Wednesday 22 January 2020

#PostgraduatePressure Navigating the Demands of Postgraduate Study

Dan offers his advice on how to navigate the many demands and challenges of postgraduate study and the ensuing deadlines that come with it.
- Daniel 
The step up from undergraduate to postgraduate study is not a walk in the park. 

However, with the right outlook, attitude, and support, a Postgraduate course can offer you invaluable skills, knowledge, life lessons and memories which will stay with you forever. One aspect of postgraduate study which is particularly challenging is the management of your deadline calendar. 

Having completed an undergraduate degree, most people may have a good system in place for managing their deadlines. However, the postgraduate assessment calendar is a challenge within itself to both plan for and manage over time. Within this blog, I will offer my advice in the form of 3 areas, based on my own experiences, for the management of deadlines and assessments during a postgraduate course. 

1. Planning 

The postgraduate assessment calendar is not a forgiving one and nor are the pieces of coursework and exams within it. To manage these demands, I found planning to be key. For me, planning meant laying the initial groundwork for the 6 weeks building up to a deadline and how I was going to manage my time before then. A method that worked for me was identifying my deadline date and working backwards from there, cliché I know. To do this successfully, I identify any non-movables within those six weeks such as lectures, sports fixtures or work and pencil those in. Next, I would put aside some time each week for myself, whether that be to exercise, go grab a coffee, whatever. This was time that was non-comprisable and gave me some headspace during busy periods. 

Finally, I would assess how much of my time I could give to the deadline each week and create mini-milestones for each week. This gave me something to strive towards and also helped me to structure my day-today tasks/objectives. By doing this not only did I find myself chipping away at the deadline in manageable chunks, but my confidence in my ability to complete the assessment grew week-on-week. Whilst this method came to work for me, I will be honest and say I was really bad at sticking to it the first couple of attempts. I'm happy to admit the time I put aside for myself was always eaten in to and many of my 'non-movables’ went out of the window too. Whilst these methods do work, they take time to adapt to. They need to be individualised to each person when implemented.

If it doesn't work the first time around, then please don't ditch it, just reflect on it and try make it work better for you next time. 

2. Engage in Your Area of Study 

Being told to engage in your studies may seem slightly obvious, especially for postgraduate students who are clearly passionate enough about a certain subject area to carry on their education within it. 

That being said, postgraduate assessments are all about questioning your knowledge and how you apply that knowledge within set parameters. To do this, you must engage thoroughly in your given area of study to an extent that your knowledge is robust, and so is the way in which you operationalise it. 

Of course, spending days on end in the library with late nights and cans of red bull at your desk is not something I am promoting - that is where effective planning will ensure you have the time to engage thoroughly in your work (seems like I have thought this through eh). But having completed an MSc and now a PgDip, I can happily say that engaging in your area of study past lectures and essential reading is something that will benefit your knowledge and subsequently your grades far more than just scratching the surface with the work assigned to you. 

Engaging also doesn't mean just reading more, it can be questioning and reflecting on your own knowledge, interacting with significant academics in your industry online (twitter is great for this) or going to conferences to broaden your knowledge. 

When you are sat trying to type out your essay (other assessment types of course apply), you will be far more prepared to operationalise your knowledge than had you just sat copying out lecture notes. Whilst I am no expert, I found that effective planning and real engagement in my field of study were really beneficial to my successful study at postgraduate level. Were it not for a word limit I feel I could have much more to share from my own experiences with you all, providing anyone wants to read it! 

3. Patience and Self-Compassion

Lastly, I'd like to say that postgraduate study is hard but so rewarding, be patient and self-compassionate and you'll come out better for it!

You can find out more information and support about navigating university life here. For more information, The Wellbeing Thesis is a website to help postgraduate research students navigate the ups and downs of university life. 

I'm Dan, a 22-year-old postgraduate student who has been affected by issues with my mental health throughout uni. I’m still learning new things about myself and the higher education experience year on year and would like to share my experiences with others.

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