What is the social life of a postgrad student like?

When you’re caught up in all the excitement of your undergraduate degree, postgrad study can look much more serious and sensible

Many students worry that they’ll go from spontaneous nights out three times a week and a constant stream of social activities to being locked away in the library 24/7 when they hit their postgrad. So, will you become a recluse, or is it possible to balance work and play as a postgrad student? We’ve gathered the experiences of our TSR members to find out what it’s REALLY like.

How will the postgrad social life differ from my undergrad?

To be completely honest, your postgrad social life will be whatever you want it to be. The main difference is that your contact hours will likely be reduced, and you will be expected to conduct most of your studying independently, so you’re more in charge of your own time. What might initially look like more ‘free time’ will actually be accounted for with research, essays and reading. However, the ability to organise your own time does also give you more flexibility - it may just take a little more planning to get together with your fellow postgrads and unwind. 

“I found my Master's very social,” said TSR user Gutenberg, “We were lucky in that everyone lived in the city where we studied, and we set up a social media group for the class that was very active, organising pub trips etc. Friendship groups within the class would also regularly meet for lunches and coffees, but everyone was very friendly and there were no 'cliques'. We also had two classes per week all together, and people would often arrange to have lunch together before or after via the class page.”

Is it really hard to make friends?

There’s no real reason why postgrads should find it any harder than undergrads to make friends. With more independent study time, it might take a tiny bit more effort, but everyone is in the same boat as you, and will be keen to get talking. Many postgrads on the TSR forums have said they struck up their best friendships with their coursemates, as classes tend to be smaller and more focused. Having the support of your coursemates can also be invaluable when it comes to revising and commiserating over particularly tricky topics!

Craghyrax thinks that with a little effort, you should be able to socialise as much as you like. “Postgrads can be social, but its not automatic like it is on undergraduate programmes. With a lot less contact time/structured classes for many, you can't just expect to meet people automatically like you would have done. But if you put the time into engaging in societies, activities, or going out to parties and popular venues, then it will be social.”

Will I be lonely?

Loneliness is a huge concern for many people thinking about studying for a postgrad, but it’s really not as prevalent as you might think. Your door might not be knocking every 10 seconds like it did in undergrad halls, but you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to get chatting to people. The way you socialise might change, with fewer big crazy nights out, but many postgrads find themselves spending time hanging out with coursemates and friends in coffee shops and cafés - which tends to be a little kinder on the wallet too.

“I've found it less drunk, but not less sociable,” said redferry. “I meet friends 2/3 times a week for lunch/tea/drinks despite being in London and living a bit out the way. Plus I see other friends every other weekend or so.” 

How can I maintain a good work-life balance?

In the absence of a set timetable, it’s easy for your postgrad experience to turn into an all-or-nothing approach to work. It’s up to you to organise your own time, and it’s important that this includes time for socialising and catching up with friends. Once you have your friendship group established, it can help to compare your personal schedules and set aside blocks of time to hang out together. If nothing else, it’ll get you away from your laptop for a bit, and can help give you some much-needed space from your studies.

Klix88 shared their experience of balancing a social life with work: “My Master’s was more sociable than my undergrad, in that I was in a small cohort of five who all got on well. We socialised a lot during the day, going for lunch and coffee together, and we formed an unofficial mutual support group. However we didn't socialise at evenings and weekends. I commuted, another had family responsibilities and someone else had an evening job. In any case, we found that we were doing a lot of academic work during evenings and weekends.”

What does postgrad nightlife look like?

While many TSR users say that they go clubbing less as postgrads, that doesn’t mean it’s off the table by any means. You may find that people are a little busier and it may take more advance planning, but there’s nothing to keep you from your favourite student nights if that’s what you’re into! As always, it totally depends on who you get talking to - joining societies with a livelier reputation will be your best bet here.

DeepStar reassures potential postgrads that there’s still a vibrant nightlife to be had when you continue your studies. “During my masters I went out 2/3 nights a week and I also worked - usually around 18 hours a week. It’s all about planning and being organised!” 

Will I have enough time for hobbies?

Keeping up with your hobbies (or starting new ones) is a crucial part of the postgrad experience - as Cubone-r says, it’s essential for staying sane. Lots of people worry that postgrads aren’t welcome in uni societies, but that’s not the case - it’s totally cool to join, even if you’ve never been before. A lot of postgrads also find that their flexible schedules are perfect for joining the gym, as they can visit at quiet times when most undergrads are in lectures. 

“I joined a couple of societies and had the time to go to meetups,” said S.96. “So long as you balance your workload you’ll still have a social life!”

How can I maintain a social life without much money?

The lack of postgrad funding means that lots of people fret about how they’ll be able to afford a social life. If you can manage it, picking up part-time work alongside your studies will help immensely (and many unis offer casual work, such as hosting open days and offering tours to prospective students).

Otherwise, just know that you’re far from alone - lots of postgrads worry about money without the safety net of a student loan. Just make sure you build a small socialising fund into your budget - even a tenner a week can get you some coffees/lunch/a couple of drinks.

If you’re really strapped for cash, Jezza93 suggests renting privately over opting for postgrad halls, saying “I never lived in halls and am probably headed for another house now that I'm proceeding with an MA, but I can find a much better place for much less if I rent independently,” - it just depends on how much you value the convenience and location of the halls.