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Postgraduate Study: How Will it Differ From Your Undergrad?

The experience of undergraduate education encompasses more than just academic study. Away from home, pursuing interests and joining new societies and often making friends for life, is the backbone of many undergraduate experiences.

When embarking on a postgraduate course whether taught or research based, motives and expectations are different.  You may be continuing the study of your undergrad subject that you are passionate about, but for many it’s a new path, often more vocational or employment focussed than your first course.


How to cope with the costs

Without stating the obvious, postgraduate life will involve considerably more scrimping and saving than previous student life. Even if you are lucky enough to secure funding for tuition or basic living costs you will have to fill in the gaps; do your maths before you enrol. On some postgrad courses a part-time job would be hard to fit in, but it is possible in many cases, so be creative. Any work that is related to your course is ideal, but often a few shifts in a bar are a life line for many stretched students. Cooking for friends at home, using cinema discounts and hunting for free attractions in your city will replace restaurant meals, nights in expensive bars and clubs and weekend trips. Making the most of any university facilities or societies that offer subsidies for sports activities or gym memberships can also help to ease the pressure on your bank account.


Ask the library if they will buy a book you need before rushing to Amazon, or share with someone if possible. It’s likely you will be less fussy about the condition of the book unless you think it will prove to be useful and relevant for the next five years.


>Read more about how to fund your MA here 


Hard work

Will you have more work? A typical master’s degree demands a higher number of credits in a shorter period of time. The way you will be assessed can differ and the assessment may not be spread evenly or logically. It’s important to be organised and diligent. The difficulty will depend on your passion for the subject area and your previous study or work experience. If a master’s degree or postgraduate diploma was easy and stress fee and handed to everyone, would it give your CV that added boost? Probably not.


When you arrived  fresh faced at 18 or 19 in a new city, it’s likely you were in the same boat as others around you, yet a postgraduate course will throw you a different cohort of people and demonstrate that variety really is the spice of life. People have different stories and experiences of both university and the ‘real’ world. It’s useful to establish relationships with course mates or ‘colleagues’,  to keep in touch for future employment opportunities and to develop your network of contacts;  you never know who you might be working with one day; not to mention the fact it’s always nice to make new friends!


Hard work, a more professional ethos and different style of teaching and assessment characterise most postgraduate qualifications, however all is not lost. You are still a student and maybe for the last time. Make the most of having a less than rigid timetable and pursue interests or opportunities that can help you both personally and professionally. Chances are there will still be plenty of time to unwind in the pub.




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