Results are out! Find what you need...fast. Get quick advice or join the chat
  • Postgraduate student profiles law politics and social sciences

If you're wanting to find out what it's like to be a postgraduate student in law, politics, finance or other social science subjects, then what better way to find out than seeing what some postgraduate students have to say? Below are some comments from TSR members who are either current postgraduate students or have recently finished their postgraduate studies.

If you're a postgrad student and have more to say then edit the page to add in your own experiences. If you've got more questions on postgraduate study, then visit the Postgraduate forum on TSR and ask the postgrad members who use that forum.

Username: LLB Kevin

Age: 22

Studying: LLM Legal Research

Why did you choose to do a postgraduate course?

In my second undergraduate year, I took part in a pro bono law clinic. I thoroughly enjoyed the research element, but all the stuff like consulting the civil procedure rules bored me no end. When I did a dissertation in the third year,my passion for research was confirmed. I chose to do a postgraduate course to give myself the research training that I considered to be a necessary prelude to studying towards a PhD.

How did you choose the subject/course type/uni?

Not very many places offer an LLM in Legal Research, but one of the two universities in my home town does and, as my girlfriend was heading there for a PGCE, it seemed like the sensible choice to go there.

How are you funding the course? How easy was it to get this funding?

I am funding my LLM through a Career Development Loan from Barclays. Even though I'd spent much of the past three years deep into my overdraft, I had no difficulty securing it.

How is being a postgraduate student different from being an undergraduate?

In my experience, there has been a lot more work, and I've had to treat it like a full-time job in order to do what I consider is necessary. At undergraduate level, I generally worked all day for four (sometimes five) days a week, but throughout my LLM I have generally spent between five and seven days in the library each week.

How are you managing with the work load?

It's OK as long as you stop thinking of yourself as a student and start treating it (at least in terms of the hours you put in) like a job.

What challenges are there with being a postgraduate student?

I've stopped seeing my friends any more than about twice a month, and I'm often very tired. The there's the frustration of knowing that you've found something you can work hard at and are good at, but that you have to pay for.

What's the best thing about being a postgraduate student?

It's just really interesting, and I get a real sense of satisfaction when I've written something good.

What do you hope to do after you finish your course?

I've secured myself a funded PhD place at the same institution where I'm doing my LLM.

Do you have any tips for someone considering postgraduate study?

Get your money sorted as early as possible. There's not really any time to earn any more while you're studying and when you're worrying about money you're not doing any studying.

Are there any other comments you wish to share about postgraduate study?

Be prepared to make sacrifices: you'll most likely not have any sort of income while you're studying and, if you're in a serious relationship, it's likely that some serious compromises will have to be made (particularly in terms of where you can go to study). If it's really what you want to do, however, it really can be very rewarding.




Name: George

Age: 24

Studying: MSc Accounting and Finance (Durham University) - starting September 2009

Why did you choose to do a postgraduate course?

I wanted to broaden my horizons in my field of study and be more competitive in the job market.Also I wanted to live the experience of studying abroad .

How did you choose the subject/course type/uni?

I was really keen on pursuing my studies in a subject related to my undergraduate degree (Banking and Financial Management) and Acc + Fin was the best choice,as I really loved accounting during my first degree.I chose Durham Business School for general uni's reputation in UK and DBS's ranking in FT.I hadn't any chance of being accepted in the top 3 , so between Aston,Exeter and Strathclyde I decided to accept Durham's offer.

How are you funding the course? How easy was it to get this funding?

Unfortunately, I'm funding the course by personal savings.I have been saving money from 2003.

How is being a postgraduate student different from being an undergraduate?

I'm a prospective pg student, so I don't know yet but I think that pg student life will be more serious and more difficult than ug.

How are you managing with the work load?

I'll try to stop sleeping!!

What challenges are there with being a postgraduate student?

I suppose that you must be more independent in your studies, you must research your subject not simply try to learn what your professor teaches you.

What's the best thing about being a postgraduate student?

I think that you can test your limits.You can experience your knowledge about your field of study and discover how far you can go.

What do you hope to do after you finish your course?

I hope to get a job in UK (preferably in London), or try to pursue my studies with a Phd (preferably in LSE).I haven't decide yet.Maybe I'll be too homesick and return immediately after the exams in Athens!

Do you have any tips for someone considering postgraduate study?

The only tip I can give now is about the application process.Do the applications as soon as possible even if you think you have no chances in being accepted in your favorite uni.You never know..

Are there any other comments you wish to share about postgraduate study?

