The transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study can be a little overwhelming. Here’s what it’s been like for me. I’m currently a Masters student in the Department of Language and Linguistic Science studying Forensic Speech Science – which is a mouthful to say all at once. I graduated from my Linguistics BA last July here at good old York and I returned to academic life the following September.
Masters level is a step up
The assessments came thick and fast in my first term, and crucially, the instructions were less thorough. It was daunting at first. I had an essay worth 25% of the module and it was up to me how I went about it. The lecturers are looking for you to prove that you know how to handle an essay, not just regurgitate a set of readings. My first one of these was the hardest; I remember handing it in, having done my best but knowing others had taken different directions.
When I got the feedback, it dawned on me that there was freedom to try stuff out. You’re trusted to do as you think best, and it can be liberating. I’ve not got it perfectly, but you learn that sometimes there’s no ‘right’ answer; you’re being marked for good methods and consistency.
You’re at a different level to academics than you were during undergrad
Although you’re left to do essays in a more independent way, staff feel more accessible. Intellectually, I understand what my lecturers are currently researching and – naturally – they love talking about it. I remember the reception after my induction where all linguistics Masters students chatted with academics over wine. It really felt like I was part of a workplace and a community of thinkers, not just a school-like class.
My contact hours are comparable to my third year
I try and keep a 9-5 working week which includes a day-and-a-half doing some paid work. So, there’s still room to exist outside of the library! One of the great things as a postgrad, is that I continued everything I wanted from undergrad in terms of societies and sports. I remained the Culture Editor at The Yorker online magazine and I still play at Vanbrugh college squash. I’ve not got as much time due to my paid work roles, but there’s nothing stopping me from joining any society on campus and being involved just as much as any university member. If anything, there are more opportunities open to me. I attend the Graduate Student Association’s (GSA) free squash sessions, and a postgrad weekly wine and cheese night at my college. I’ve also got access to the Berrick Saul building’s kitchen and various study areas.
One of the toughest parts of postgrad life is balancing your time
It’s a problem common to all student life, but as I balance three freelance roles, consider my next step and work towards my Masters to the best of my ability, it’s never been harder. Prioritising what is best is a skill I’m still learning, but it’s one I’m confident will set me up well for any future career.
If you’re considering further university study, it’s worth having some intellectual pursuits outside of campus. It’s very satisfying to spend a day working in my freelance proofreading role, with a clear days work. Although it’s still work, I come back to the library after an active day away and feel much more refreshed.
It’s absolutely worth the transition
There’s a step up, a growth of knowledge, a broadening of opportunities and a huge amount of priorities to sort out. It’s more hectic but more rewarding. If you loved your degree, and you feel up to the challenge, it’s absolutely worth the transition.