The value of applying early

When it comes to applying for a master’s program, you’re going to find A LOT of master’s application tips out there. So how do you filter it down to the most valuable advice? We decided to speak with an expert on the topic.

Amy Janssen-Brennan is the Assistant Director of Recruitment and Admissions at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), a top 20 European business school in the Netherlands. Her first words of advice are simple: apply early.

“If you have a complex application from an education system we aren’t familiar with…your application could take much longer,” she begins. “We assess every application on a first-come, first-serve basis, so if you submit your application on December 2nd you will hear back earlier than someone who submitted their application on January 2nd.” (12:47)

But that’s not to say you should rush your application. Amy says that the so-called “panic submit” is a common application mistake – and one that they see far too often at RSM. 

“We also see students who wait until the last second and then they apply – a ‘panic submit’ we call it!” (14:26)

What’s included in a typical master’s application?

RSM has a significant international student population and the school attracts applicants from all over the world – but this can present a challenge for admissions teams. How do you compare applicants from so many different education systems? Amy says the solution is to use standardized tests such as the IELTS or GMAT.

“All of our applicants need to prove their ability in English, so we use standardized English language tests,” she explains. “We allow applicants to submit IELTS or Cambridge or TOEFL exams, or they can also take an English language test at, for example, our own language center.” (04:40)

Amy adds, “We also use the GMAT, so for all applicants who did not do a degree in the Netherlands, we request that they do a GMAT exam. We require a minimum score of 600 for those applicants.” (05:01)

Will there be an interview for my master’s program?

For many candidates, the interview stage is one of the most intimidating steps of the application process. However, they are less common for master’s programs than they are for MBAs or other advanced business degrees. Amy reveals that at RSM, only their most selective program requires an interview.

“For our International Management / CEMS program, which is the most selective master’s program we have, [there is] an assessment and in the past, we had live interviews for that. Because of COVID we had to stop doing that,” she says. “I don’t know if we will return to live interviews or not, but at this moment we ask those applicants to answer questions online, so we have pre-recorded questions and [the applicant] has to answer them.” (14:53)

Amy’s top master’s application tips - and common mistakes

Last year alone, RSM received more than 7,500 applications for their bachelor’s, pre-master’s, and master’s programs. That means Amy and her team are used to seeing some common application mistakes among candidates – mistakes that could have been avoided by simply reading all of the information on the school website.

“The most common mistakes we see are applicants who clearly did not read the information on the website. They submit their application with insufficient GMAT scores, for example, or English scores,” she says. (13:46)

“My best advice to students is to really read the information on the website, [because] the answers to most questions that people have can be found on the website,” Amy urges. “Because we have such a huge number of applications every year, we really encourage students (before they contact us) to try to find the answer to their question on the website.” (17:15)

There’s no easy way of getting accepted into a master’s program, and sometimes the best pieces of advice are also the simplest. Read all of the information available to you, give yourself plenty of time to apply, and avoid a “panic submit.” Follow these steps, and your dream program could be closer than you think.