Worried about starting your postgrad course? We’ve got the answer to your first-term trials and tribulations.
Whether a return to university means a new career, some definitive direction in your life or simply a long-awaited return to your undergraduate water polo team, it’s an exciting time to be a postgraduate.
But with excitement comes nerves – it’s a brave, scary new direction, and you’ll quickly find that even the former big man or woman on campus is having a hard time coping with the bizarre bait-and-switch that is your postgraduate year. But fear not, we’re on hand to give you some guidelines to the seven biggest problems you may face in your first term.
1. Making Friends As a Postgrad
The Problem: For many, first year at uni began with a “we’re-all-in-this-together” kind of vibe, but all this can change when you choose to return as a postgraduate. Many of your key relationships are already formed, and the vast network of mutual friends isn’t there anymore.
The Solution: Remember how that felt, and recognise most postgrads are in the same boat. Introduce yourself to your course mates and seek to expand your social circle in the same way you did as an undergrad. Unless your course is extremely intense, most schedules will accommodate joining sports teams and common-interest clubs too so you can still have a social life.
2. The Postgrad Learning Curve
The Problem: Your first undergraduate year began with a gentle nudge into university life - a magical year of 40% pass rates, a sparse few introductory lectures and a generous helping of lunchtime pints. Now, within weeks you’ll be given daily deadlines and a work time schedule, and those expecting another doss year are in for a rude awakening.
The Solution: Knowing this information is half the battle. Ask for a breakdown of the term and anticipate which deadlines are coming up and the level of work required. End-of-term projects should be started as early as possible so nothing will take you by surprise. Be prepared to organise your life with military precision – or risk a court-martial.
3. Going Out As a Postgrad
The Problem: You’re still fun. Really, you are. It’s not your fault you’ve been too busy studying to know whose song this is or what “watch me nae nae” actually means - is “nae nae” a person or a verb? And it’s also not your fault that eighteen-year-olds look younger every year.
The Solution: Don’t go out partying like you did as an undergraduate. At least, not as much as you used to. Plan ahead with mates and make it a big occasion. You’ll have so much more fun with like-minded people than you will bar-hopping with the freshers anyway.
4. Funding Your Lifestyle
The Problem: The bizarre thing about the postgraduate lifestyle is that it can often feel like a full-time job, except you don’t get paid. With the rising prices of travel, the temptation of expensive comfort food while studying and the small matter of rent alongside any hobbies you may want to keep up, it’s a lot to juggle before even glancing at your Amazon wish list.
The Solution: Sadly there is no cast-iron solution really. The new postgraduate loans do help matters, but common sense, part-time jobs and budgeting effectively are the only real ways to manage money efficiently. We recommend scrimping, saving and setting up a spreadsheet.
5. Getting a Break
The Problem: The main reason why many students go back to university is to set themselves up on a career path. But even with a year or two of specialist study, that first break is hard-won and the weeks prior to the good news can be especially demoralising. Sadly jobs aren’t going to knock on your door because you now have two degrees.
The Solution: Use your time wisely. If you want something out of university, you’ll need to network – which unfortunately means internships or work experience. Ask your course director if they have any recommendations and schedule short industry-relevant work placements – unpaid, if necessary – during periods such as Easter break. These brief periods are often crucial for industry-specific references for your ever-growing CV.
6. The Stress
The Problem: The pressure. Exams, constant deadlines and the looming end of the year have caused many postgraduate sleepless nights before you. This sort of stress can trigger health problems such as lack of sleep, weight gain and even cardiovascular issues.
The Solution: Don’t forget that university, like life, has a balance that must be struck. Ensure you carve out some downtime in your schedule for hobbies and friends, as it’s these little periods that will help you blow off steam. University is first and foremost a formative experience, and your postgraduate year is no different.
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