What is the step-by-step process for doing a postgraduate degree abroad

What is the step-by-step process for doing a postgraduate degree abroad
What is the step-by-step process for doing a postgraduate degree abroad

Anyone who wants to expand their training after finishing their degree but still has some doubts about how to achieve this, should keep in mind that one of the possibilities is to take a postgraduate degree in the area they already work in or in one nearby. If the objective is to study something outside of Country, we explain in this text step by step with tips and possible paths to do a postgraduate degree abroad.

It’s not easy to choose between the thousands of programs and countries available. And preparing for the application, the international selection process, is a process that requires a lot of time, especially for those who are also going to apply for a scholarship.

In addition to the text, we are open for registration for Postgraduate Prep, the first free online course that prepares young people who dream of pursuing a postgraduate degree in another country, but don’t know where to start. then today we will tell you.

And we also have a newsletter in which we publish, every week, the main postgraduate opportunities abroad with open enrollment.

What is the step-by-step process for doing a postgraduate degree abroad

First steps

After you decide that you really want to pursue a postgraduate degree abroad and that the experience will be important for your life, the research and planning phase will begin. This step will help you define which programs best suit your profile. Follow the step by step:

1. Understand your personal and professional goals: Ask yourself questions and write down: What do you hope to learn in postgraduate studies abroad? What results do you want to achieve in your career? These two key questions will help you define your target universities.

2. Search institutions: Discover universities in your area of ​​interest. There are probably many colleges that don’t have a well-known name in Brazil, but that are a reference in some area of ​​knowledge. If you already know a renowned professor or researcher from another country, see which university they go to!

3. Find out which are the best: If you followed the previous two steps, you now have many options for institutions. To narrow down this list, it is interesting to analyze international rankings. They are good guides for understanding the prestige of a university, as long as they are used correctly: “Many students make the mistake of only looking at the top 10 positions in these rankings. These universities are certainly excellent, but they are also very competitive. Always look beyond the first 25”, advises Marta Bidoli, director of the EducationUSA Advising Center.

Two highly regarded international rankings are the US News & World Report – Graduate Schools Rankings and QS – Postgraduate Studies. Some areas have their own rankings, as is the case with the famous MBA course rankings from the Financial Times newspaper.

4. Analyze your profile and financial needs: Carry out a sincere self-analysis, considering the competitiveness of your profile and your ability to pay postage costs. Check with universities what the profile of candidates approved in other years is (they make this information available) and, if necessary, what the likelihood of getting a scholarship is.

5. List the requirements required by universities: After deciding which universities you want to apply to, the suggestion is to make a spreadsheet with all the requirements required by these institutions and their respective deadlines.

6. Plan your application: With the spreadsheet above in hand, create an action plan to improve your profile and make it more competitive, in addition to meeting deadlines. If you need help at this point, we have an exclusive schedule created by Duplichecke to help you!

What to choose: specialization, MBA or academic master’s degree?

When choosing a postgraduate degree abroad, the first step is to understand what each program offers. Around here, when we talk about a master’s degree, we automatically think of more theoretical courses, aimed at those who want to pursue an academic career. But abroad, there is a significant difference between academic and professional master’s degrees. Next, we will talk more about the main types of postgraduate courses offered.

Certificates or extension courses

These courses last from three to 12 months and grant a specialist certificate (not a master’s or doctorate). They are focused on certain areas and are recognized as an academic experience abroad. Renowned colleges such as UCLA, Harvard and Columbia have courses focused on various areas, ranging from finance to biotechnology. The admission process is usually simpler than the master’s degree: you choose the course you want to take, register and send documentation that may include your bachelor’s degree, a letter of motivation and proof of proficiency in the English language.


The MBA is considered a professional master’s degree and, therefore, has a very practical bias. Depending on the school, the course lasts one or two years and is especially suitable for professionals who have been in the job market for some time, have held a management position and are looking for qualifications to take on even more important positions. in the career.

Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) programs place more emphasis on management techniques and public policy implementation, while Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) emphasize research and evaluation. In other words, professionals interested in an MPP would be those who carry out research that enables programs and policies for the public sector, while those who study an MPA would actually seek to implement these programs and policies, ensuring that they are followed.

