Things no one tells you about postgraduate study

This week I’ve chatted to some of my peers, including four of the other UCSA executive members who have recently entered the wonderful world of postgrad study. We’ve come up with some small but extremely relevant helpful hints we wish someone had told us before we enrolled. I’ll share some with all of you (because maybe you didn’t realise either, or maybe you will laugh at naïve we were).

  1. Postgrad requires you to be self-driven

Not naming names but one of my peers said this to me and I resisted the urge to exclaim, “well, duh!”. This is probably the biggest difference between an undergraduate course workload and postgraduate course load. If it was cool to brag about only 5 hours of lectures a week in undergrad, it is certainly the opposite in postgrad. The less time with your lecturers/course coordinators/supervisors means (in the nicest way possible) the more you’re expected to have your life together. This probably sounds scary and not an incentive to start, or stay in postgraduate study, BUT being self-driven and motivated is an incredibly valuable, and surprisingly uncommon skill.

2. You have to read more, and you have to reference that literature better

Alright seriously, you got through undergrad by meeting the minimum requirement of 12 academic, peer-reviewed sources but that will not fly here in the postgrad world. Start reading journal articles, spend three times as long researching your topic than you do writing about it. This is the world of academia and you must engage with other people’s research.

3. Postgrad lets you take the one thing you’re truly passionate about, and dive head first into a whole world of it

Despite what I said in point 2, if you love what you study, you’ll never read another boring reading again (well at least significantly less boring ones). This is the time where you drop all the terrible elective courses you took just to make up points for that expensive little certificate. It’s where you focus on what you’re really interested in and you’ll be surprised how much more motivated you are.

4. There’s a spunky new postgrad email address that you might not actually get.There

As cool and hip as the three-letter, two-number usernames are as email addresses, some postgrads get new email addresses (firstname.lastname@pg.canterbury.ac.nz). I too was shocked starting part one of my masters and discovering I didn’t get this cool new address and the street cred that goes along with it. Usually honours/shortened masters students will not get this new email (sorry guys!), but masters thesis and PhD students will (the real cool kids). This makes emailing organisations a lot easier and a bit more formal.

5. The fun is not over

Staying for postgrad just because you don’t know what to do with your life and aren’t ready to give up your student lifestyle is actually ok (given you’re ok with adding a whole lot more to your student loan balance). Feeling like you’ve got more to learn and do at university is completely normal and we’re fortunate enough at UC to have a diverse range of postgrad courses that let you discover what your true direction is. Also, contrary to rumour, many postgrads still find time to be social and immerse themselves in the UC student culture. There is always fun to be had, you just have to find the funnest fun for you.

So, on behalf of the new postgrads on your UCSA exec, and myself, we want all of you new postgrads to know that it’s ok to feel like postgrad is crazy different to undergrad. It’s normal to take time to adjust and feel a little overwhelmed to begin with. You will adapt and start to love your study. Postgrad has been the best part of my study at UC, I’ve never felt more in my element.

Emma McCone
UCSA Postgraduate Rep

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