The Application Process: How to Prepare for a Masters Interview

How to Prepare for a Masters Interview

You made it! Your application was a success and you’ve been invited to an interview for a place on your chosen postgraduate course, but how should you prepare? We asked our current students for tips in preparing for an interview.

Discuss your Previous Studies.

It is important to show that you have an interest in the subject area for which you are applying. If your undergraduate degree isn’t directly relevant, still discuss it and how it can feed into your future studies. It is something you have spent at least three years working on, so demonstrating how you’ve developed your research skills and evolved from this is key.

You may be asked about your dissertation. If you haven’t completed it do not discuss it as if it is a finished piece. Tutors will know if your dissertation is incomplete so stating the contrary won’t bode well. However, you can still talk about your experience of writing your dissertation, and what your project is centred upon. This will give the interviewer an insight into your interests. One of our current students, Brenda, was returning to education after a break from studying, and told us that her dissertation was something she saw as essential to mention during her interview.

Dress to Impress

Especially if you are an external applicant, dressing smartly can show you’re serious about your application and helps to make a good first impression. It is an interview after all: try to avoid jeans or anything that could be seen as too informal. Also make sure what you’re wearing is practical and comfortable too so that you can feel as relaxed as possible during your interview.

Have an Awareness of the Course

Questions will likely include what attracted you to your chosen university and course. As such, it’s important to make sure you have an awareness of the programme and what it offers in terms of modules and the department staffs’ areas of research. You can then discuss modules you find interesting, or topics covered which match or support your subject interest. This will show the admissions tutors that you’ve done your research and have put consideration into your decision to study with them.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Another question you may be asked is regarding your strengths and weaknesses. It may be tempting to solely focus on the things you’re good at, but it can also be beneficial to discuss your weaknesses and how you try to improve these. One of our students Rebecca, spoke about how she tackled her weaknesses at her postgraduate interview:

‘When asked about my weaknesses, I stated that I felt I had low confidence and how I try and combat this. I organised several revision sessions and became course rep in my third year of my undergraduate degree in order to boost my confidence speaking in front of people, so I mentioned this at the interview to show how I have developed as an individual through my studies.

Although this will be different for everyone, finding a way to turn your weaknesses around, and demonstrating how you have done this in an interview, shows development and a positive mindset.

What Do You Hope to Gain from Postgraduate Study?

The admissions team may also wonder why you have chosen to undertake postgraduate study. Be honest here, and tell them what you hope to gain from a postgraduate qualification, be it for employability, a desire to develop your interests further, or that you wish to continue on into academic study after your masters. The obvious answer of “I want to do a PhD” may not always be the best choice. Whilst academic goals beyond MA study are okay, the percentage of students who pursue academic PhDs and then secure positions within academia are low. This doesn’t mean this isn’t an option, but discussing non-academic career paths is also an option. You can visit our *student views page* to see what kinds of careers our graduates are working in.

Personal Statements

Your personal statement will have been read by the admissions team at this point. If it’s been a while since you wrote your statement be sure to give it a re-read to help with the answers to the interviewer’s questions. It is important to make sure that you do not contradict your statement too much, as this may cause some confusion.

If you wish to expand on anything in your statement, the interview will provide an opportunity for you to do this so make sure you are prepared to comment on anything you have written. You may find this opens up areas of discussion and provides a framework for your discussion.


Although it might be an issue you’d like to push to the back of your mind, the university will want to know how you realistically hope to fund your postgraduate study. Although loans are now available for this, this does not always cover the cost of tuition, accommodation and living expenses. Discussing how you plan to sustain yourself financially shows that you have taken the financial implications of postgraduate study seriously and are prepared for such a commitment.


As well as asking you various questions throughout your interview, your interviewers will give you the chance to ask questions about the university or programme. This is a great opportunity to clear up any queries you may have, so make sure you are prepared. Some topics you may wish to consider inquiring about include:
Timetabling – If it is a taught programme how are the contact hours scheduled?
Bursaries and Scholarships – If funding is a concern, it may be beneficial to find out what financial support is offered by the university.
Assessments – How are you assessed on the programme, and how is this weighted for your final grade?