Academic masters

As the name suggests, they are primarily aimed at those who intend to pursue an academic or research career. The so-called “masters” cover the most different areas, from sciences to arts. The selection process — like the MBA — involves standardized tests (GMAT or GRE), letters of recommendation, writing, language proficiency exam and analysis of academic transcripts and professional CV.

How selection for postgraduate studies works

The selection process for postgraduate studies abroad is not necessarily difficult, but it is laborious and involves a series of steps. The candidate must start preparing at least one year in advance and be careful not to miss deadlines.

As a rule, selection processes for postgraduate programs abroad require five types of documents: Academic transcripts / CV, Language test, standardized tests such as GMAT and GRE, Personal Statement , Letters of recommendation. In addition, academic graduate programs may require a research plan and letters from advisors. And the processes may have interviews at some point too.

Next, we will address each of these steps.

Academic record

It is common for notices for scholarships and common applications, for undergraduate or postgraduate studies abroad, to mention the “school record” or “academic record” criteria in the description of the selection process. More than simply meaning “good grades” in previous training, good academic performance translates into several aspects of the application.

It is necessary to understand, firstly, how grades are evaluated by educational institutions. The transcript is sent to the university, usually accompanied by a translation into a foreign language, listing which subjects a student took and the grades obtained.

At this moment, universities not only consider grades separately, but also an average – what, in American institutions, is called GPA, similar to the “weighted average” we use here. The result can be calculated based on all subjects, or based on subjects considered essential.

“I have bad grades, now what?”

Having a good academic performance does not necessarily mean having 10 grades from top to bottom. A bad grade, or a particularly difficult semester, can go unnoticed, even if it reduces a student’s overall average.

If this impact is significant and justifiable, it is worth using application steps to explain the problem. In the additional comments tab, for example, the student can list the reasons why they had problems in a period, if they are reasons worth noting. A loss in the family, a change of school or a serious illness may be reasons in this case.

If the student is someone who had average or poor grades throughout their studies, but demonstrated a clear interest in improving, or gradually increased their grades, there are other solutions. One of them is to rely on letters of reference , written by teachers, to explain how the student has progressed. Or even: say in which other senses, which cannot be measured by grades, the subject does well.

CV (Curriculum vitae) for postgraduate studies abroad

Job candidates are very used to having to send a CV to the companies they want to work for. But many Brazilians find it strange that, to apply for a postgraduate course abroad, a similar document is requested: the CV (Curriculum Vitae).

In general terms, the CV is a synopsis of your academic and professional trajectory, as well as research experiences, publications, awards and other qualifications. The objective of the CV is to showcase your academic credentials and your suitability for that postgraduate program — therefore, the ideal is to customize your CV to highlight how your skills meet the institution’s requirements.

And, although not all foreign universities will ask for a CV, many will – and it is important to know what to include, what not to include and what size and format this document should have.

Differences between Professional Resume and Application Resume

Although they have certain similarities, a standard job market CV will not work for your postgraduate application abroad (nor the other way around! If you want to know more about a professional CV, check out this article from the Na Practice portal).

The most recommended thing is to create a CV focusing on your academic record, achievements and strengths. It is also interesting to include information about your professional background and professional interests – but the focus of the CV should be on academic training relevant to the program to which you are applying.

Both are similar because they must have:

  • Direct language – use action verbs to describe your experience
  • Clean layout – ensure it has white space for easy reading
  • Grammar correction – do a good review of the language in which it is written and be careful of typing errors

Both are different because:

  • The academic CV can have more than one page – but don’t overdo it: 3 is the maximum number
  • The academic CV includes all your experiences, not just those focused on a specific position
  • The academic CV must highlight information such as scientific publications and research presentations at events (which is not relevant to the professional CV).

English proficiency certificates

To pursue postgraduate studies abroad, you will need to prove your proficiency in English through a certificate. In general, the certificates most accepted by foreign universities are the IELTS and TOEFL, but some of them accept the Cambridge exams as well.

The TOEFL , or “Test Of English as a Foreign Language”, is one of the English language tests most requested by universities and educational institutions in general. It is created and administered by a non-profit organization called ETS (which stands for Educational Testing Service).

