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8 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Started My Masters

Starting a postgraduate course can be daunting, especially if you choose to move to a different city to study it. It's completely different from studying at undergraduate level, too. 

Here are eight things I wish I'd known before I started my Master's in Magazine Journalism at Cardiff University.

1. Making Friends is a Lot Easier Than You Think

This really depends on the amount of contact time on your course, but if there's as much as I had then strong friendships are formed quicker than in a round of I Have Never on the first night of fresher's week.

Everyone there obviously has a similar passion and goals and has chosen to continue their studies for a reason, and not just because “everyone else was going to university”. They will be the people you are around most often and so it would be make for an unbearable year if you didn't make friends with them.

2. It's Fine to Not Really Know What You Want to Do

Obviously you've chosen a certain area to study your postgraduate course in, but there are probably many different career options you could follow afterwards. It's completely fine to only sort of know what you want to do with your life: and the good news is you have an extra year or so to really decide.

Saying that though, to have a vague idea of what you are working towards can only be a good thing. It's great to have something to work towards and have the drive to work through that final dissertation project.

3. You Will Get a Job, But It Isn't a Race

Towards the end of your course people around you will be polishing their newly enhanced CVs and suiting up for interviews, some might even have a job secured before even finishing the year. Good for them! But it's so easy to feel defeated if that isn't you, but you will get a job. 

Different jobs are better suited for different people. I, for example, wouldn't apply for a job at a magazine that was in a field I had no knowledge (or interest) in because I'd be unhappy.

You might want to get straight into the working world, but if it doesn't happen right away don't give up. The fact that you've done a postgraduate course is something to be proud of and something that will put you in good standings to find work.

4. Hangovers Are Worse

This is probably more down to being older and not solely due to doing a Masters, but hangovers are not as manageable. Try and stick to going out on weekends, especially because on weeknights the venues are more likely to be packed with 18-year-olds who make you feel incredibly old and out of touch, despite being in their shoes only a few years ago.

5. Make Sure You Have a Social Life

Sure, there is a heavier work load during an MA and it feels a lot more important than undergraduate work, but make sure to make time to enjoy yourself with your new course mates. Even if going out isn't your thing, find something you can do with the people from your course. Go for dinner, head to the cinema or go for a country walk, whatever makes you happy.

Find the balance between work and socialising and it will make your time far more enjoyable. And if going out and rolling in at 5am is your thing, then go for it. Nobody said a postgraduate can't have fun.

6. Be Prepared to Travel

Chances are, like with your undergraduate course, your new friends will live all over the country. Make the effort to meet up with your course mates when you've finished, unless of course, you didn't actually get on with them and would cross the street if you ever saw them again, don’t keep in touch with those people.

7. Postgraduate Friends Are (possibly) the Best Friends

Even though you don’t have long together, and depending on contact time, the friends you make on your postgraduate course will still become your best friends

You will all have been thrown into the same situation – a new qualification, no friends, nervous – which makes for easy bonding. It doesn't seem forced because everyone is there for the same reason and you're old enough to make friends without the help of copious amounts of Sainsbury's basic vodka.

8. Money and Bills Are The Worst

You don't get a maintenance loan and grant for a postgraduate degree, so you actually have to start managing your money better. MAs aren't cheap, either. But don't let that put you off doing it if it's something you really feel passionate about. 

There are other loans to help you, like career development loans, as well as scholarships and bursaries handled within your university. Make sure to research what is available to you and what your best option is so that money becomes one less thing to worry about.

Hopefully, these pieces of advice will help you to get the most out of your postgraduate course. The main thing is you are doing something you are strongly interested in: it will become your life for a while and there's the chance it could be one of the best years of your life. Don't waste it!


- Search for a Master's degree

- Read more advice on life as a postrgaduate student


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