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There is a general presumption that postgraduate courses are more stressful than undergraduate courses.
At least, this was the belief I held last year, when I graduated with a BA in English Literature and began an MA in Journalism. My contact hours jumped suddenly from about eight per week to eight per day. Beginning a vocational course also meant getting to grips with practical skills I had never been taught before, like digital photography and shorthand.
At first this was a challenge. But now I’m over halfway through my degree, things have settled down. I can confirm that while my timetable is fuller and my workload is heavy, I’ve actually found my postgraduate experience to be less stressful than my undergraduate one.
Here are a few reasons why you too might find this to be the case:
By the time you start your postgraduate course, you’ll already have a few years of higher education safely under your belt.
Your time management will have improved since you were a fresher, and you will already know all the basics, like how to reference and work at a university standard.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you will miraculously lose your undergraduate urges to procrastinate, or to leave things until the last minute. But this time around, when a deadline starts looming, you can feel safe in the knowledge that you’ve pulled it out of the bag before, and that you can do it again.
At undergraduate level, deadlines have a habit of coming along in little groups, generally bunching up at the ends of terms.
This can still be the case for more traditional ‘academic’ Masters, but a lot of postgraduate courses actually involve more frequent assessment. Regularly jumping through hoops keeps you on your toes, and means that deadlines tend to be more staggered throughout the year, saving you from the stress of having to deal with several at once.
Even if your assessment is limited to one or two ‘big’ essays, you’ll still be expected to prepare for classes and seminars in much greater depth than an undergraduate. This will ensure you’re regularly engaging with course materials in detail, and developing your ideas across your course.
This way, you will build a strong understanding of your course content before the time for essays and exams comes around.
Many university faculties offer study spaces that are specially designated for Masters students, particularly those who are on research courses.
These quiet areas eliminate the need to get to the library at the break of dawn in order to secure a desk, giving you one less thing to worry about when it comes to writing your dissertation.
If you decide to do a Masters at the same university you attended as an undergraduate, you will already be well acquainted with your city and campus. This familiarity may help to smoothen your transition to postgraduate study.
If you do stick at the same university, you could also be entitled to a reduction in course fees. What’s not to love about that?
If you move to a new university town, it doesn’t need to be a stressful experience. Your new course will be a great place for meeting like-minded people, and you already know you can settle well into an unfamiliar place, as you have probably done it before as an undergraduate.
Even if you only plan to live in the city for a year, be sure to take time to meet new people.
Friends will provide relief from any stress your studies might bring. Get to know your course mates, and try joining a society such as yoga, sport, or art, where you can simultaneously de-stress and meet people.
As a postgraduate, you may opt for university accommodation, renting privately, or even moving back to your family home.
Whichever you choose, it’s likely that your working environment will be quieter and more comfortable than it was when you were last at university. This will make the experience of revising and writing assessments far less stressful, and it may also mean you feel more inclined to work in the comfort of your own home, rather than in the library.
Many campuses offer special accommodation for Masters students, ranging from private studios to rooms in flats shared with other postgraduates. These living areas are generally quieter than undergraduate halls, and for full-time students they are automatically exempt from council tax.
Returning to university accommodation may remove the need to deal with bills and estate agents, giving you more time to focus on your studies.
At some UK universities, the contract for this type of accommodation doesn’t need to be signed by a guarantor who is based in the same country, making it an ideal option if you are an international student.
Being a postgraduate also opens doors when it comes to private renting.
Many landlords consider Masters students for properties in which they won't take accept undergraduate tenants, giving you more options when it comes to finding a house. So make sure you don’t limit your search to student lettings agencies, and keep an eye out for ‘postgraduate' or 'professional’ listings.
Alternatively, you may consider moving back home for your postgraduate study. This is likely to leave you with a peaceful working and living space, and no need to worry about rent and bills.
Undergraduate courses cover a wide range of topics, some of which may not necessarily be your cup of tea.
As a postgraduate however, you will be able to choose more specialised topics and modules that particularly interest you. You’ll then undertake a dissertation or summer project in an area you are particularly passionate about. Focusing on the things you are most keen to learn about is bound to make the overall experience more enjoyable.
The average cost of a Masters in the UK is £6,486 for a taught course such as an MA or MSc. This is significantly lower than the £9,000 you can expect to pay each year during a typical undergraduate course.
If you decide to do a Masters in the UK, you may well be eligible for a postgraduate loan.
By planning ahead, you may end up with extra income to support you while you learn.
If you don’t manage to secure funding, you can take a look at our blog post on how to find a great part-time job, that will help your finances and complement your postgraduate course.
When university courses get stressful, personal wellbeing is often given a back seat. Take a look a our tips for promoting good mental health as a postgraduate.
Considering taking a year out before you begin postgraduate study? Here are some ways a gap year could help you to prepare for a Masters or PhD.
Thinking about taking out a UK postgraduate loan? Read about one student's experience of applying for and receiving a loan this year.
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