Aalto University is a well-known university in Finland (and probably even in Europe), thanks to the good reputation and its high ranking. I applied for the Master’s program in International Design Business Management (IDBM) and was granted a 100% tuition-fee waiver scholarship, which means that I would save 30 000€ and pay 0 euro to study Master’s for 2 years at Aalto. In this blog post, I will share with you how I applied for the Master’s program and the scholarship. This post will hopefully be helpful for students who come from outside of Europe and are required to pay a tuition fee to study in Finland.
Some facts first: My program honestly didn’t seem too competitive to get in this year (statistics here). Another thing is that in this year 2020 I will not take this scholarship and study the graduate program because of personal reasons. I already sent an email to Aalto explaining that I would not be able to proceed with my admission and the scholarship should be passed on for the next person in line. I do hope to have a chance to be a student at Aalto in the future years though.
Disclaimer: First of all, about the process, I will write about my own experience in the IDBM program only. The process may change each year, it totally depends on the university. Secondly, all opinions in this post are just my own personal opinions.
Okay, let’s get started 🙂
When to apply?
Each university will have a different time period for taking in applications. Generally, December is the most popular time for universities to get their application period open. On the university’s website, there is clear instruction about the application time and the required documents.
What is in your application?
For Aalto, you need to use studyinfo.fi to submit your application.
Remember to submit all the required documents from the degree you are applying to. For IDBM program I had to submit:
- Degree certificate
- Transcript of study records
- Motivation letter
In my case, I submitted my high school diploma, because at the time of applying, I hadn’t graduated from my school yet, so I didn’t have a Bachelor’s degree yet. But that was not a problem, Aalto will still consider your application normally and if you are accepted, you will need to submit your official Bachelor’s degree before the end of August. I didn’t even start working on my thesis back then, so I wrote “Not defined yet” when I came to the part “Title of thesis / final project” 😀
What to focus on in your application?
There was a part in the application form that asked about “Cumulative grade point average” – your GPA. Therefore, I do believe that your GPA does matter. While doing your Bachelor’s, don’t underestimate those tests that you may have thought “It’s just a test, I only have to study just enough to pass it. I’ll graduate anyway and just get a job with my degree. Who cares about grades anymore?” Well, graduate schools seem to do so. If you want to further your academic journey, I think paying attention to your GPA will pay back in the end. Plus, having a good GPA doesn’t hurt, ever. I personally think that a good GPA shows that whatever you are doing, you always do it seriously, with your best efforts, even if it’s just some school tests. For reference, my GPA at the time of applying for this Master’s program was 4.56/5.
The second obvious thing that may help you stand out in a pool of applicants is your motivation letter. Through this letter, the admission staff will get a better picture of you through the word choices you made. They will see you closer as a human being, who has different passions, achievements, dreams and on top of all, a burning desire to be admitted to their university’s Master’s program 😀
In this letter, you can write with your own style, but these parts should be included, at least for IDBM program:
- Reasons why you want to study the program
- Expectations for the program at Aalto
- What you will specialize in if you are admitted
- What you will contribute to the school and to your fellow students if you are admitted
Try to write your motivation letter as soon as possible, don’t wait until it’s close to the deadline because for a motivation letter to be good, it needs to be edited several times. Speaking from experience, you should reserve at least 1 week just for the motivation letter. After you write it, leave it there, go to sleep and read it again tomorrow. When your mind is refreshed, you’ll find many things that can be fixed. Ask your close friends, your family, or whoever you trust to read it and give you constructive feedback to make it even better. This letter is important, I want to repeat. It will be the ticket to get you to the next round.
For the scholarship, if you are a student who comes from outside of Europe, you will tick an option like this in the application:
That’s it. Your application for the scholarship is just as easy as a click. You will then be considered for the scholarships. There are 2 types of scholarships at Aalto: 50% and 100% tuition-fee. There are currently no scholarships that cover your living costs. More information here.
After applying, what’s next?
Depending on the program you applied for, there will or will not be a second round.
For my IDBM program, I had to go through the second round, which was a 15-minute interview. I was informed one week beforehand and was given a topic to prepare for. My topic was “How can design make a difference?”. I was required to prepare a 5-minute verbal presentation about this topic.
So I wrote about the topic, memorized it, and practiced in front of the mirror 4-5 times before the interview date. I put in serious time and effort because I was aware that this 5-minute presentation would be the first impression I made on the interviewers. My tips are that when you practice, set a timer, turn on your voice recorder and only speak within the allowed amount of time. By listening to your own performance, you’ll find out your faults, your repeated Uhm/Ah, your unnecessary details, etc. After a few tries, you’ll find the most suitable speech content as well as the perfect speaking speed.
After I gave the presentation, the interviewers asked me just this one question: Why do I want to study this program at Aalto? I pretty much repeated what I said in my motivation letter, but this time with intense eye contacts and some hand gestures to show my enthusiasm 😀
The results were released on 31st March, both the scholarship and admission results were in one email. This email also included further instructions on how to accept the scholarship and the next steps.
I hope my sharing about the process of getting a Master’s scholarship at Aalto was helpful. It was a nice journey. The process was smooth, Aalto admission staff was very friendly and responsive. If you are planning to study Master’s at Aalto, all the best to you 🙂
Comment below if you have any questions, or if you just want to share your thoughts with me 🙂