Be sure you want to do it. The work load will be unpleasant if you are not into it.




Username: Threedaystar

Age: 22

Studying: MPhil in European Politics and Society - University of Oxford

Why did you choose to do a postgraduate course?

I was very interested in the subject and did a three month research project in the EU last summer. That honed my area of focus (EU subsidy programs) and I decided that academia was the right place for me.

How did you choose the subject/course type/uni?

Seeing as I am American, there are not a lot of Universities that have top notch programs that focus on the EU. I decided that for my research, being in the UK would be best. Additionally, I applied to school that I knew had a large international focus because I didn't want to feel left out and because I may want to use my degree worldwide.

How are you funding the course?

How easy was it to get this funding? Funding has been hell. I have no funding as of this moment. It's very hard for Americans to get funding abroad unless they have a Rhodes, Marshall, or Gates scholarship. I applied, but unfortunately did not get one.

How is being a postgraduate student different from being an undergraduate?

I have yet to start my course, but we will see. I take it that graduate level work will be a lot more focused than undergraduate. I also think that the work load will be heavier and more intense.

How are you managing with the work load?

See above. However, I know that part of managing anything is also taking time to let your brain rest and for your body to stay active. I recommend taking up a sport!

What challenges are there with being a postgraduate student?

Funding. Housing. Being a non-native in a new country.


What's the best thing about being a postgraduate student?

Call me crazy, but I am excited to learn new things. I am excited to start research. Ask me in a year and I will probably recant what I have just said... ha.

What do you hope to do after you finish your course?

Either I will stay at Oxford and complete my DPhil or I will apply to U.S. Doctoral programs. I want to hopefully teach/research in a University or land a job doing policy work for the EU.

Do you have any tips for someone considering postgraduate study?

Apply as early as you can possibly manage. Look for funding in all places. Make sure you have more than a couple sets of eyes look over your writing samples. And, as always - condense, condense, condense your writing so that it is clear and brief.

Are there any other comments you wish to share about postgraduate study?

Not really. Good luck to everyone out there that has gotten accepted or that is thinking of applying ! It's a very exciting time.

Username: Imperial Overlord IlexAquifolium

Age: 21

Studying: an MA in political research under the ESRC 1+3 programme

Why did you choose to do a postgraduate course?

Actually that's quite a difficult question to answer. I decided relatively early on in my degree that I wanted to continue studying, but I wasn't sure what. I initially thought about, and applied for, a second BA degree (law, although I thought about economics too). Then I decided I'd stick to the more typical postgraduate route due partly to funding and partly the realisation that there was still a lot more that I wanted to investigate within my subject area – I really enjoyed the research I undertook in my final year and felt that I wanted to do more of it, rather than submitting myself to intensive teaching again. That said, I was quite reticent and nervous about doing the PhD programme specifically (or rather my ability to survive it) although I received a lot of encouragement from one of my second-year lecturers to seriously consider it. He’s now my supervisor, so clearly the encouragement worked!

How did you choose the subject/course type/uni?

My initial concern was departments with funding and staff working vaguely in my area. I wish I could say that I worked through them systematically but I only ever really considered about 6 universities and for reasons that are now lost in the mists of time I only applied to 3 of them. I found making the final decision really, really hard. I dithered a lot between staying at my undergrad university (which would have been convenient and emotionally probably the easiest thing to do) or going somewhere else. I eventually decided to take up funding elsewhere which was definitely the right move to make in academic and career terms, although it has been very, very hard practically and psychologically and it's only now, towards the end of the first year, that I feel I'm adjusting to the change.

How are you funding the course? How easy was it to get this funding?

I'm ESRC 1+3 funded. As to how easy/hard – I'm a mixed methodologist so I'll give you both sides statistically speaking it's increasingly hard to lay your hands on – my subject is popular and I believe there are now somewhere in the region of 10 applications per place for the quota places, and I've been told that normally only candidates with firsts (+ distinctions if going the +3 route) are really considered. Qualitatively it's hard to say. I put in 3 applications (which were all very time-consuming) and was offered quota funding at 2, before withdrawing from the third before the decision was made. So personally I found it hard in terms of stress, anxiety and time, but I obviously got the money, so I suppose not too terrible in that respect.

How is being a postgraduate student different from being an undergraduate?

I seem to have a lot less structure to my time. This is not a bad thing, but it means I have to work harder to make sure that I have some sort of discipline to my time, and that I am regularly getting out/socialising/having days off (indeed, every time I see my supervisors the first question always seems to be checking up that I'm OK and taking breaks!). Ironically I'm probably making more of an effort to see friends and as such am being more social. I'm certainly drinking more if that's a good proxy!