It is ETS itself that applies the test here in Brazil, through partnerships with other schools and organizations. As the test is carried out by computer, the application can be carried out in more locations. For this reason, there are a large number of TOEFL locations and dates in the country, especially in the capitals.

If you want to know where (and when) you can take the TOEFL, the easiest way is to create an account on the website reserved by ETS for the subject . You will need to provide information such as name and address, and at the end you will be able to select a period of up to 60 days and region to take the test. When you do this, the website will show you the schools that will administer the test during that period, and will give you the option to register.


The acronym IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System, and designates an English test managed by a number of different organizations, such as the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English. As a rule, IELTS is the test that is usually required by programs in the United Kingdom, Australia and other English-speaking countries outside of America. On the American continent, TOEFL is generally requested more often.

In Brazil, IELTS is taught through the British Council, which offers the test in 14 cities across the country. They are (in alphabetical order): Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Campinas, Campo Grande, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Londrina, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and São Paulo.

To find out the most suitable dates and locations to take IELTS, simply access the exam pageon the Brazilian website of the British Council. There, you can see the next dates on which the test will be held in each city. If the location where you want to take the test does not appear there, you can also try checking the IELTS page on the British Council’s international website.


The CAE (Certificate in Advanced English) and the CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English) are certificates of proficiency in English offered by the University of Cambridge . They are issued to people who take English tests suitable to the CEFR (Common European Framework of Refere for languages). The CEFR is an international standard for describing a person’s abilities with a foreign language.

As they are suitable tests for the CEFR, the CPE and CAE are often valid as documents that prove the speaker’s proficiency in English. In this way, they end up being accepted instead of the TOEFL or IELTS in short-term courses or work exchanges. But be aware: many universities and other courses require the student to take the TOEFL or IELTS; In this case, even though he already has the CAE or CPE, he will need to take another test.

The simplest way to find a place to take the CPE or CAE is through the Brazilian Cambridge English website. There, you can choose which certificate you want to take and find all the locations in Brazil that offer the corresponding test.

Standardized tests (GMAT and GRE)

To assess the academic knowledge of candidates who come from other countries, foreign universities (especially those in the USA and Europe) generally use standardized tests, such as the GMAT.

These tests are never used as the sole selection criteria. However, they are usually one of the points evaluated for postgraduate studies abroad, and a negative grade could harm your candidacy. Other than that, some programs require minimum scores on these tests to accept candidates. Therefore, it is important to be well informed about them.


More than 5,800 business programs in more than 80 countries use GMAT scores as a step in their student selection processes. The GMAT is also valid for some masters in Finance, Public Policy, International Relations, among others. The exam is administered by the Graduate Management Admission Counciland is carried out in approximately 110 countries.

Contrary to popular belief, the GMAT does not test any specific business knowledge. What the exam seeks is what is usually called “mental intelligence” and the ability to make decisions under time pressure. Unlike a conventional test, the GMAT is a type of “interactive” test.

As it is carried out in a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT) format, the test allows the level of questions to be different depending on the candidate’s performance. That is, if you start the test well, more complex questions begin to appear, which are worth more points. Progression is gradual through the four sections of the exam, which measure mathematical, data analysis, verbal, and analytical reading and writing skills.

The GMAT score ranges from 200 to 800 points, and anyone who wants to get into a more competitive school should aim for above 700! The test charges a registration fee of US$250 and has no fixed date: the candidate must schedule it on an available date at a partner center. The test can be retaken up to 5 times a year.


The GRE, one of the standardized tests required by foreign universities, is divided into three parts. The idea is to analyze the student as a whole, combining multiple aspects. In the case of the GRE, this means combining mathematical concepts with the ability to interpret texts, in addition to developing a valid argument on issues.

Therefore, the GRE is divided into four parts: Verbal Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, Analytical Writing, and Quantitative Reasoning. The application lasts 4 hours in total. The exam is held several times a month in several cities in Brazil, and registration can be done online(upon payment of a fee of 205 dollars).

Another important point when it comes to the GRE comes precisely from the style of the test. The method allows you to adapt the questions to the student’s performance, bringing more difficult questions to those who do better right away. In the final grade, divided between the three sections of the exam, the following aspect is taken into account: whoever faced the most complex questions in the test, therefore, has a grade adapted to the level of difficulty.

