners after late lectures to unwind or over coffee recapping our most recent lecture. This might not be the case for you though, your friend group might prefer hanging around Hyde Park or spending the day at the Natural History Museum together. The wonderful thing about London is there is so much to do and so many different types of people that as long as you put yourself out there, throwing as many things as possible into the universe something will ultimately stick.
5. “If you could do it over, would you make the same decision?”
(I both love and hate this question and I’m always surprised when people have the guts to ask this to a stranger but here goes…)
Yes. There are things I wish I knew first so I didn’t have to learn the hard way, for example, what GPA Westminster considers a First and then applying for a better scholarship instead of shortchanging myself. Accepting that writing from my heart and pouring my soul into a passionate piece won’t get as good of a mark as something direct and informative. There are any number of things I wish I knew but such as life.
So yes, I would still choose Westminster, I would still choose security, I would still choose the same courses, I would even still choose all the crappy temp jobs along the way. I wouldn’t want a redo because my time at Westminster has helped shape me as an individual, not just added a shiny new degree to my CV. The life skills learned completing a degree abroad are so much more than in the classroom and I wouldn’t change those for anything.