Things to Consider & Further Information

It is also important to consider that many universities will conduct several applicant interviews on the same day, so there may be a delay between them receiving your application and your interview date.

For more information on postgraduate study see our blog posts on Choosing an MA Programme and Writing Personal Statements and Choosing References.

Have any questions for our current MA students? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

If you’d like more information about applying to study an English Programme at Lincoln you can contact the following for more information:

MA in English and MA in 21st Century Literature

Programme Leader: Rupert Hildyard –
Admissions Tutor: Renée Ward –

MA in Creative Writing

Programme Leader: Phil Redpath –


Find out more about the application process at Lincoln by visiting

The Application Process: Personal Statements and References

The Application Process: Personal Statements and References

Worried about your applications for postgraduate study or unsure where to start? We’ve spoken to some of our current postgraduate students for their insight to help you prepare.

The application process varies between universities, but many will expect references and a personal statement (and transcripts for unofficial students still studying) from their prospective students. We spoke to students from MA English Studies and 21st Century Literature to find out what advice they’d offer students thinking of applying to study at Lincoln.

Writing a Personal Statement

When writing your personal statement, it’s important to consider why you have decided on your chosen course and reflect this in your writing. After speaking with our current students, we have put together a list of tips to consider when writing your application:

  • Word Count – Each university will have their own suggested word count or word limit for students. Make sure to avoid rambling, but if your statement is too short it is likely to lack detail and not be very useful for the admissions team. If you are in doubt, always get in touch with Admissions at your chosen university to confirm their word count.
  • Research the course and university – Make them aware of what has attracted you to this course and university in particular, possibly mentioning modules or themes which interest you in the program.
    Discuss your experience – Why are you suited to this program? Does it relate to your previous studies or interests in any way? Discussing your prior experiences allows Admissions to see how you would be suited to the program and what skills you have.
  • Dissertations – Referring to your undergraduate dissertation will allow the reader to gain an insight into your interests, and show that you have the skills to produce a substantial piece of academic writing. If you are still writing your dissertation, or it has yet to be submitted, acknowledge this, and do not discuss it as if it is complete.
    Your aims – What do you hope to achieve by doing a Masters programme? How will this benefit you in the future?

Choosing your References

Your references should know you well enough to be able to comment on your academic performance and it is crucial that they can speak of your abilities. It is important to make sure you include at least one academic reference in your application, though professional references may be accepted in extenuating circumstances, such as with mature students. All of the students with whom we spoke used at least one academic reference, including their dissertation tutors.

We asked one of our English Studies students, Tabitha, who was an external applicant, how she chose her references when applying for the program:

Q: How did you find applying to Lincoln as an external applicant?
A: I found it nice and simple, even though I couldn’t attend the admission days I contacted the admission office which put me through to Rupert [the admissions tutor]. He then sent me the application form and maintained a correspondence until interview day.
Q: And how did you go about choosing your references?
A: I asked my dissertation supervisor; they were really helpful since I was coming from Theology to English and they specialised in religion and literature. I used my boss at work for my other reference.

Other students we spoke to asked academics they’d built a connection with over their undergraduate degree to provide them with references. These were members of staff who they had worked with closely during their undergraduate degree, and as such could give accurate and personal comments on their performance.

General Information and Tips:

Aside from personal statements and references, there are other factors you will need to consider:

  • Emails – Use a university email where possible during correspondence, or an email with a professional tag/address if this is not available. Be aware that many personal emails such as Gmail and Hotmail are more likely to mark emails from universities as ‘Spam’ and they could be easily missed as a result.
  • Respond to emails (or any other form of correspondence) in a prompt and timely manner, and keep a polite and formal tone. Also be patient; you may find that university departments or academics may take a while to reply, but that doesn’t mean they have not received your emails or aren’t interested in your application.
  • Interviews – Don’t worry if you are not invited to an interview immediately; many universities will set specific days aside to interview prospective students.
  • Other things to consider – Have you thought about where you will live during the course of your studies, or if scheduled teaching periods allow for any other commitments such as work or child care? These are important factors to consider when applying to study a Masters.

