postgrad postgraduate studies student

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Postgrad: Here’s what you need to know about applying for further studies

Postgrad degree applications at South African universities either open soon or are already open – here’s how to apply.

postgrad postgraduate studies student

Image: Canva

Postgrad studies looming and you are not sure how to apply? Here is everything you need to know — from time constraints to interview tips, for that further degree.

The application process is more intense than the process for an undergraduate degree so this is not exactly an overnight application. Here is some expert advice from Durban University of Technology (DUT) research lecturer Tarryn Frankish.

Masters coordinator Frankish is also a member of the Institutional Research Ethics Committee (IREC). As she has about 13 years of experience in academia, she is well placed to guide us on this topic.


Every last detail of your application varies, and it depends on to your course requirements and structure.

A postgraduate degree can be done in three variations: Research, coursework and practice based.

  • A research based course is where you would complete a full thesis.
  • Coursework degrees consist of modules and a research component.
  • Practice based degrees are less popular but allow individuals working in the industry to get their post graduate degrees through practical work.

Each of these variations differ in their workload and deadlines.


This depends on whether you are taking a full-time or part-time course. A full-time postgraduate course can vary from one to two years and a part-time course will go up to three years to complete. This does vary between disciplines though.

There are South African universities such as DUT and The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) that offer a full time Masters course free.

 However, you must finish within the stipulated time. Also, you have to choose the full time option, which means you cannot have be working or have a job full time as well.

And here’s an unpopular fact: A Masters course is typically 180 credits which requires that you put in 1 800 hours!


The application requirements of postgrad degrees differ between courses and departments but in most courses you would need to write a proposal to apply.

This means you need to have an idea of what you want to do already, especially for a research based postgraduate degree.

This includes a topic, the literature, theoretical framework and methodology. You will have to put in a lot of work and thought into your proposal and this is not something you can do overnight.

Certain courses also require an interview before the faculty makes its decision.

Postgrad degree applications at South African universities either open soon or are already open – here’s how to apply.
Image: Canva


  • Always keep your mobile phone off.
  • Be as relaxed as possible because when you are nervous it is hard to present yourself in the best way you can.
  • Be you. In other words, in terms of how you speak, be natural. Do not try to impress the committee with your words but rather be yourself.
  • Show your passion and enthusiasm towards furthering your studies. If it is research based, show your passion for your project.
  • Showcase the skills you have. You want to show the selection committee what separates you from other applicants. For example, if your marks are weaker, use this as an opportunity to show your strengths, like industry experience you bring the table. Note that the selection committee is focused on the future, not entirely the past. Make them confident in your future.

Think like the selection committee and remember that the committee is thinking of two things: (1) Will you be able to get a supervisor. (2) Are you going to finish your study or drop out?

Due to the pandemic, interviews may take place virtually. So, you may not have to stress about physically sitting in front of a selection committee and the anxiety that comes with that.


Demonstrate your skills: Think of it as you showing the selection committee that this is a do-able project which will be successful.

The selection committee is also trying to figure out whether you will be able to get a suitable supervisor for your study.

If you are attempting to balance work and studying , do not make either a priority because when one becomes a priority the other suffers.

You may like to use the Pomodoro study technique to be efficient while saving time. A pomodoro is a study technique that requires you to have 25-minute distraction-free constructive working time and a five-minute break. This psychologically improves focus knowing you’re on a strict timeline.

And be consistent. Postgraduate life is more self-governing than your undergraduate degree. Your entire progress depends entirely on how motivated you are as an individual. It’s up to you!