What students wish they’d known about postgrad study

pg student working at desk

Being a postgrad is a whole different ballgame

As you’ll know, being an undergrad student is a mix of fancy dress, cheap pints of snakebite, running out of printing credits, dealing with noisy neighbours and revision all-nighters.

But if you’re considering continuing onto postgrad study, how will your life change? We delved into the discussion on The Student Room to find out.

Here's what students wish they’d known about postgrad study: from the good to the bad to the insanely busy...

1. You need to become even more savvy about money

Although government loans are available for postgrad study, they won't be enough to cover everything. Many people have to look elsewhere to cover their tuition fees and living costs.

That may come in the form of additional loans, a scholarship, funding from research councils or self-funding. Some employers may also fund postgraduate study if it is relevant to your current role.

For many students, the cash gap is plugged with some part-time work. "Lots of Master’s courses aren't that hands on in terms of time, so it's more than possible to work part-time at least," says The Student Room member PlayWithMarkers. "Similarly people take time off between their degree and Master’s to work and build up savings.”

PQ adds: “The postgraduate loan has made a big difference to the amount of people who can afford postgraduate study but it wasn’t designed to cover all costs.

"Most people work and save for a few years before studying a Master's and/or study part-time alongside work to fund their studies.”

2. It’s easier than you think to make friends…

Late nights in the library, 20 coffees a day and juggling part-time work with research and studying: it's the perfect cocktail for bonding with your fellow postgrads.

You’re all in the same boat, and everyone is sympathetic to last-minute rescheduling, epic WhatsApp rants and pre-deadline stressing.

There’s a lot of camaraderie in the postgrad student community, because while it’s hard work, everyone there is serious about their studies, and everyone knows it’ll ultimately be worth it.

Helenarem particularly appreciated the diversity of people she met on her postgrad course. “You’ll find that you're in a group of similarly minded and often really interesting/diverse people, compared to just a lot of UK school leavers as I found in undergrad," she says. 

3. Imposter syndrome is real

Many students have a bit of a wobble as they move into postgrad. They might worry they're not good enough, that they can't keep up with the fast pace of study – and feel convinced that everyone else is absolutely nailing it.

It's classic postgrad imposter syndrome and it's something almost everyone experiences to some degree. 

Katbaer struggled with this during their postgrad year. “I entered my MA programme and suffered terribly with imposter syndrome… but check with your uni because they may be able to direct you to some sort of help in working through your issues while getting through your education. None of us are alone in any of these situations.”

4. Time management is your most important skill

If you think time management is important now, get strapped in for postgrad. You won’t have a formal schedule as such, so it's smart to build your own timetable - and to stick to it. 

This timetable will cover your studying of course, but also the other important things in your life: paid work, socialising, keeping fit and hobbies. It’s not always easy to maintain a good work-life balance at postgrad level, so planning your time out in advance can help immensely.

“I'm currently working full time and doing full time Master’s which can be difficult but I'm coping," says postgrad journalism student keena89.

"The library has become my favourite place. I've swapped my personal life for constantly catching up on work, but most MA students cut back on social life anyway, so it's not too strange.”

Cran8rook adds: “My workload is a lot, but if you manage your time well, you should be fine. The number and size of assessments have increased slightly, but the reading is about the same.

"Whereas during undergrad it's more concentrated towards the end of term, postgrad seems to be more spread out throughout the year.”

5. You’ll get a whole new experience of studying

Whether you’re thinking about staying at your undergrad uni or moving elsewhere, postgrad study will give you a whole new perspective of uni.

Whereas your undergrad probably comprised regular lectures and seminars, you’ll have much more independence at postgrad level, and you’ll be expected to delve deep into extra reading material. You can really tailor your areas of study to your personal interests

“The main things I like about studying at postgrad level are the independence (I'm expected to do the reading myself and work on the assignments at my own pace) and the fact that I have an interest in the topic,” says Angury.

“I love reading around the area, especially things which are topical at the moment - I feel like the things I'm learning will not only add to my career but also (hopefully) make a difference.

"My PG course also emphasises different skills compared to my UG e.g. critical analysis, writing skills, research abilities etc.”

6. Sharp academic skills will be invaluable

Even if you’re going straight into postgrad study from your undergrad, you may still find that you need to hone your academic writing skills to meet the required standard.

The first assignment might feel like a slog, but your tutors are there to help. They can provide advice to ensure that your writing is up to scratch, whether that’s something as simple as formatting and referencing or digging deeper than you’re used to into your area of expertise.

“The amount I read in the first semester was probably more than I read in my entire final year of undergrad,” says km25. “This actually makes writing 2,000 words really difficult, as you have to spend time choosing the most relevant pieces of information from everything you've looked at.”

Ollienbert agrees: “When you read through the course specification we were supposed to be learning to be much more analytically than an undergraduate, rather than just knowing the information, being able to pick out the most important facts and justify them. If you only have 2,000 words, you have often got to really know your stuff to be able to make a point well.”

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