The score ranges from 130 to 170 points for the Verbal and Quantitative sections and from 0 to 6 for the Writing section . A good score is always relative, as it depends on the college you intend to apply to — and the institutions themselves offer average scores as a reference to interested students. Check out an example:

Harvard University

Course: Verbal History : (from 165 to 169 points) and Quantitative (from 152 to 156 points)
Course: Verbal Computer Science: (from 153 to 157 points) and Quantitative (from 159 to 163 points)

How to prepare this essay

Now, in addition to presenting an important occasion or defining personality trait to the admissions committee, it is time to tell the entire story. Instead of listing resume information directly, it is up to the student to connect the dots in their application , as well as their main decisions and achievements.

Check out a step-by-step guide to help with this process. In addition to following these steps, it is worth being aware of the main mistakes made by Brazilians applying for postgraduate studies abroad: for example, being too generic or modest throughout the text.


Write down everything important that happened in your life in recent years that contributed to your growth. Also think about your strengths. Let the ideas flow freely and, initially, don’t worry about the size of the text.

Write the first draft of the text

The personal statement must be divided simply. First, an introduction that summarizes personal values ​​and achievements. Then, at the beginning of the body of the text, it is time to talk about academic achievements. Then, the professional trajectory and important points of the career.

It is also important, after all, to describe how the postgraduate programchosen will contribute to the student’s development. Finally, at the conclusion, it is necessary to present your desired personal and professional objectives after completing the course.

Ask for feedback

This is the time to consult people who know you well and know about your career plans, such as friends and teachers. At this point, one must ask whether the text actually reflects who the candidate is. If necessary, it is possible to hire professional help to carry out such a review.

Make corrections and review

Careful reading of the text is essential to avoid typing, spelling or grammar errors. It is also interesting to ask someone else to carry out this process – preferably someone who is fluent in English.

Do you want access to an example of a personal statement before making your own? Download the text that guaranteed Brazilian Dan Zylberglejd a place in a master’s degree at Stanford. And see here 8 more tips to improve your Personal Statement in your postgraduate application abroad.

Letter of recommendation

The letter of recommendation is more important for the application than you might think at first. This is because to do postgraduate studies abroad, you need a series of documents and texts. From the motivation letter to the essays , these texts are, essentially, your presentations about who you are, what your qualities are and what you want for your future.

In general, therefore, there are several texts in which you talk about yourself. But there are also letters of recommendation: these letters are written by teachers, pedagogical coordinators or professional contacts of the candidate. In a process in which the candidate constantly talks about themselves, it is easy to see the importance of these documents.

Who should I ask for a letter of recommendation?

In some cases, such as in the MIT application, one of the letters must come from a professor in the humanities area, and the other from a professor in the exact sciences area. But even if this is not a requirement, it is a good practice — this way, the content of one letter complements that of the other.

It is also important that the teacher has something to say about the student, in the letter of recommendation, that goes beyond the classroom. This way, the educational institution to which he applies can have a better perspective of who he is in different areas of his life.

What should a letter of recommendation contain?

Obviously, a letter of recommendation needs to mention the candidate’s strengths — both academic and personal —. However, the way these points are mentioned can make all the difference, and in this case it is interesting to look for references to get a good idea.

MIT, for example, has an entire page dedicated explaining what makes a good letter of recommendation. And if you have already chosen a professor to write your letter, it is interesting that you send this page to him; This way, he can have an idea of ​​what to write.

Among the points that MIT makes are the following:

  • What is the context of your relationship with the student? If you don’t know him well and only feel able to write about him in general terms, please make that clear.
  • Has the student demonstrated a willingness to take intellectual risks and go beyond their classroom experience?
  • Does the student have talents, skills or leadership abilities beyond the ordinary?
  • What motivates this person? What gets you excited?
  • How do students interact with teachers? And with your colleagues? Describe your personality and social skills.
  • What will you remember most about this person?
  • Has the student ever experienced any defeat or failure? If so, how did he react?
  • Does the student have unusual family or community circumstances that the university should know about?

This last point may sound a little strange, but it is important. After all, when applying for postgraduate studies abroad, not only the student’s academic performance counts, but their entire context. Thus, if the student demonstrates excellent grades while dealing with an unfavorable family situation, his merit in the eyes of the examiners will be even greater.

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