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How to Make the Most of the Summer Before Your Postgrad

Former postgrad Emily Bater shares 9 ideas for things to do in the run-up to your new course...

The weeks and months leading up to your postgrad can be nerve-wracking and tedious in equal measure. You want to make sure you’re ready for what’s coming, while at the same time not wasting the summer and making sure you do something worthwhile which will help you once your postgrad is over. If you do manage to make it past long lie-ins, here are a few ideas for how to spend your weeks...

1. Read

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You’ll be armed with the recommended reading list as soon as your place on the postgrad is confirmed, so there’s no excuse not to get started early and do a bit of reading. Remember however that the long list of books you’ll receive are only suggestions, and you might be better off getting some more practical experience. 

2. Do an internship

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Depending on the type of postgrad you’re enrolled on, you’ve probably already undertaken internships before applying. But that’s no reason not to do more work placements in the run up to your postgrad – it’ll make you more prepared and give you more understanding of what you’re entering into.

I spent the summer leading up to a postgrad throwing myself at any work experience opportunity I could get, to the point where I ended up spending six weeks of my summer in offices when my time could have been better spent elsewhere. 

Just because you get offered an internship doesn’t mean you have to do it, though – think about what it means for you in the context of your postgrad and the precious weeks you have, and how you’ll get the most out of it. Don’t be afraid to turn down placements if you don’t think they’re right for you, or if you’d rather use your time differently.

3. Travel

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It may sound like a massive cliché, but travelling really does broaden the mind. Whether it’s just visiting friends across the country, doing a spot of inter-railing or taking the whole summer to seek enlightenment in South East Asia, travelling is an education in itself. 

4. Work

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You’ll need all the money you can get by the time you’re back studying, so getting a part-time or full-time job may be more of a necessity than a choice. 

Working part-time while doing a number of the above suggestions in this list could be option, or you could try getting a job with some relevance to your chosen path. Either way, spending the summer slogging in a supermarket isn’t to be sniffed at, and if it means you can afford to go back to university, more’s the better.

5. Do a pre-sessional course

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Pre-sessional courses are designed for international students who need to improve their language skills as a condition of entry to their university, or who have already met the language criteria but want help with other skills.

If you’ve never lived in the UK you may want to ease yourself into your chosen town or city and get used to life before study begins, and a pre-sessional course can help with this too. Postgraduate courses can be stressful and time-consuming, and leave little room for settling in. 

6. Volunteer

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Volunteering somewhere relevant to your course – which will bolster your CV – is always a boon in the run-up to undertaking a postgrad. 

Volunteering doesn’t need to be relevant for it to be worthwhile, either – look into helping at a project that’s local to you that you’re passionate about, or think about volunteering within the community at a homeless shelter or food bank. 

7. Learn a new skill

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Learning something new will help get your mind ready for the months to come, while also adding another string to your bow. Beginning to learn a language or how to code will impress future employers and future teachers, and will also give you something to occupy your mind in the build-up to your course. 

It might be difficult getting into something new in the space of a few months, but learning to bake or sew could serve you well during your postgrad too, if only as a form of stress relief!

8. Start a blog

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Documenting your postgrad subject or a hobby via a blog is a good way to spend your time and it looks great on a CV.

9. And finally... give yourself more time

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The summer doesn’t have to last a few weeks. Giving yourself a year between your undergrad degree and more study can sometimes be the best option. You’ll be able to think longer and harder about what you want to do and why, and maybe do a bit of everything on this list. 

Don’t let yourself be rushed into choosing a postgrad, a masters or a job. Your peers and parents may be looking at you to choose, but taking a year out isn’t very long in the grand scheme of things. After all, if you do decide on a postgrad you’ve only got the real world to face after that.


- The Advantages of Taking a Year Out Before Your Postgrad

- How to Improve Your CV During University


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