University of Chicago Featured Masters Courses
University College London Featured Masters Courses
University of South Wales Featured Masters Courses

 by Jennie Hockey
, posted on 3 May '17

In the Midst of a Masters – Reflecting on my First Term as a Postgraduate

Getting ready to begin a Masters, but wondering what it's *really* like to study at postgraduate level? Jennie Hockey began her course in 2016. Here, she looks back on her course so far.

So, I have officially completed a full term of my Masters and much to my surprise I am already well into term two!

This sums up one thing I have learnt from doing a full-time Masters: time flies by. You really do have to just dive right in from the second you start the course.

Attend every extra event you think looks interesting, accept every invite to lunch (or the pub), ask every question you have and know what you want to get out of your Masters. A year goes past so quickly and you won’t want to miss out on - or regret - anything.

First term milestones

The workload has been heavy, there’s no denying that and I haven’t always planned it out very efficiently. I’m guilty of spending much more time on the assignments I enjoy and rushing the others.

However, I got the last of my results back this week and have thankfully passed all my modules. It’s a relief to know that the level I have been working at is right and I feel like I know what is expected of me a lot better now - just in time for the next set of deadlines.

Another big milestone is that I have officially paid off my tuition fees! I chose to pay my fees in monthly instalments which the University split into £1,200 a month between October and March.

I’ve got to say the day each of those payments came out I had a little cry and ate dry toast. But with my rational head on I can see that this Masters is absolutely worth my investment.

I don’t know if this will lead me to a job directly, but you can’t put a price on the contacts I’ve made and the areas of interest this course has opened up to me.

Fun with funding

Alongside the scholarship I was lucky enough to get from FindAMasters, I am also part of the first academic year to be offered postgraduate student loans (good timing!).

I opted for the full loan of £10,000 which completely covered my fees with some money left over. Unfortunately, the timing of the loan instalments and tuition fee payments don’t quite synch up - something I know has been a problem for other students on my course.

Editor’s note: The timing of Masters loan payments and tuition fee instalments will hopefully improve in 2017, as Student Finance England and universities build on the first year of this funding.

I managed to cover the tuition fees between the loan and the scholarship, which means that by the time I get the final loan instalment I will have a nice chunk of money to help me through my thesis writing.

Extra-curricular work and opportunities

I’ve also worked a part-time job alongside my studies. This is another commitment I have had to balance in terms of time, but it has given me some guilt-free income to explore and enjoy my new city (Brighton) with.

I also chose to work in a community centre to get involved with the area in which I live. This has really helped me settle in to life here. It helps that the other staff are really supportive and supply me with wifi and coffee to do uni work when it is quiet in the centre.

Although I wouldn’t say having a part time job is ideal in a lot of ways, I find that having less time often makes me more productive with the time I have left.

Work and other tasks can also serve as a form of productive procrastination. Sometimes it is quite nice to think about whether the sports hall needs mopping rather than statistics about global life expectancy.

Looking forward - the thesis and beyond

The next step for me is term 3, which is research towards my Masters thesis. I haven’t completely pinned down what I will be doing yet, but I have my fingers crossed as I get ready for some primary data collection. This is another skill I have found my CV is severely lacking for the jobs I have looked at so far, so the thesis will be a great opportunity to develop it.

I’ve also started attending careers events and finally signed up for LinkedIn. Hopefully I will end this course and hit the ground running in terms of job applications.

This also means thinking about ways to expand my experience. The advice I come across the most is to use any free time you have to volunteer. This can be really frustrating to hear, especially when you are paying to be more qualified, but are still expected to work for free.

I think unpaid internships are a painful reality of graduate life, but I would also recommend getting a part-time or temp job in anything administrative so that you can also get some paid experience.

It doesn’t necessarily matter what field you want to work in. After all, being able to use mail-merge, speak to customers/clients and colleagues are invaluable skills in any organisation. So is knowing what to do when the printer jams.

You may also like...

The first two months of a Masters

Read more about Jennie's experience of postgraduate study in this post about the first part of her degree.

Preparing for your Masters as an undergraduate

Your Bachelors degree can actually be a great time to prepare for a Masters. This post will show you how.

What should you expect from a Masters?

Will it be much harder? Will it be worth it? This blog will help you prepare your expectations of postgraduate study.