Further Information:

For more information on postgraduate study see our blog posts on Choosing an MA Programme and How to Prepare for a Masters Interview.

Have any questions for our current MA students? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

If you’d like more information about applying to study an English Programme at Lincoln you can contact the following for more information:

MA in English and MA in 21st Century Literature

Programme Leader: Rupert Hildyard –
Admissions Tutor: Renée Ward –

MA in Creative Writing

Programme Leader: Phil Redpath –


Find out more about the application process at Lincoln by visiting

The Application Process: Deciding on a Masters Programme

The Application Process: Deciding on a Masters Programme.

When deciding to do a masters programme, it is important to choose a course that is right for you. We spoke with our students, and asked what they considered to be important when choosing where and what to study. We have compiled a list of things to consider when choosing your masters.


What subject areas appeal to you the most? This is one of the best ways to decide which MA programmes would suit you. For example, many of our 21st Century Literature students decided on the programme due to an interest in contemporary writing, and wanted to explore this further. Another one of our students, Tabitha, had previously studied theology but found that studying literature was something she enjoyed in her undergraduate degree, and thus decided to explore this further with the English Studies MA.

You must also decide on whether you wish to study on a taught programme , or study a masters by research (MRes) which are more flexible but do not offer taught modules. These options may not be available at all universities, so it is important to research your chosen university and the types of study they offer thoroughly. MRes programmes will require a project proposal as a part of your application. This will take longer to prepare and will need to focus on a particular subject and area of interest. It is important to check that these interests are supported by the department at your chosen university. All universities will differ on their requirements for the proposal but you can find the details for Lincoln’s English MRes here.


It is also important to consider the university you’re choosing to study with; do they cater to your research interests? Does the course they offer allow you to focus on your interests or topics you wish to explore further? Do they have the learning resources necessary to support you throughout your study? All of these are important things to consider when choosing an MA programme. If you are unsure, consider visiting the university on an Open Day, getting in touch with admissions or even speaking with current students and alumni to help you make an informed decision.

The timetabling at each university will also differ for taught-MA programmes. Whilst Lincoln currently holds all taught sessions on Wednesdays, other universities will be different in their scheduled contact hours. For Jamie, who is part-time at Lincoln, this was a deciding factor in choosing where to study:

‘As I’m doing my Masters part time, for me it was important to find a course that I could plan other commitments (like work and volunteering) around. A few other universities I messaged delivered classes at totally different times and on various days. Having everything on a Wednesday is really excellent to allow you to fit in other commitments alongside studying. I’m sure this is also beneficial to people doing the course full time as well.’

In addition to this, you should also consider the entry requirements for your chosen university, and make sure that these are manageable. Some universities may be stricter than others when it comes to their entry requirements, so be sure to look into this thoroughly, or ask the admissions department at your chosen universities for more information.


Location can often be a large factor of deciding where to study, particularly at postgraduate level. Postgraduate loans are currently available for up to £10 280*; however, this is a contribution to both your fees and living expenses. Certain universities offer scholarships or alumni discounts to prospective students, helping towards the cost of study. Yet other factors such as the cost of living and accommodation prices may influence your decision. Around 50% of the students from our English Studies and 21st Century Literature programmes commute to the university, and told us that the location of the university was a big deciding factor.

*This may be subject to change, information correct for 2017-18 academic year.


As previously mentioned, the cost of studying a Masters programme can influence your decision on where to study. Although the Student Finance Company has recently introduced postgraduate loans, many factors exist which you should consider, such as how much of your loan will be taken up by tuition fees, and how much you can expect to spend on living expenses. Many MA students work part-time alongside their studies to help cover their costs, and this is something that many prospective students will need to consider when undertaking postgraduate study.

