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 by Lydia Chantler-Hicks
, posted on 20 Sep '17

9 Ways to Get More out of Your Department During a Masters

Getting involved with your university department is a great way to get more out of your Masters degree.

It can provide a great boost for your CV, irrespective of your career goals. Extra-curricular participation is also a great way to bond with course mates, and to show lecturers that you’re passionate about your subject.

Here are a few ways you can get involved, and really get the most out of your postgraduate experience:

#1 Go to guest lectures

With a packed postgraduate timetable, optionally attending more lectures is probably not how you envisage spending your free time.

But most university departments host talks from guest speakers, who are usually specialists in specific areas of your subject.

No matter how busy your timetable is, try to go along to as many of these as you can.

They’ll allow you to soak up some extra knowledge about your subject, while hearing from leading minds in your field.

These lectures are likely to be closely related to your course, and may be of great help when it comes to understanding different aspects of your studies.

Guest lectures are also likely to be a bit of a change from your usual university lectures. They could provide valuable insight into the career paths of guest speakers, helping you to make more informed decisions about your own future.

#2 Become a course rep

Course representatives pretty much do what they say on the tin*: they represent their courses.

Universities usually ask for at least one representative from each Masters course, to be responsible for liaising with staff members and presenting the views of their peers.

These are positions of considerable responsibility, so only apply to take for one if you think you have the time management skills to cope.

If you do take the position though, it can be a great way to demonstrate that you have leadership qualities and good time management skills (and reflect that on your CV).

(*Disclaimer: course reps may or may not actually come in tins.)

#3 Work for your department

Many universities offer casual ‘ambassador’ jobs to students. These usually require students to work on university open days, greeting prospective applicants and showing them around their faculty.

This is a great way to earn some extra cash, while supporting your department.

Ambassador work is a perfect part-time job for Masters students:

With at least three years' experience of university life, postgraduates are in an excellent position to help inform future students. Ambassador work also usually comes with extremely flexible hours, which can suit even the busiest postgraduate timetable.

#4 Attend extra-curricular academic activities

Many university departments run reading groups, internal seminars, or informal debates. Postgraduates are encouraged to get involved with these. In some cases they may even run them.

So don’t be afraid to participate.

This kind of involvement looks great on your CV, and could be a great way to get feedback on your ideas from other students.

Reading groups can also help you to examine course materials in greater depth than seminars and lectures allow.

This is particularly important if you’re considering a career in academia. It will offer an early chance to network with other scholars, and to gain insight into the extra-curricular activities that are important for PhD students.

This kind of extra-curricular group can also provide a great platform for you to test and explore a potential PhD thesis.

#5 Become a mentor

Many students are keen to gain first-hand experience of a Masters before applying.

You can help those who are deciding which course is right for them, by becoming a postgraduate mentor. This will involve you pairing up with a final-year undergraduate student, and sharing your experience of postgraduate study.

Although this might not have a significant impact upon your own postgraduate degree, it could provide real help towards someone else’s. Plus, it will look great on your CV.

#6 Join your departmental society

Department-specific societies are usually part of the Students' Union, rather than your university.

They can be a great place to help with the social side of a Masters degree meet other people on your course. Such societies often organise social activities such as bowling, bar crawls, and even mini breaks to other European cities.

So have a look online for your departmental society, and sign up. It’s a great way to integrate with your course.

#7 Go to social events

Perhaps you’re doing a Masters in the same faculty where you studied your Bachelors, or maybe you’re moving department or changing university entirely.

Whatever your situation, you’re bound to be studying alongside a group of new people. A great way to meet and get to know them is through departmental social events.

Although they might not be as regular as society bar crawls, your department is likely to also hold social get-togethers, open to lecturers as well as students.

This makes them a great opportunity for networking in a laid-back environment with your peers as well as with academics.

#8 Volunteer at charity events

Keep an eye out for posters and emails advertising charity events in your department.

Or, if there’s a charity that’s particularly close to your heart, have a go at organising a fundraising event yourself.

Sponsored walks and bake sales are a brilliant way to meet new people, while raising money for a great cause.

#9 Enter competitions

You might feel like you have enough on your postgraduate plate, without adding more to your ‘to do’ list.

But departmental competitions may be well worth your while, so keep an eye out for them.

They can range from essay prizes to photography competitions, and are usually free to enter. So if you’re up to date with your studies, there’s really no harm in having a go.

And you never know- you could come away with a prize! Which would also look just as good on your CV as it would on your mantelpiece.

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