How are you managing with the work load?

I found it overwhelming at points although I think that's more to do with personal circumstances during the year than with the work per se. I wasn't conscious of having to work as consistently hard as I did during my final year of undergrad, although the peaks and troughs were quite pronounced.

What challenges are there with being a postgraduate student?

I miss the easy socialisation of undergrad. I don’t think there's the same kind of ready-made community – or if there is, it's at a different level. My 'family' so to speak feels like the department PhD students and the staff, which is a very different experience to feeling at home in the whole university, as I did as an undergraduate. I think I have a lot less patience for wasting my time now because I am far more conscious of being focused on a goal – so waiting in library queues makes me very, very irascible.

What's the best thing about being a postgraduate student?

Freedom and flexibility is great. If I'm having an off day I just don't work – as an undergrad I couldn't really get away with taking intellectual breaks when I needed them. I like being able to dig away at things that interest me. I love my supervisions and the discussions I have with other colleagues and students – never fails to make me feel reinvigorated!

What do you hope to do after you finish your course?

Finish my PhD, then I've got quite a few ideas – either academia, local government research, teaching, emigrating, or retraining to do something totally different. The future and my career felt massively important to me as an undergrad. I rapidly learnt during my MA that it's pointless setting yourself targets in order to beat yourself up with – sometimes it's all you can do to get through the next few days, and if you can find enjoyment in the little things, then that’s enough. I don’t doubt that I will become more career motivated towards the end of the PhD but right now I am more focused in trying to find intrinsic pleasure in my life choices than in making them for some ulterior motive. I think so long as you’re aware of options and pay attention then something usually comes along.

Do you have any tips for someone considering postgraduate study?

I've had quite an idiosyncratic experience since I think the 1+3 programme is quite unlike typical MAs or indeed PhD routes. Speaking personally, I would say be aware that difficulty isn't necessarily academic. I came at this expecting to have to work really hard, and to be continually challenged. Honestly, I have found nothing I've done this year intellectually difficult, and whilst at points I've found the workload tough, this is far more to do with struggling with motivation/home life/depression than the work itself. At points the work has been indescribably dull. What I really found hard was finding the self-will to continue when you don't enjoy things, rather than workload. So don't go into it if you're not prepared to slog through unpalatable things.

Are there any other comments you wish to share about postgraduate study?

Buy a T-shirt with ‘respect your elders!’ on, in preparation for entering the library.




Username: Mackem85

Age: 23

Studying: MA Social Research Methods

Why did you choose to do a postgraduate course?

Gained an interest in undertaking research during my undergraduate course, so decided to study for a research methods course.

How did you choose the subject/course type/uni?

For reason why, see above. Uni, I hadn't considered postgraduate study, but luckily had enough money for the course, but not for accommodation. I was fortunate that many uni's around me offered the course, and I chose Durham due to its good reputation of sociology and being an ESRC recognised course.

How are you funding the course?

How easy was it to get this funding? Self funding. Getting funding from research councils is not possible in my area, unless studying for a 1+3. Only other way is through loans, but I didn't want to go down this route.

How is being a postgraduate student different from being an undergraduate?

Greater mix of people on my postgrad course. More international studies, mature students and part-time students. I have found postgrad different from my undergrad as I have had formative essays to complete, which I didn't at undergrad, so for me the workload has increased.

How are you managing with the work load?

Just. Very busy over Xmas and Easter. Haven't had more than 3 days off in a row since I started in October.

What challenges are there with being a postgraduate student?

Putting up with undergraduates, and battling it out with them in the library around exam time.

What's the best thing about being a postgraduate student?

Not having exams, and making sure that undergrads know this .

What do you hope to do after you finish your course?

Find a job as a researcher hopefully.

Do you have any tips for someone considering postgraduate study?

Don't go into it blindly, make sure you are 100% committed to studying, as it is a long year. Ensure you have financial backing, as it is very expensive, and you still have to battle it out with other graduates/postgraduates to get a job at the end of it.

Are there any other comments you wish to share about postgraduate study?

Has its ups and downs.

Also See

Got postgrad questions which aren't covered above? Then visit the Postgraduate Forum to get your answers.


Other articles:


Try Learn together, TSR's study area

177,219
essays

21,748
mindmaps

25,236
revision notes

11,683
quizzes

create
a study planner

thousands
of discussions


New on TSR

Personal statement help

Use our clever tool to create a PS you're proud of.

Article updates