Some universities, Lincoln included, will offer payment plans to their postgraduate students to help manage the cost of study. This is not the case for all institutions however, and some may expect a larger sum up-front. It is important to check this when applying, and make sure that you are realistically able to fund your study.

Career Prospects

In a more competitive job market, it is important to consider career prospects and how your studies will affect this. Having a masters can set you apart from the crowd when applying for future jobs or postgraduate schemes. However, it is also important to tailor your work experience and study if you have a particular career field in mind. For example, some of our English BA graduates decided to change their focus with a Journalism MA in order to ready themselves for work in that particular field, whilst others chose to take 19th Century Studies, a cross-disciplinary subject, to expand their areas of study.

All of these are important factors to consider when deciding where to study. For further information on the application process, see our blog posts on Writing Personal Statements and Choosing References and How to Prepare for a Masters Interview.

Further Information:

Have any questions for our current MA students? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

If you’d like more information about applying to study an English Programme at Lincoln you can contact the following for more information:

MA in English Studies and MA in 21st Century Literature

Programme Leader: Rupert Hildyard –
Admissions Tutor: Renée Ward –

MA in Creative Writing

Programme Leader: Phil Redpath –


Find out more about the application process at Lincoln by visiting

Upcoming Research Seminar

Please see below for the details on upcoming research seminars from, or in partnership with, the School of English and Journalism:

History and Heritage Research Seminar on Wed 21st February, 4.30-6pm in MB3202.
Holly Trusted, Senior Curator of Sculpture, V&A Museum, will deliver a paper on:

Displaying Plaster Casts at the Museum: South Kensington and the Reproduction of Sculpture

From the moment of its inception in the 1850s, the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) proudly displayed plaster casts of sculptures and architectural details, for both educational and museological purposes. Once the great Architectural Courts (now known as the Cast Courts) were opened in 1873, the wide-ranging and hugely impressive collection of plaster casts exercised an enormous impact on artists, craftsmen, and the visiting public, both visually and conceptually. These casts were not however shown in isolation: an array of other reproductions and works of art were to be seen in the same galleries. Electrotypes, photographs, watercolour copies of paintings, brass rubbings and architectural models, as well as monumental sculptures in stone, were initially juxtaposed alongside the plasters.

How did contemporary perceptions of reproductions in the mid to late nineteenth century differ from our way of looking at the plaster casts today? And how did twentieth-century attitudes to reproductions colour the importance they were given, both in a museum, and for the purposes of art education? My paper will focus on the history of the great cast collection at the V&A, and how we view it today, particularly in relation to the current renovation project of the Cast Courts, due to be completed in late 2018. I will be focusing on specific plaster casts, notably Trajan’s Column from Rome, and the great Pórtico de la Gloria from Santiago de Compostela.

MA Nineteenth Century Studies Group on Weds 28th February, 12:30pm-2pm in MC3201.
Dr Wolfgang Funk (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz) will deliver a paper, titled:

‘“We trust Evolution to make us amends” – Evolution and Emancipation in Late Victorian Women’s Poetry’.

We hope to see some of you at these events. Be sure to visit our Research Group Page for more information.

What Have We Been Reading?

What Have We Been Reading?

We asked our current postgraduate students what their favourite books were from their studies last semester. We asked each student what in particular made the text stand out for them, so be sure to read their thoughts and maybe try one or two for yourself.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake – Chosen by Alex


Blake’s poetic collections, featuring his own illustrations, were covered in the ‘Romantic Legacies’ option module last semester. We asked one of our students, Alex, why this one was his favourite: ‘I would say how unstable the text is aesthetically, with 9 different editions known to exist!’

What Belongs To You, Garth Greenwell – Chosen by Emily


Studied in ‘Contemporary American Fiction’, Greenwell’s novel explores queer relationships in the unfamiliar setting of Bulgaria.

