Here are her hints and tips to maximise the experience of studying your postgraduate course:
Spend time during the induction and early part of your course working on your study skills. For me, it has been a large gap between my undergraduate degree and my masters program, with a totally different way of writing and referencing. Make sure you know how to use the library, either physically or online and how to search for academically credible sources. Most universities will have study skills packages or online resources to help you come back up to speed; it is well worth getting to grips with how they work.
Make sure you read the student handbook and know the relevant rules and regulations, including when and how to submit your work. Each module may have different conventions about style, but knowing what is expected and how to do it will reduce the chances of stressful moments right at the submission deadline. Aiming to make your final submission at least 24 hours before the deadline will also give you a window in case there are any issues.
Make back ups of everything! Notes, essays and submissions. Don’t rely on saving everything to the hard drive of your laptop, use cloud-based services or memory sticks to ensure you always have a version of your work in case technology lets you down. If you know that your internet service can be unreliable that is another reason to set your own, earlier deadline, well before the final submission.
Network with other people on your course. Getting to know other students who have already started can be useful, they are a great source of information and often know ways to approach things. Getting to know your peers is also a good way to feel connected to the community. There will always be concepts and ideas that feel more difficult and study groups can be a way to overcome this, as it is likely that different students will have different strengths.
Find out about support services by connecting with your student support team. No one wants to have a tough time while they are studying their postgraduate program, but sometimes life gets in the way! If you have a health condition, a mental health disorder, a disability or special educational needs, find out what support is available to you and how to access it before your course begins. If you know you need adjustments to help you access the course, have the conversation about this early, to ensure your needs are met.
Plan your time. Completing a postgraduate course, especially if you are working or have a family, can feel tough. Try to set aside regular study time and consider the space you work in; how can you make it quiet and free from distractions? Maybe you need a little noise and people around if you are used to a busy working environment, is a local coffee shop a good place for you or your local library? This may take some time to find out, so experiment and see what works for you.
Siân Duffin, is Student Support Manager at Arden University. She assists undergraduate and postgraduate students from the UK and across the world, from enrolment to graduation, in every aspect of their learning journey. As a psychology graduate and qualified teacher, Siân has developed a keen interest in students’ mental health, wellbeing and learning skills. She is currently studying for a distance learning MBA with Arden University.