Applying for an MPhil

If you are somewhat like me, enjoyed learning Economics, and missed the chance to study at Oxford University as an undergraduate, then why not consider taking a graduate course here?


The Department of Economics at the University of Oxford has several graduate programs. I think the first question to think about before starting the application is:

"What is my plan for the future"?


This will help you decide on which program to apply for. If you are interested in academic research and may want to proceed into academia in the future, then you should go with the two-year MPhil in Economics program. It provides rigorous economic training and is more or less similar to the first-year coursework in the U.S. Ph.D. programs. The Department also has MSc programs in Development Economics and Financial Economics, a joint program in Economics and Social History with the Faculty of History, and of course, the DPhil in Economics. All the details of each program can be found on the departmental website, so make sure you check them all out before making a decision.


Since I am currently studying for an MPhil in Economics, I will give some of my application tips below and hopefully they will be helpful. I still remember vividly being nervous and stressful myself this time last year for the graduate application.


Different from the application process for undergraduate courses at Oxford, graduate applications usually do not involve a face-to-face interview. In my opinion, the MPhil in Economics program is preparing you to be an independent economic researcher and problem solver, no matter you want to proceed into academia or you might prefer working in the private sectors as consultants or public sectors as policymakers. Therefore, I think the most important factor in the application is a demonstration of the will and ability to carry out research. Most of us will need to write a thesis as a component of our undergraduate degree and this will be the perfect example of previous research. Make sure to mention this in your CV and talk about this in greater detail the personal statement. The MPhil application requires a writing sample, so you can also modify your thesis into a shorter version and submit it as the writing sample. If you have ever worked as a research assistant, this will be a bonus point so don't forget to include them as well. 


The next important thing will be the recommendation letters. The MPhil application requires us to submit three academic recommendation letters, and who should write you these letters are non-trivial. The top choices will be those who are familiar with your research ability, such as your thesis supervisor and the professors you used to work for as an RA. The coordinators or teachers of the courses that you have excelled in are good options as well. The key thing is you need to be sure that they will write you a strong recommendation letter about your excellent academic performances as well as the ability to carry out researches. 


Some of the international students need to prepare for the GRE test and language tests such as IELTS. But the latter can be waived as long as you have studied your undergraduate degree in an English speaking country. My personal experience is that these two results serve as filters, as long as we pass a certain threshold we should be fine, so it is not compulsory to get perfect marks in them. No need to be too stressed out by them. 


My last point is about colleges. The most distinctive characteristic of Oxford from most universities is its college system. Oxford has many colleges and halls and they have their own characteristics. College is the most important part of your non-academic life, where you live and eat and hang out and meet friends from various backgrounds and departments. You can check them out one by one on college websites or social media pages.


You can also find an overview about the colleges in the That Oxford Girl book. International students like me may not be familiar with the college system, but we should make some considerations of which college to go to as well while applying. 


I wish you all the best in the application and hopefully see you next year in the Economics department in Oxford!