There’s a feeling of endings in the air. Postgrads like myself still have a dissertation-filled summer to go, but the taught part of our programme is drawing to a close. This recently made me think about all the ways in which studying at master’s level differed from undergrad. Here are the things that surprised me, challenged me, and excited me.
The amount of work…
… is not for the faint-hearted. Studying for a master’s takes up a lot of time, requires a serious, focused effort, and often involves juggling different projects simultaneously. On the bright side, your planning and time-management skills will develop rapidly in response to the new challenges.
Although I can’t talk about other programmes, in the Psychology of Language, which I’m attending, most assignments involve essays and presentations for which the students choose their topics of interest. Plus, aside from some courses that are mandatory for everyone, there are also quite a few optional ones, as well as the possibility to audit others even if you don’t take them for credit. This means that even within such a specialised programme, you still have the freedom to pursue your interests and gain the skills you need.
Well…there are no exams. Again, a very subjective view here, since I know for a fact that other programmes have exams, but even those programmes seem to include both exams and a lot of coursework. Mine is only based on the latter, and whether this is easier or not really depends on the person. You might feel more confident about having the time and resources to prepare something great, or you might be intimidated when dealing with a lot of projects at once. Still, this form of assessment makes you delve into your topic in such a way that you genuinely learn as much as you can and start thinking like a researcher.
The Makings of a Researcher
And this brings me to my next point. A lot of master’s degrees are aimed at making a researcher out of you, as is the case with mine. The work, the freedom, the nature of the courses and the assessment will transform your way of thinking about your work without you even realising it. The big goal, of course, is to conduct your own research and write a killer dissertation. Reaching the end of my courses, I feel more confident about approaching a project that seemed intimidating and largely vague at the beginning of the academic year. Mission accomplished!
So, I’m putting the feeling of nostalgia on hold – there’s still a few months to go. What about you? How has postgrad or undergrad learning changed you in the past year?