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How to prepare for a Masters after a break from university

How to prepare for a Masters after a break from university

by Newcastle University

Are you thinking about returning to university as a Masters student after a break? Discover our top tips for how to prepare for higher education…

Returning to university after some time in employment, volunteering, or travelling is both a big decision and an exciting new beginning. You might already have some firm ideas about how your Masters will help you to move up your career ladder or to begin a job in a new field entirely. However, it can feel daunting to leave behind what you know and return to higher education. What will have changed? Can I still write an essay? And what do I need to do before I start the course?

Discover our top tips for preparing for Postgraduate study after a break from university…

Get a head-start with reading lists

Before you start your Masters, your lecturers will send you a list of reading material for your first semester.

Picking a few core books to read before you begin the course can give you a real head-start, especially if your Postgraduate degree is in a different specialism to what you studied during your Undergraduate degree. Reading ahead and learning about the topics you’ll be covering will also give you peace of mind when it comes to returning to an educational environment.

Brush up on the skills you'll need

There are many online resources and guides out there to help students who are returning to university after a break from education, covering everything from essay writing to revision tips.

Brushing up on these skills will help you when it comes to submitting your first assignment, but it should also reassure you that you’ve done this before, so you can do it again! You already have the skills you need to study, they just need dusting off first. And remember, your teachers will be there to support you with academic writing and studying when you need it. They already know that many of their students won't have been in education for years or even decades, and they know how to help you.

Ask your future lecturers and current students for advice

Sometimes it’s better to speak to a real person who can help, reassure, and support you.

Reach out to your future lecturers and teachers so you’ll feel assured that you know what to expect from your Postgraduate studies. Your teachers are there to guide and support you through to graduation, so why not start nurturing that relationship now?

Current students on your future Postgraduate course will also be able to answer your questions about what a Masters at Newcastle is really like to experience. Use Unibuddy – our online messaging platform – to find a Postgraduate student and start chatting.

Plan how you'll juggle life and study

If you’re returning to university after a break, you’ll likely have other responsibilities to take care of alongside studying. But there’s a lot you can plan in advance to help balance life and study!

Before starting your Masters, find out as much as you can about how many hours you’ll be spending in lectures and seminars through the first semester. Some courses have many contact hours, while some have fewer. Plan on a calendar when essay deadlines could be or when you’ll be given extra study time. Make sure your family has access to your calendar so they will know when you need more time or support.

It’s also a good idea to work out where you will do your studying. You might use a dressing table in the bedroom, a dining table, a quiet place on campus or our Library (which is open 24 hours a day) – but it’s good to plan this in advance so you have somewhere to retreat to when you need some peace and quiet.

Seek support from your employer

Whether you’re planning to study a Postgraduate degree full time or part time, you might be keen to keep working in a job you already have.

Support from a current workplace can really help to balance part time study and study, or if you’re planning on starting a new job to earn some money during the weekends or evenings, talking to them about your Masters can help them to accommodate you if you need time off or to turn down an extra shift.

What do you need to buy?

It could be years or even decades since you were last at university. What’s changed?

Like before, it can feel good to prepare for a new start with some new stationary, such as notepads, pens, and folders to organise work for your modules. Many students bring laptops or tablets into lectures and seminars, too.

When it comes to lunch, studying in the city centre of Newcastle might mean you’re tempted by a huge range of restaurants. While our on-campus cafés are affordable and convenient, if you’re keen to save money think ahead to what you can bring for lunch. Many students bring a thermos too, so you can drink as much tea or coffee during lectures and seminars as you like (though perhaps not during lab work).

Make the most of your induction

When you start your Postgraduate course, it’s likely that you’ll be offered a university induction that will include tours of the library, introductions to the university support available to you, and opportunities to get to know your teachers and fellow students.

These inductions are designed to provide you with the tools you need to success in your studies, whether you’re fresh from an undergraduate degree or have returned to education after some time. Postgraduate studies are a new chapter for everyone, regardless of your history, and it can be hugely reassuring to find out that no-one’s journey to their Masters is the same, and that everyone is just as nervous as you.

Interested in finding out more about how a Masters could help you advance your career?

Discover Postgraduate study at Newcastle