Chances are that, if you are doing a masters, you did pretty well in your undergraduate degree. However, the set of skills you need to navigate through your masters is slightly different. Here’s some advice from both sides of the degree; previous masters student Meredith and The University of Manchester’s Professor Ian Scott.
Meredith: Reflections on my masters
Making the transition
Compared to my undergrad degree, my master’s was like entering a foreign country. To be fair, I literally was entering a foreign country (shoutout to other international postgrad students).
Anyway, I was surprised by how independent my degree was. I had to complete lots of reading and writing in near-complete solitude. With fewer check-ins, I had to take it upon myself to set my schedule and seek help when I needed it.
Preparing for postgrad life
There are some things to do before delving into your master’s. For starters, I recommend getting a good diary and treating it as your personal bible. Learn to pencil in deadlines, assign yourself daily tasks, and organise your work in manageable chunks. This keeps you accountable for all your independent work, avoids last-minute breakdowns, and gives you plenty of time to seek guidance and feedback before submitting your final product.
Managing it all
My biggest advice for the large amount of work you are going to undertake is to start early. I get it, Netflix is much more appealing than reading 48 sources on the same topic for your literature review. But if you knock out little bits each day, you’ll avoid feeling overwhelmed right before the deadline hits. Make small tasks a part of your daily routine, and don’t be afraid to ask your tutors and cohort for help when you need it.
Everything will be fine
You will grow unbelievably so during your year at UoM. Despite all the roadblocks along the way, your master’s will welcome endless learning opportunities. In your coursework and beyond, this is the most critical year of your life to understand, nurture, and become your best self.
Remember, your master’s degree is whatever you make it. So go ahead and make yours the most challenging, fulfilling, adventurous, and purposeful year of your life.
Professor Ian Scott: Advice from an academic
The first thing to say, obvious as it sounds, is that an MA is not a BA/BSc. Simple you might think but not as easy to remember in practice. The work for an MA should be, and is a step change from what a student should be doing at UG level. Not for no reason do we have students do a Long Essay/Dissertation as nearly their final piece of work at UG level. That kind of extended research investigation is the closest they will come to MA work, especially for those whose education is going to come to an end at the close of their undergraduate studies. For those carrying on, that work is a taster of what they will be doing all the time, and with increasing intensity if they’re doing it well.
Again it might sound simple, but an MA student is a scholar and a writer. We like to think our BAs are that too, but really and truly at the end of what is usually an intense one-year period of study, an MA student ought to be on the cusp of producing publishable work. Maybe not a ground-breaking article or book, but certainly a small piece of writing that a journal/magazine/online site would take seriously enough to consider publishing.
How to get to that? Research, reading, having a curiosity for one’s subject that stretches beyond the – already considerable! In my experience, unless a student cares about these, finding success at MA level is actually quite difficult, and reproducing BA work, with perhaps a bit more flourish, is only getting the job half-done. Commit to it totally and students usually surprise themselves with how much their research, writing and execution of assessments improves.