In 2019 I started my Masters in Bioarchaeology at York. I was so excited to start this new chapter in my life, but I was also worried about the things that I didn’t know. I finally handed my dissertation in last week after months of hard work. So, I’m writing this blog to help alleviate some of that anxiety for new and prospective students. I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned while studying at York.
1. Waiting for the offer shouldn’t be so stressful
Don’t panic too much about how long it takes to receive an offer and what that means. I spent ages searching the internet and even made my own post on the student room, asking if anyone else knew how long it would take to get an offer. I was counting the days since my reference had been sent in. In the end, there was nothing to worry about and I got my offer about two weeks after my reference had been submitted.
2. Student finance is different
Postgraduate student finance varies a lot from undergraduate, which confused me a lot when I started my Masters. Essentially, if you are receiving student finance, you will receive all the money for the semester in one lump sum. Unlike at undergraduate, it’s your job to pay it to the university. Student Finance doesn’t sort it out for you. This isn’t as daunting as it sounds, and the finance office are usually quite happy to adjust the payment schedule to suit you! I got quite a scary email at the start of term asking for 50% of my fees up front. After explaining that I was getting my loan a third at a time, the finance office sorted out a new payment schedule for me in minutes. Transferring the money in was relatively painless; except for the heartbreak of being separated from what feels like a temporary fortune.
3. Make time to have fun
I think a lot of the time, people act like a postgraduate degree is either just an extension of an undergradate degree, or it’s a weird, drab existence of essays and lab reports. Neither is true. The workload of a Masters degree is generally greater than that of an undergrad degree; but that doesn’t mean you don’t get to have fun. Keep an eye out for opportunities from societies, the Graduate Students’ Association and Wentworth College, but also make time to have fun and do what makes you happy. For some people, that will be going on nights out. For others it might be going for a quiet drink at the pub, or you might want to check out the cat cafe on Goodramgate. Whatever it is, make sure you don’t overwork yourself and schedule in some time for fun!
4. Make the most of every opportunity
York has lots of opportunities for students, and Masters courses are quite short. Look into all of the opportunities available to you and make the most of them. York Strengths and York Gold Award will really enhance your CV and help you to identify what you’re good at. There are also opportunities such as ‘York Futures Scholarships‘. These offer grants to help you get ahead in your chosen field. Don’t forget to look into the careers service as well if you’re ever in need of some help. If you’re an Arts and Humanities student, you’ll have the great resource of the Humanities Research Centre, which often hosts events and conferences. Keep an eye on your emails too for more opportunities, including chances to present your own work.
5. Everyone is in the same boat
When you start a Masters degree, it can feel like everyone else knows more than you. It’s important to remember that everyone is in the same boat, and will have at least one thing they aren’t confident with yet. I started my MSc in Bioarchaeology after doing a BA, and I was incredibly anxious about not knowing enough science. A friend on my course had a BSc, and was worried about not knowing enough from a humanities perspective. Even talking to people who had studied Bioarchaeology at undergraduate, I found that everyone had something that they weren’t sure about. It sounds cliche, but together we were a lot stronger and were able to help each other academically.
It’s also important to remember that if you’re worried about making friends or getting to know people, there will always be someone else in the same position. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your course mates or other students. Even going for a coffee on campus can be a great way to get to know people. I also always recommend making a Facebook or Instagram group chat for people on your course. It’s a really easy way to get to know the other people you’ll be studying with!
I hope you’ve found this advice useful and I wish you all the best in your future studies! Why not have a read of Emily’s blog on postgraduate finances?