Going back to university for postgraduate study is very different to starting a first degree as an eager 18 year old. Older students could have to make some sacrifices to achieve their goal. You may have family, work and financial commitments to consider, as well as the increased demands of a higher degree. In order to succeed and progress with as little stress as possible, it is a good idea to know what to expect and then plan for the coming year or years.
Balance Returning to university after any period of absence adds an extra dimension to your life, you’ll naturally want to get the most out of your studies, but not neglect your other priorities. To keep the balance right, make sure you find time for the important things. Organise your days and weeks to ensure you have enough time for both rest and play. Maximise your intellectual potential by keeping healthy , eat well and take regular exercise, don’t forget to look after yourself in these busy months.
Money Troubles Finances are a significant factor for many postgraduate students returning to university, often it is necessary to hold down a job at the same time. However tempting it is to put your feet up after a hard day, you’ll need to set aside specific hours for study and stick to them. Although it is not easy to work and study at the same time, remember that in the long run you’ll have far less debt on graduation.
Getting Support You will need a reliable support network as you face the demands of going back to university, so be sure to spend enough quality time with your family and friends. Starting a university course is an exciting experience, always share it with your loved ones in order to offload your worries and so that they don’t feel pushed aside.
If you have issues that your family don’t understand or cannot help with, make sure you approach your university for assistance. Use all the pastoral care available and talk to your tutor for practical advice. Also, you will of course make friends with your cohort group, over time they will become a source of valuable support and shared experiences.
Preparation If you are returning to postgraduate study after a significant break, it is a good idea to brush up on your studying skills. There are a wide range of online refresher courses available and local evening classes may also offer a relevant topic. At any educational institution your writing and a good deal of research will be computer based, so if you feel your technology skills could do with updating, get it done before returning to university.
Alternatively, ask at the institutions support centre for a returning to study pack, colleges have handouts on a variety of issues. Once you have identified any gaps in your knowledge, be sure to seek help. Next, try to spend a few hours a week getting reacclimatised to academic work; this will remind you of your personal learning style. When going back to university, you then can save time and effort by using the most effective study methods for you.
Taking on a postgraduate course is as rewarding as it is challenging. Students have to juggle all the usual demands of adult life, with a highly demanding and intensive learning program. This combination of work, family and study is never going to be an easy one to manage. However, you can keep yourself motivated by visualising your end goal. At the end of your course you can expect a better career, or career prospects and financial gain. You are likely to have a good job, in a field you enjoy and therefore be happy.
A higher degree is a huge achievement and your family and friends will naturally be very proud of you. Moreover, if you have children, you are giving them a role model and introducing them to the possibility of advanced study. Finally, bear in mind that study is not for everyone. You may encounter criticism and jealousy from people who doubt your ability, or question the logic of returning to university. However, don’t let this change your dreams and ambitions – just look forward to proving them wrong at your graduation ceremony.
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