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8 Changes You’ll Need To Make If You Do a Postgraduate Degree

So, you’ve finally finished your undergraduate degree and have decided to take on the next big academic hurdle! Or maybe you’re just considering it – after all, we’ve all heard that postgraduate study is a big step up from undergraduate. But how big a step up is it exactly?

My experience as a Master’s student ranged from being one of the most stimulating periods of my life, to being one of the most stressful. And now that I’m on the other side of it, I can see more clearly the ways in which you need to change to be a more successful and productive student.

So, here are eight changes you should implement to make the most out of postgraduate study.

1. Make no excuses for procrastination.

Any student in any part of the UK can tell you the meaning of the word procrastination. It may very well be ingrained in our DNA during the three, short years we spend as undergrad students, but at postgraduate level? That’s just really not an option. Because of the intense nature of postgraduate degrees – wherein you’re doing a lot of work in a much shorter space of time than you’re used to –  it’s a necessary duty. Sorry.

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2. Start small when it comes to workloads – and start early.

Just making some essay or revision plans earlier on in the year can make a big difference. As time goes on, the average postgraduate student will have more and more work to do, so being productive in those first few weeks will set you up for a successful working year.

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3. Be prepared.

Which yes, includes reading the lecture material. If you’ve never suffered through the agony of pretending to understand what your lecturer and every other student in your class is discussing, believe me when I tell you you don’t want to be that person. Unlike your time as an undergrad, where it was possible to cruise on by without reading the pre-lecture/pre-seminar papers, this is sadly not the case in the postgraduate classroom.

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4. Contribute more in the classroom.

If you don’t already, you need to start doing that on day one of your postgrad course. Every paper you read will actually be a big part of classroom discussions and may even be relevant to assignments or exams coming up. Reading, more than anything, is something you need to make a regular part of your day-to-day life if you want to make it as a postgrad student.

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5. Learn to prioritise.

On a postgraduate course, you’ll have a lot of work to do, which you’ll be expected to get done in short periods of time. That’s the nature of this kind of academic jump – the expectation that you will be mature, will work hard and can handle the workload. The only way to do that, though? You’ll have to learn to prioritise. Maybe you can’t go out on Friday night, maybe you shouldn’t watch just one more episode of your favourite Netflix show. Think about what’s the most important thing for you to do in that moment, and get that done first! You’ll thank me.

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6. And for crying out loud, start planning your dissertation early!

And by early, I mean early. Most likely you’ll have to start planning your dissertation in semester one as is… but if you take it one step further than that and actively work on your dissertation, that is one way to guarantee you’ll have the foundations set for some stellar work. By starting on it early, and progressively working on it bit by bit from day one, not only will that be one less burden on you later on in the year, but it will also set a personal standard for yourself that will help you work harder in future.

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7. Having said that, don’t forget to pace yourself.

It’s all about balance after all. Your workload may be daunting at first, given the countless papers and books you’ll need to read, all those seminars to attend, essays you’ll have to write or those exams you’ll need to take. It can all seem faint-worthy at first. Difficult though it may be, especially if deadlines are looming, if you take your work as you get it and focus on completing what’s in front of you rather than worrying about what’s coming next, you’ll be absolutely fine.

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8. And lastly, don’t push yourself too hard.

University life is stressful – there’s no denying that. There were times when I’d get back to university from the summer break and almost immediately feel like this:

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Or this:

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But that’s temporary. It’s easy sometimes to get wrapped up in the flow of things and in wanting to be the best you can be – but that doesn’t have to come at the cost of your mental health. What’s important for you to do – at postgraduate level especially – is to find a healthy work-life balance.

University isn’t supposed to be a place you don’t like being, or somewhere that you only associate with stress – you’re learning. So, just work hard while taking as much time as you need. You’ll smash it!

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