From focusing on your research skills to managing your time wisely, our MSc ambassador Chloe shares her advice on how to prepare for your MSc course.
Making the move from Undergraduate to Postgraduate level study
Undergraduate and postgraduate degrees differ in a number of ways, whether it be the number of contact hours or the depth of content. During your undergraduate degree, there is relatively more academic support to bridge the gap between secondary school and university and to guide students with their studies. Meanwhile, an MSc course is designed for students who wish to specialise or delve into a certain academic field, therefore the reading lists provided are much more intensive and advanced compared with an undergraduate course. As a result, students are expected to do a lot of independent self-directed study outside of the limited contact hours, involving reading materials before and after a lecture, as well as thinking critically about a certain topic in preparation for seminar discussions. There is also a great emphasis on research skills in preparation for students who may wish to do a dissertation or continue on to a PhD afterwards, therefore students are expected to conduct extensive research around the academic field in their own time.
What to expect when you start your MSc
Starting an MSc course may perhaps sound overwhelming in the beginning. However, I am going to highlight a few things that you should expect prior to starting your MSc course in September. First of all, you do not need to be an expert from the start. The majority of your course mates will be just as new to postgraduate study as you are, with the exception of a few that might be older than you who have more work experience. Nonetheless, MSc courses are designed to challenge students in order to develop your expertise in that specific academic field.
Second of all, the amount of preparation required is far greater for your MSc course and of course, you will be tackling more difficult and advanced topics and material. However, you will learn to quickly adapt especially when you realise that the more preparation you do, the more you will learn from your lectures and seminars, motivating you to study harder.
Last but not least, do not worry – you will have a social life. In fact, you will have lots of opportunities to make friends, especially if you live on campus, as you are most likely to be sharing a kitchen with different flatmates. Even if you are living off-campus, you can still make friends with people within and outside of your MSc course, because you will be involved in more group projects than you were as an undergraduate student.
Consider work experience opportunities
Personally, I had a few work experience opportunities before starting my MSc course in the form of summer internships during my undergraduate degree, so I had some practical knowledge on marketing before I pursued my MSc Business with Marketing course. I would advise that if you can try to have some real-life experiences relevant to your MSc degree so that you can better integrate the practical experience with the academic theories that you will learn during your course. This is something I found really useful but isn’t a requirement for the course, so don’t worry if you don’t manage to find any beforehand.
Manage your time wisely
As an MSc student good time management skills are crucial. You now have more responsibility for your own future, so make sure you manage your time wisely to have a good work-life balance between your studies and social life. As mentioned previously, your MSc course will likely involve a lot of reading, and it is likely that you will not remember much of what you read. Therefore, when doing your reading, take notes every now and then, and stop and consider what you have just read. The same goes for preparing for seminars, write down your thoughts beforehand and make sure you contribute in order to receive feedback and get the most out of it. Finally, this may not sound very important, but try to be as organised as possible. Write down your to-do list each day and keep track of your assignment deadlines which will help you to study more efficiently!
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