Monday, 19 November 2018

how i got into central saint martins ma fashion journalism

It's easy to feel intimidated by Central Saint Martins. Where Alexander McQueen graduated with his Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims collection. Where Jarvis Cocker met the inspiration behind era-defining Britpop classic, ‘Common People.’ Where Roksanda Ilincic, Mary Katrantzou, Zac Posen, Riccardo Tisci all flocked to from around the world to hone their craft.

You can’t help but be a little overwhelmed by the roster of famous names they count among their alumni. 

When I was applying I spent weeks trawling the internet, looking for tips. Aside from a few Student Room forums, full of horror stories and inaccuracies, there was a lack of information out there. I wanted someone to tell me what I could expect, but, knowing no one already there, I was lost.

Obviously, fashion journalism is quite a niche subject. I did consider studying it at BA but following a combination of pressure from school/parents to do something broader and more academic, plus my passion for literature, I decided to read English Lit instead. Doing a Masters wasn’t always on my agenda, but after applying (and getting rejected from) for a huge amount of jobs and graduate schemes, I decided to apply to London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins. I would rather spend my first year as a graduate studying something I love than working in a job that left me unsatisfied. I feel very lucky to have this privilege, so I wanted to make the most of it. 

CSM was the goal, but, as the number one fashion programme in the world, I knew it was competitive. The application was in two parts: personal statement and an 800-1000-word assignment. Successful applicants would be invited for an interview.

Personal statement

Like most university applications, CSM requires you to upload a personal statement. The UAL website is quite detailed about what they expect from your statement, so follow their advice. Think of it like a cover letter. Make sure you outline all of your relevant skills and achievements as well as why you want to study at CSM specifically. Avoid making general allusions to its reputation but research the course and teaching style to find an aspect that particularly excites you and write about that. You are applying for a journalism programme, so a fluid and concise writing style is essential. This should come across in your personal statement.

I included my blog, my zine, my writing for The Tab and my internship at Vogue. Evidence of an extended interest in the subject will work in your favour. I was surprised to find that it was my blog and not Vogue that impressed CSM the most. It proved that my interest in fashion journalism is not just a whim, but a passion I have been dedicating time to since I was 13.

If you can't think of anything to put in your personal statement, then it is time to change that. Postpone your application for a year and invest time in projects that will strengthen your application. Don’t worry if you can’t reel off a list of glossy publications you’ve interned at. CSM aren’t interested if all you’ve done is spent a few weeks making teas. Proactive personal projects are much more impressive, and you don’t even have to rely on anyone else to pursue them. Setting up a blog, starting a magazine or Instagram account has never been easier, so there’s no excuse.

Written assignment

The most important part of the application is the assignment. The rest of your application will not even be looked at if your writing isn’t up to standard. You must write about any aspect of the modern fashion industry that interests you.What I found the most challenging was coming up with an idea in response to such a vague stimulus.

I decided to write about tokenism in fashion; how the industry’s interaction with politics should be subtler and more referential than it currently is. I’m not going to lie, I rushed it as I was writing it at the same time as finishing my dissertation and other final essays. I also wish I had written something a bit more original. However, I was able to critique all of this in the interview, which went down well (more on that later.)

I was really stressed about getting my application in as soon as possible because I had already accepted an offer from London College of Fashion. However, CSM had always been the goal so I needed to find out if I had got in before the LCF course started in September. If you apply for both I would recommend sending both applications at the same time, even if that means sending in your CSM application a whole year before the course starts. Then if you get into both you can decide without being rushed.


CSM got back to me fairly quickly; in a matter of weeks. I submitted my application at the end of May and had an interview at the start of June. My interview took place on an Open Day so I got to look around the university beforehand. I arrived and signed in at the front desk before joining the tour. This meant that I had the opportunity to get to know the tutor a bit before going into the interview. I also got to speak to a current student and ask her for interview tips. She told me it would be quite relaxed, but to think of things that I want to improve in my writing and ask Roger questions about his own work if I got the chance.

I was asked a lot of questions about the assignment; where the inspiration came from and what I would do to improve it. I was asked what my dream job would be. I was also asked what I think my strengths and weaknesses are as a writer and what aspect of the course appeals to me most. Halfway through the interview Roger stopped me and told me I was going to be offered a place, so I didn’t need to be nervous, but we carried on talking for a bit anyway. He asked me what it was like working at Vogue the week Edward started and about my undergraduate degree. Overall, the interview was quite relaxed. I brought a portfolio which helped my nerves because I could fall back on that if I was struggling to think of things to say.

After the interview, I went for a coffee with a current student who was assigned as my mentor. We talked more about the course and our interests and I felt like I was going to fit in there.

So here are my general tips:

Apply early

Although the course doesn’t start until January, apply before summer to ensure you get an interview. Places are filled based on merit, but there is an element of first come first served to it. That said, this year the course is bigger than ever because there were so many strong applications.

Bring a portfolio

This was not a requirement, but it helped me frame my interview and gave me something to fall back on. Plus, putting it together gave me faith in my work.

Have a strong body of work

This course is not something you apply for on a whim. First of all, it’s a lot of money to spend on something unless you wholeheartedly plan to follow it through. From my experience, I would say evidence of ambition and desire comes above the quality of work, although the quality is also important. They want to see who has the potential to be great. Although getting onto the course is competitive, there would be no point doing it if you were ‘the perfect fashion journalist’ (if such a thing exists.) The MA offers a year to really improve your writing skills and industry knowledge.

If you are applying for other courses as well, submit the applications at the same time

Unlike most Masters, CSM Fashion Journalism starts in January, not September. However, I would advise sending all your applications at the same time, so that you have plenty of time to make your decision.

Don’t listen to what other people say

Yes, it’s competitive, but don’t let that scare you. They don’t just want rich kids who have spent the last 5 years using parental connections and money to do unpaid internships at all the top magazines. If you have the drive and you can back it up, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get in.

Listen to what other people say

That said, do listen to what the right people say. I was lucky enough to get to ask a current student for interview tips prior to my interview. If you know any current students do not hesitate to speak to them about their experience. This can help you with the application as well as giving you an idea of whether you want to pursue it or not.

If you have any other questions about applying for Central Saint Martins MA Fashion Journalism you can email me at Good luck!

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