My first dissertation meeting with my supervisors just took place today: it’s official, I’ve started the dissertation process. I handed in my last essay, took my last exam and here I am, still a student, but not for long and with most of my university experience behind me. I only started my postgraduate degree in September but I can tell you I’ve learned a lot in the last two semesters. So, here are a few tips for people starting, or thinking about starting, a postgraduate degree in September.
One thing at a time
I can tell you now, and I’m pretty sure it’s not going to shock anyone reading this, a postgrad degree is A LOT to take on. Despite the very few hours spent in the classroom, it requires a massive amount of work in your own time. The dissertation at the end of Semester 2 is also a big part of your master’s and you can’t help but have it in the back of your head. If you’re like me and you don’t want to keep on the PhD route you’ll have to prepare your CV and go on a proper job hunt. This winter I finally realised that I was actually less productive because I was trying to do everything at once. Remember: your dissertation work can wait until spring, save your job hunt until you have the mental space for it, just breath and take things as they come.
Student stereotypes are no more
As an undergrad, you might not realise it fully yet, but most people can tell you’re a student from a mile away. Don’t think I’m criticising the student cliché as I’ve fully and happily lived through it in my undergrad. However, this sometimes narrows your perspective. When I took my gap year, it was the breath of fresh air I didn’t even know I needed. Suddenly my vision expanded on things my comfortable student bubble didn’t allow me to see. Coming back to university for a postgraduate degree, I was anxious about falling back into the student bubble and feeling out of touch with people around me. I didn’t realise other people would have evolved just like me! In your postgraduate studies, you’ll meet some of the most interesting people you can share a classroom with – be assured of that and believe me you can look forward to it!
Look after yourself
This one is not even specific to postgrad students but I feel like it’s more relevant than ever. As I’ve mentioned before, because there is so much going on in your life, it can be very easy to put you and your mental health last because you feel like you are never doing enough and you don’t have time for yourself. You do. And even if you don’t, you are more important than a deadline to meet. Don’t wait to be on the verge of breaking to reach for help. If you feel like you need an extension talk to your programme director or any professor, they’ll understand and your work will only be better if you are in the right, healthy mindset.
Get involved in non-uni related activities
I know, I keep saying that postgrad studies are a lot of work but believe me when I say you’ll have time. Getting involved in activities outside of what you’re studying at university is absolutely fundamental to take your mind off things and come back with a fresher perspective. It could be a student society, a small job, an art class, going to the gym or knitting on your couch – keep doing what you love. Don’t put all of your energy into university as you won’t have enough energy to finish your year without some recharges, despite what you might think.
These are a few of the tips I have, I hope they are helpful and maybe even help you to go into your postgraduate degree more relaxed.