MSc ambassador Xiao shares the differences between studying for his Undergraduate degree in China, and working towards his MSc in Business & Finance in the UK.
Since the third year of my undergraduate degree, I considered doing a master’s degree, mainly because I wanted to be more competitive in the job market. Compared to an undergraduate degree, I knew that having a postgraduate degree would mean starting to have my own interpretation of the field of study; it means a more sophisticated level of knowledge and a better skill for using this knowledge in the real world. Personally, I had always wanted to live in a foreign country and learn everything about its culture, and had heard about the UK’s brilliant higher education quality. All these reasons made me decide to apply for a master's in the UK.
The postgraduate degree made a difference in my life and plans even before I got an offer. To increase my competitiveness to get an offer from a world-renowned business school like WBS, I worked really hard on my GPA, IELTS, and GMAT during my third and final year of my undergraduate.
However, the real differences came after the formal commencement of my postgraduate study. Several huge differences in my experience are worth mention:
1. Different module arrangement. In China, undergraduate students usually have over 10 modules in one semester, which are all arranged as lectures with around 100 students. But my postgraduate study is totally different; we have “1+1+1” teaching method this year, which means for each module each week, we have 1-hour asynchronous teaching material, 1-hour lecture, and 1-hour small-group seminars. I personally love this method, because it not only gives us time to process what we have learned but also offers us opportunities to be more interactive with the professors and/or tutors.
2. Different ways of study. Compared to undergraduate, postgraduate study increases the level of self-study. We must learn how to schedule completely on our own, and explore materials beyond the textbooks or module slides. For example, the “1+1+1” method doesn’t seem like too much of a workload, but we still have many “hidden hours". We have to read papers, try to solve seminar problems, and take notes of lectures and seminars, which are not included in our teaching schedule. This new level of challenge hones our self-motivation, self-management, learning, and time management skills. After 2 semesters of postgraduate study, it’s safe to say that although I have had fewer modules each semester, the pressure is more than that of undergraduate study. But the good thing is that all these pressures really making me more independent and capable of facing more sophisticated challenges.
3. Things beyond study. Multi-tasking skill is crucial for a postgraduate student. For example, other than studying, I have to make time for job searching, grocery shopping, cooking, and so on. Basically, you need to take full control of your life and future, which is at least different from my undergraduate experience in China.
For students who want to pursue a postgraduate degree, I personally suggest the following factors for you to consider before making a decision.
1. Are you determined enough to put all the time and money into a huge investment like this? Different from a normal investment, a postgraduate degree requires you to put your time and effort into it. The effort you put into your postgraduate study decides the rewards you will get from it.
2. Are you up for the challenge? Postgraduate sometimes can be more difficult than a real job. Normally we don’t have a proper “holiday” as we have one exam or assignment after another, alongside lectures and seminars, job hunting, and so on.
3. The budget. As we all know, a postgraduate degree is very expensive. You need to consider your budget before you decide. If you are supported by your parents like me, I personally think it’s more important for you to carefully consider your budget and how will you repay them.
In summary, although postgraduate study can be expensive and stressful, I have never regretted my choice once. I put a lot of effort into it, and it has already rewarded me with not only a better competitive position in the job market, but also by making me a much more well-rounded individual by improving my overall skills and mindset from every perspective I can imagine.