When I received my confirmation letter from City, University of London accepting me onto the MA in Publishing course, I was excited to say the least. Having done my undergraduate degree elsewhere in the UK, there was a whole new city to explore, new friends to be made and of course, new things to learn.
That was back in 2011, and although I felt reasonably prepared for the next chapter of my life, there were a few pearls of wisdom that I probably could have done with in my early 20s.
If you’re considering higher education or about to start a postgraduate degree, here are some top tips to help you along the way...
By now, you’re probably used to preparing for lectures and exams – it got you through your undergraduate years. If you’re bright, some of you may even have prepared very little and still managed to get by.
But let me tell you something: Doing a postgraduate degree is a whole new ballgame!
If you’re going to commit to a course at this level, time management is now your best friend. Stay organised, arrive at classes early, undertake any research for coursework ahead of deadlines and set yourself a schedule when revising for exams.
You’re also likely to give presentations to industry experts as part of your course, so know your work inside out as it’ll help you score those all-important bonus points.
If there’s one thing that will always stand you in good stead for the future when studying in a new location, it’s networking.
During my MA, we were lucky enough to receive a visit from one of the editors at global publishing house Penguin Books. At the time, one of my ambitions had been to work for a children’s publisher and so naturally, I leapt at the chance to speak with her.
Taking the time to introduce myself, highlight my ambitions and show interest in what she had to say really paid off and as a result, I was offered a work experience placement at Penguin Children’s.
Be proactive, attend conferences, socialise with your peers and talk to people during your studies – the more you put in, the more you’ll get out of it.
A common takeaway is that starting an MA is a bit like starting a new job – you spend a lot of time with people from all walks of life.
Unlike your undergrad years though, you can’t always pick and choose who you work with and occasionally, you might find yourself placed in groups for joint projects.
Although you may not always share their opinions or see eye-to-eye, having respect for your peers and collaborating with them is the best way forward.
Learn to recognise each other’s strengths and personality types, delegate tasks accordingly and enjoy seeing things from a fresh perspective – strong team communication skills will help you succeed in the long run.
One of the first things my postgrad tutor said to our class at the beginning of the year was: “Statistically, more people are afraid of public speaking than they are of death.”
Slightly morbid? Yes. But it led her to explain that occasionally, there will be times where you might feel nervous about a presentation or need a hand with your work.
When that happens, the worst thing you can do is pace back and forth in your student flat worrying about a problem because you think that talking about it makes you a burden.
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Whether you need someone to advise you on your dissertation, guide you through personal issues or provide support for unwanted feelings such as stress and anxiety, there will always be a friend, teacher or colleague who’s happy to help.
Studying at a different university to your undergrad might seem daunting, but when you look back on your postgraduate degree in years to come you’ll realise that your student days were among the very best.
There are few phases of your life where you’ll have the opportunity to invest in your future, pursue your interests in more depth and connect with so many new people in such a short space of time, so commit yourself fully and remember to make the most of it.
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