Emily: ‘I liked the writing style of the author, it felt very fluid. The way it examined the protagonist’s sexuality by looking both at his formative years and his current life was also pretty interesting; it really let you get into his head and understand where he was coming from. Other than that, it was set in Bulgaria rather than somewhere I know well. Looking at another culture through the eyes of an American was a little disarming, but in a good way!’

The Casual Vacancy, J.K Rowling – Chosen by Katie


Rowling’s famed ‘adult’ novel is discussed in the module ‘Women Writing in the 21st Century’. The text explores themes of local politics, social status and the power of community.

Katie: ‘I liked the social implications of the text. Pretty much J.K Rowling showing the need for community and support, especially for the most vulnerable.’

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler – Chosen by Becky


A novel full of unexpected twists, Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a shocking tale of familial love in the most unfamiliar ways. It was covered in the ‘Women Writing in the 21st Century’ module.

Becky: ‘For me, the text explores what it means to be human. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it, but the book definitely takes an unexpected turn which leaves you shocked, and suddenly doubtful of the ideologies you might not have realised you’d been adopting up to that point. It raises some difficult questions, and doesn’t give a simple answer. That’s what I like about it the most I think.’

The First Bad Man Miranda July – Chosen by Tim


From the ‘Contemporary American Fiction’ option module, July’s novel explores the world of Cheryl Glickman, and is an interesting narrative on the issues of gender.
Tim: ‘The first-person narrator is realised in an innovative way, through fantasy, role-playing and by inhabiting the personae of other characters. In this way July charts a trajectory from the postmodern inauthentic to a truly self-reflective narrative of authenticity. The narrator’s voice is compelling and distinctive. Thematically, I enjoyed the novel’s engagement with concepts of self-help, heteronormativity and the transformative nature of love.’

So there you have it, some of our students favourite books from last semester.

Have you read any of these, or are you interested in giving any a try? Would you like to see full length book reviews from us in future? Let us know!

SEJ Research Seminars Semester B

The first research seminar for the School of English and Journalism will be taking place on 7 February 2018. This event will run over the dinner period from 2-3.30pm in MC3207. Please see below for each speakers’ abstracts.

Anna Hoyles (Journalism), ‘‘The Voice of Moa Martinson – Literary Journalism in the 1920s’

This paper explores the early newspaper articles of the Swedish novelist Moa Martinson (1890-1964). As a working-class, non-anglophone woman Martinson is a rare voice within literary journalism. In her work in syndicalist, anarchist and feminist publications she provides a grassroots perspective that contrasts with that of many labour movement leaders of the time. She also has a distinct literary style that, this paper argues, is heavily influenced by the oral tradition and provides hitherto unexplored links between the latter and literary journalism.

Shelby Sutterby (English), ‘Slipping through your Fingers: Water as Art in Contemporary Women’s Fiction’

Renowned glassmaker, Leopold Blaschka (1822-1895), is best known for the intricate glass flowers produced by his company throughout the nineteenth century. While these glass flowers have retained popularity it is, however, the models of marine invertebrates, which remain the most striking of Blaschka’s creations. Born out of a fascination with the ocean and a practical need to create models of creatures which could not be preserved through the practice of taxidermy, these models represent the troubling nature of fluidity. Blaschka’s marine invertebrates reflect a trend still continuing in the 21st Century of refashioning the fluid into the solid, representing the ocean and ocean-life through different, often contradictory materials.
Through an analysis of Jeanette Winterson’s, The Passion (1987); Kate Atkinson’s, Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1995) and Maggie O’Farrell’s, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (2006)], this paper will examine this method of dealing with fluidity and explore how it is used in contemporary women’s fiction. Drawing on Blaschka’s models, my argument will focus on the ways in which water is linked with glass, particularly mirrored glass, and explore what this relationship suggests about identity and female creativity. The shift from fluid to solid, the power and dangers inherent in the slippery, the liquid and what that change suggests about the multifaceted nature of fluidity itself, will also be addressed. To what extent is water a gendered space and how do contemporary women writers engage with or reject the idea of water being feminised?

