I am 37 and thinking about applying for admission to Applied Mathematics MSc programmes at Russell Group universities next year.

My previous degrees are in Electrical Engineering - a BSc completed at a foreign university with a CGPA of 2.9/4 - and an MSc in Computer Science, that I completed at a non-Russell group university in the UK, in 2011, albeit with an overall distinction as well as an A grade (84%) in dissertation.

I am presently working as a software engineer but would like to work in the finance sector in a role, where a strong background in Mathematics is a mandatory requirement in addition to a strong computer science background. I wish I could consider this career change sooner, but my circumstances at the time left me with very limited options.

Most universities here start accepting applications in May, so I have about 8 months to prepare my application. Considering that I don't have a maths background and my undergraduate record wasn't stellar either - owing mainly to some very difficult life circumstances in a different country. So what can I do to enhance my chances of getting accepted at a top-tier university such as Imperial College or UCL?

At 38 I am late to even contemplate a career change. But I think once I cross 40 it would become almost impossible.

1 Answer 1


A successful application will demonstrate a person's ability to successfully complete the course so familiarize yourself with the course material and requirements. You want to have at least the mathematical skills that the MSc course would expect an applied mathematics graduate to have. Find an undergraduate course that would naturally lead into this MSc and learn the subjects covered there.

In an application or cover letter play to your strengths as someone with experience working in a professional capacity for years. Highlight completed projects, challenges overcome, technical knowledge gained and effort put in. Focus on what's relevant to the course you are applying for. The previous MSc dissertation is a real strength. It demonstrates capability in academic work and familiarity with research.

Do not view older degrees as negative recommendations which follow you around forever. Don't feel the need to explain or excuse them. There is no need to bring up past difficulties unless it's relevant today or you are explicitly asked. If you have enough useful experience and success between an old degree and a new application, it's the recent stuff that matters.

Also, make no excuses for your age. You know whether your mind is still active and if you are capable of learning new things. Forty is not a barrier. There is no requirement to stick to what you picked at eighteen years old nor any defeat in leaving a field. Anecdotally, I have come across several mature students and their institutes, colleagues and families were always supportive and enthusiastic.

Good luck!

  • 1
    Advice seconded. I supervised several so-called "mature" students (awful term, I know), and both them and I enjoyed it a lot. Your past will bring experience, professionality and discipline to the table; if you add enthusiasm, you'll be fine, possibly even far better than your fellow inexperienced students. Good luck! Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 3:22
  • Thanks a lot for your answer. I am absolutely determined to start this 1 year MSc course next year. Until then I will study the relevant courses in a disciplined, systematic manner using open courseware made available by top universities, including the MIT. Even though a GRE score isn't required by universities here in the UK, I will probably take the Mathematics subject GRE. Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 0:04

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