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Posted Sept. 15, 2015

Back to School… An introduction to being a postgrad

back to school blog

Welcome back, postgrad class of 2015/16. Another year or more of sleeping in the library, giving presentations whilst hungover and living wholly on the ramen noodles that can be found on the absolute lowest shelves of any corner shop of slightly ill repute.

Except no, it’s going to be different this year. You’re older, wiser, and determined to behave in a way befitting a doctor or a master. Or at least in a way that sets you apart from the UG freshers, who are desperately flailing about in a panic. Surely – you say to yourself – I was never that gormless, never that desperate to make friends, never that prone to vomiting before 10. But of course you were, and will probably remain so.

Broadly speaking, the difference between going back to school as an undergrad versus as a postgrad is very like the difference between being a Year 7 and a Year 11 (or the difference between ninth and twelfth grades for our friends across the pond.)

You’ve grown up enough to be able to laugh at the ridiculously fresh-faced newcomers, and have a slight feeling of ruling the school, but really the issues you’ll be facing over the course of the year are roughly the same. New friends have to be made, a new location has to be gotten used to, and a bunch of whole new concepts and ideas have to be grappled with.

There is one crucial difference, however, between undergraduate and postgraduate, and that is time management . Even the most self-motivated arts degree is like working two jobs compared to your postgraduate research degree. You’ll get your hour with your supervisor every so often, and maybe a class or two if you’re lucky, but apart from that it is totally up to you to form your thesis, research it and write it. In short, it needs a whole new way of looking at your studies, and a self-discipline totally alien to most of us who spent our first three university years in a state of mild bewilderment at how little work we could get away with doing.

This self-motivation also tends to spill into your postgrad personal life. The amount of private study you will have to do plus the comparative lack of opportunities you will have to meet new people without regular classes, seminars and mixers means it can be more difficult to make a lot of new friends.

As such, joining societies and taking part in events can be much more important than it was when you were a first-time fresher. Not only is this a crucial way to keep your social circle expansive, but it allows fantastic networking opportunities. You’ve cannily managed to avoid actually having to get a job for another few years, but eventually that ordeal is going to come, and the connections you made at law society or MedSoc or whatever other society you join are going to pay off.

Being ready for these two things is really everything you need to get ready for postgrad life. Mix that with a focus to your subject and too much caffeine and you’re all set for the next stage in your education.

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