Dear Aspect, how do I prepare for a Masters degree?
Sam: First of all, it’s important you understand the difference between your undergrad study and postgrad so that you can adapt to the necessary changes in your study. A lot will be independent study so a key skill is time management, you are responsible for your own studying and the rate in which you learn. Organisation is essential, so I’d start by making a substantial study plan – that also incorporates your free time. If you’re studying a postgrad that is similar to your undergrad, you’ll surely have some notes and files that will be relevant in your next course, so get those out and organise them accordingly to refresh yourself with what you already know. Thankfully, you’re already used to whole life on campus trope, but check out what societies and welcome week events are going on so you’re ready to get involved. In terms of classes, I personally find it’s helpful to get a head start and you’re reading lists for your modules should already be posted a couple of weeks before you start the course – a masters is a lot of reading both key and background, so it’s good to get ahead of the game so you’re not overwhelmed during your first week back.
Harriet: Preparing for a masters can be a very daunting process, especially as it is a brand new step in your academic journey. The good news is that if you’re doing a masters you are likely to already have an undergraduate degree and some experience with the university environment. The biggest decision is actually deciding that you want to do a masters, what masters you want to do and what university campus you want to study at. I found the best method of preparation for my course to read through the module outlines, familiarising myself with the particular topics that I will be studying and doing my own element of pre-course study and reading, it always helps to get a head start because as soon as your course starts the workload will hit you like a freight train, take my word for it. The secret to preparing is to be organised! Sort out all your folders and course materials, make sure you have all the textbooks you will need and stock up on highlighters and sticky tabs. Also make sure that you take time to familiarise yourself with what else the university has to offer, see if there are any societies or events that interest you, aside from studying you are about to spend the next year of your life at this place so make sure it is somewhere you will feel comfortable. Basically, you can never be too organised when it comes to this level of post-graduate study and your future self will thank you.
Hey Aspect…what does a Masters interview consist of and how can I make sure I’m ready?
Sam: Every application process differs from one another as each university has their own entry requirements. Though I did not have an interview for my postgrad study, there was still a certain grade criteria I had to achieve as well submit a personal statement and academic references provided by the tutors from your undergrad study. However, I can imagine that the questions for an interview would lead to answers that are similar to the information you provided in your personal statement: what you’re passionate about, why you’ve decide to pursue your masters, you’re previous academic qualifications and any job or volunteering experience that make you stand out amongst your fellow applicants. Universities are looking for people who will enrich their programme with their dedication and skill, you have to love your subject and have at the very least have basic understanding of what it’s all about. I would advise that you do your research about your course, know what modules you’ll be taking as well as the minimum requirements. While it can more daunting having a scheduled interview than just writing a personal statement, know that you already have the answers to the questions they’ll ask. Already from your undergrad degree you would have showcased a lot of the skills they’re looking for, those skills will be the grounding for your selling points. Then, think of your personal interests, what extra-curricular’s you have taken part in, how are those relevant to your masters and how do they make you stand out? Use all these points to help inform the university of your own unique abilities.
Harriet: For me personally, my application process was slightly different as I never had an interview, this is because I am an alumni student, meaning I’m doing my masters and LPC at the same university that I completed my law degree. That being said during the application you still had to attach an essay of sorts, similar to a personal statement, explaining your background, a little about yourself, your legal experience (if you had any) and just generally why you wanted to study the course. Whether you have an interview or have to submit a personal statement it is simply an opportunity for you to sell yourself to the university, tell them why they need a student like you on their course. You will have all likely had an interview at some point in your life, whether for a job or your undergraduate study so we all know how nerve-wracking they can be. The best advice I can give is to do some research on the university and the course you wish to study, particularly the modules taught as it shows you have an interest in the campus and that you have taken a pro-active step to find out more, that independence and research show key qualities that a masters student needs. If you know someone who has been through a similar process it may be worth picking their brains as well or even asking a friend to go through some practice questions with you but don’t worry if not, in this instance Google is your friend as you will find a lot of sample questions or scenarios, etc, from other people’s interviews that they have shared online. Just remember, thousands of people have been through the same process that you are facing right now. However, a tip I picked up is that when the interviewer asks if you have any questions, always ask one (even if you know the answer) just to show that extra bit of initiative!
What are the benefits of completing a Masters degree?
Sam: Having a masters in your chosen field of study proves to employers that you are passionate and dedicated to your chosen subject. It’s an opportunity to gain a specialist knowledge that improves job prospects and personal development. Not everyone needs to do a postgraduate degree, but if you’re someone who’s undergraduate studies was not specific enough, or you simply want a more refined understanding and demonstration of your subject then the benefits are endless. You’re more likely to stand out a room full of candidates, especially if you’ve chosen a rather competitive field, and you can broaden your network by getting to know more people who wish to work in the same industry as you.
Harriet: Completing your masters degree opens so many doors and career opportunities that may not be available to you otherwise. In order for me to progress into my intended career as a solicitor I have to complete my Legal Practice Course (LPC), there isn’t another way around it, however, surprisingly I don’t need my masters in law. But by studying my LPC and masters together it makes me stand out when it comes to applying for jobs as everyone will have their LPC but not necessarily a masters. Obviously, that is just in relation to a legal profession so it is worth noting that you will need to do your own research on the career you intend to progress into and the individual requirements of such. By undertaking postgraduate study you are also demonstrating to any future employers your commitment and dedication, both to study and in general because a masters is hard work, but if you are willing to put in that hard work it will pay off and make you stand out when you are ready to step into your career. Not only are Masters degrees beneficial for job prospects but they also further your own knowledge and develop key life skills, postgraduate study can be very rewarding and provide a great sense of accomplishment and if you’re studying something you’re passionate about then you will spend a year enjoying yourself and come out the other end with a degree and a masters, which is an amazing achievement.