Megan Walker (English), ‘“The debates over gender […] are necessarily entangled in the debate over how to govern sex, and therefore, in the precarious game of truth and life”: Intersex narratives and the origin of gender’

In 1955, Dr John Money and his colleagues were researching patients with ‘hermaphroditism’, now referred to as intersex or Disorders of Sex Development. From Money’s work stems the term ‘gender-role’. It was from this research that the term ‘gender’, as it has been used in copious academic works since, was coined. Money used intersex patients to prove that gender was a socially learned concept, separate from biological sex. Money investigated ‘matched pairs’ of intersex patients who were assigned opposing sexes to prove that gender was malleable. My paper will discuss some of Money’s experiments on patients, including the case of David Reimer. Having suffered injuries to his penis during surgery, Money’s team decided to reassign Reimer as female. It was not until 1997 (30 years later), that the failure of Reimer’s sex reassignment was exposed. Around the same time, many intersex patients were coming forward to share their experiences after receiving treatment stemming from Money’s work. Moving into the twenty-first century, many literary texts explore the effects that these medical protocols have had on intersex characters. I will consider the influence that Money’s experiments on intersex patients have had on the concepts of sex and gender, as well as the new phase of awareness that has emerged from the experiences of intersex individuals being explored in popular culture.


Find more information on our Research Seminars here.



Term 1 Symposium (Dec 17)

sym 17

Students from the English Studies, 21st Century Literature and Nineteenth Century MA programmes all took part in the Term 1 symposium.

 The first symposium of the 17-18 academic year took place this December, and included a variety of papers from 20 different students, including those from MA Nineteenth Century Studies who undertook English MA Options. The event, hosted in the MHT building on the university campus, saw students discuss their research for their upcoming projects. The panels included: ‘Contemporary American Fiction’, ‘Romantic Legacies’, ‘Romantic Nature’, ‘Contemporary Nature’, ‘Gender and Sexuality’, and ‘Women Writing in the 21st Century: Outsiders and Belonging’.


Papers such as Jeni Medcalf’s ‘Find Oikos’ and Jamie Watt’s ‘The Romantic Wanderer’ were listened to by a number of staff and students, with each student having the chance to expand on their presentations in the Q&A sessions after each panel.

Students said they felt the day had a great atmosphere, and was the perfect opportunity to explore their research ideas in a supportive, academic environment. Many of our students took to The Swan on campus afterwards to celebrate their hard work before heading for a well-deserved Christmas meal at Ask Italian.

Great Lives: Carol Ann Duffy

Great Lives: Carol Ann Duffy 

Carol Ann Duffy Great Minds

Two of our English Studies students, Becky (right) and Jeni (left), with Dame Carol Ann Duffy (centre).

In November 2017, a group on English MA students attending one of the Great Lives talk hosted by the University of Lincoln. In this event, which was open to staff, students and the public, Poet Laureate Dame Carol Ann Duffy provided readings of her poetry and took questions from the audience. Duffy has previously hosted writing workshop with our students, and is a visiting poetry artist with the university.

One of our students told us it was a great experience and a valuable insight which allowed her to gain further insight into Duffy and her works in preparation for her research into 21st Century poets, a subject area which is covered in English Now 1. Two of our students, Becky Coddington and Jeni Medcalf were able to meet with Duffy after the event, where the Poet Laureate offered signings of her collections.

More information on this, and future events can be found here.

Term 2 symposium in Lincoln Cathedral!

Students from the modules ‘Writing Utopia and Dystopia’ and ‘Women Writing the 21st Century’ presented papers in the Wren Library, Lincoln Cathedral, on 30th April 2014 to an audience of over 30. The papers were organised into four panels: ‘Utopian Societies and Fallen Worlds’, ‘Femininity, Gender and Form’, ‘Women, the Body and the Gaze’ and ‘Utopianism, Consciousness and Metaphysics’. The papers were professionally delivered and provoked lively discussion. Our Visiting Professor, John Drakakis, who was in attendance commented on the high standard of the papers. Congratulations to all our presenters!