At least once a week I go through the traffic stats of this blog and my other websites. One statistic included in the reports is how people arrive at my sites. Expectedly, a big portion of the traffic is referred to me by search engines. So, naturally, I open the next report telling me what search terms were used by people who found my blog. Over the past month the number of visitors who searched for tips on how to apply to Imperial College increased significantly. For example, popular search terms over the last 30 days include:
Imperial College Career Planning Question Help
Imperial College MSc Finance Application
Imperial College Personal Statement
Career Planning for MSc Finance Imperial
The list goes on. Having studied a bit of economics, I duly noted this change in demand by my readers and I hereby react to it by supplying this short blog post.
It makes sense that search traffic for the above search terms spiked over the past weeks, considering that the first application deadline for the Imperial College MSc Finance programme was on 14 January. The next deadlines for the 2013 intake will be on 4 March, 30 April and 30 May, according to the ICBS website. I would advise to apply as early as possible.
Regarding tips for how to write the short essay and how to answer the career questions, I'm not going to say too much. First of all, what worked for me might not be good advice for you, because our academic background and work experience are likely to differ. Secondly, the Imperial College admissions office wants you to thoroughly think about these questions yourself and personalized answers will do far better than standard ones.
As part of the application for the MSc Finance programme, you are required to write a personal statement of roughly one page in length and you are asked to answer four career questions. (At least that is what I had to do. The application requirements might have changed in the meantime.)
The main purpose of the personal statement is for you to communicate why you want to pursue MSc studies, your reasons for choosing Imperial College and your motivation for applying to the particular programme. Keep your writing concise, as there is a strict page/word limit. I would recommend that you spend some time thinking about your motivations and your goals before you begin to actually write the text. This might just save you time because you won't have to edit the text so much later on. Personalize your statement by highlighting important stages in your academic or professional career and how they might have influenced your decision to study at ICBS. It is also important that you collect as much information on Imperial College and the MSc programme as you can. You might want to include one or two of these details in your statement to show that you understand what sets ICBS apart from other universities and why you think you are a good fit for the programme. Additionally, you might be asked to highlight a personal achievement that you are particularly proud of. I guess you could write about pretty much everything here. Just make sure that you present it in such a way that the person reading it can relate to it and that it comes across as genuine. Finally, format your statement in a professional way. That is, use paragraphs, do not use fancy font types or colours, and check your spelling and grammar. I know, this is obvious. Just make sure you don't forget it. Also, uploading the statement as a PDF might look nicer that simply uploading a Word document.
Regarding the career questions, I had to answer four of them:
1. Please describe your short-term (3 year) career goals. (200 words)
2. Please outline the challenges you think you will face in achieving these career goals and how you will overcome them. (200 words)
3. Please describe your long-term career goals or, if these are not clear, please outline the industry sectors that are of particular interest to you and why. (200 words)
4. What skills do you think are important in the career that interests you, how would you demonstrate that you have been developing these skills so far? (300 words)
Gather your thoughts and again do a bit of research before answering the questions. For example, when describing your career goals you might want to consider what type of company you are interested in working for as well as recent industry developments and how these might affect your professional career. You might already have some companies in mind that you want to apply to in the future. In that case it would be a good idea to look at job descriptions they have posted on their websites and what skills they are looking for. You will need many of these hard and soft skills in business school, too. Of course, you will have the chance to improve your skills during your MSc studies. As for the career goals, be as precise as you can. If you already know that you want to work in asset management, M&A or sales and trading, write that. Don't just say you want to work for a bank and stop there. On the other hand, you are not required to have a detailed career plan laid out already. The admissions office is well aware of the fact that your career prospects might change over time and that your studies might even push you in a slightly different direction. I don't think I need to go into more detail here, because Imperial has a useful page with tips for answering the career planning questions, too.
To sum up, my final advice is to be honest. Also remember that it is an actual human being who will be reading your statement, so make it easy to read and interesting. If what you write is not believable, if it is too general or even boring, this might reflect negatively on you. Collect your thoughts, transform them into the right words and then arrange those words in a presentable fashion. This is no magic. Good luck!