In early summer 2017 I decided to apply for a masters. This was not something I had planned to do when I finished my undergraduate degree, as I am not the most academically inclined. Writing my dissertation for my undergrad was a real challenge, and I have never been great at exams or essays. But after a year of trying to find work and struggling to get hired, I realised that there was something I wanted to learn and specialise in. So, after advice from many of my peers, I decided to apply for my MSc. I’m now halfway through my masters course and its been interesting and fun, but it hasn’t been easy. It’s been a struggle at times. I know I am not the only person to feel this way so I asked some of my friends who are also doing, or have done, a masters course, in various fields, for their best pieces of advice for anyone considering or starting a masters course.
“My biggest piece of advice would have to be: be willing to push yourself and make mistakes, its hard work but definitely worthwhile!”
“Make sure you do something regularly that isn’t work to keep sane. I started playing water-polo and the regular sessions meant I got some exercise, had to leave my room and made friends with people outside of my accommodation and course. I’d never played it before I did my Masters, so it was nice to have something completely different to do!”
“I agree. Find a hobby or society and try and break the monotony. Post grads, especially research ones, can be isolating so push yourself out of it”
“My advice would be to back up your essays, dissertation and lecture notes on an online storage unit (Microsoft One Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox etc ) – or better yet, save your work directly on the online storage unit. Stop thinking your computer is invincible!
That shit is going to crash on you, and you will be left with nothing to submit to turnitin!! (With student subscription of Microsoft Office package, students get 1TB of One Drive storage unit. Make use of it). Personally I am not a fan of USB or external hard-drives as units for backing up because they can break or get lost – or stolen. I use them for the memory of my computer, but they are not my ride or die kind of storage, if they are lost I have the online storage.”
“man we had a whole lecture on that…”
“Listen! I know people who have literally failed their degree because their computer containing their dissertation was stolen and had no thesis to submit! People need to stop playing! It’s not even a master’s thing, just life thing. [laugh]”
” I’d say, keep up your social life or you will go insane. Make sure you go to your lectures and don’t be afraid of the impending breakdowns… bring tissues”
“Umm probably get into a routine. Have a set time you wake up everyday and go to bed every day. I really struggled because my days were a big old blur unless I had to go somewhere. So make sure you go somewhere everyday too [laugh]”
Thank you if you gave me some of your masters advice. You guys are da best!
So I guess all that’s left is for me to give you my own tips, from my own experience. Here goes:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you need a lecturer to repeat something ask them to. If you want someone to check your essay sounds right, ask a friend or classmate. If you are struggling or you’re having a hard time, ask your tutor what you can do. Most Universities now have systems in place to support their students in whatever way they need whether that be writing skills, financial issues or problems at home. Ask someone for help and you will find it.
2. Take regular breaks. It might feel like you have so much to do and barely any time to do it in, but taking breaks will not only help you not to get to stressed, but will actually make you more productive. Engage your brain in a different way, avoid looking at screens, and then you can get back to work feeling refreshed and alert.
3. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF. Get plenty of sleep. Drink plenty of water as well as coffee/tea/gin. East healthily and do regular exercise. Have time to wind down and relax. Looking after yourself looks after your mind, which benefits you and your academic work.
4. You don’t have to be best mates with everyone on your course, you don’t even have to like all of the teachers. If you do, wonderful, lucky you. But if not, find the people who help you feel happy and comfortable and know that you have them when you simply have to deal with that person who frustrates you. That’s being a grown up I’m afraid. You will have to spend time with people you might not like that much. It’s an opportunity to learn professionalism and resilience.
5. Know you can say no. You don’t have to volunteer for everything, do all the jobs and go first in every presentation. Saying no is healthy, mature and it shows you know how to keep on top of things. You don’t want to end up juggling too much at once.
6. Be proud of yourself. You’re doing a masters degree. That means you are pretty darn smart. You have achieved a lot to get here and you are working at a very impressive level. Well done you!
7. If it’s all too much, you can stop if you need to. Whether you need to stop completely defer a year, or even change your course, it’s fine. A masters isn’t for everyone, you’ve done great and worked very hard to get here. Take life at your own pace. It isn’t a competition.
A masters course is meant to be hard work. It shows that you are a ‘master’ of your specialised area, and is unique to you. No-one will have a masters degree like yours, as no-one will specialise in exactly the same area as you. It is as unique as you are. So keep going, continue to work hard, but rest hard and play hard just as much. A masters degree is a great investment into your own development, but it doesn’t define who you are entirely.
Keep it up, well done so far.
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