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This is how to prepare for postgraduate study

This is how to prepare for postgraduate study

by Anna Brown

Postgraduate study is such an exciting chapter in many people's lives. It's rewarding, challenging and it positions you at the forefront of research in your field. But how can you prepare for your postgraduate degree? In our blog, we've listed ways you can get a head start on your postgraduate journey.

From planning ahead for key deadlines to getting back into the habit of independent study, read on to find out more.


What to expect from a postgraduate degree? 

The jump from an undergraduate degree to a postgraduate one can seem a little scary at first. 

But it's important not to feel intimidated.

Postgraduate study is the natural next step for many graduates. Yes, it will challenge you in some ways. But it'll only build on the existing skills you've gained during your undergraduate degree, or relevant experience.  

Nonetheless, there are some key differences between undergraduate and postgraduate study. Such as:

  • a bigger emphasis on independent research  
  • smaller group teaching and fewer contact hours
  • a longer academic year 
  • more extensive and advanced reading lists
  • a longer dissertation

For more information, read our blog on the difference between undergraduate and postgraduate study. 


What skills do you need to do a postgraduate degree?

The skills required for a postgraduate degree start with a real passion and interest in your chosen subject.

The amount of independence that comes with postgraduate study necessitates self-motivation, and it's much easier to motivate  yourself to work when you care about your topic. 

You will also benefit from having skills in: 

  • researching and digesting complex research papers
  • critical thinking
  • accurate referencing, and experience in writing bibliographies 
  • problem solving
  • communication and team work 


How do you prepare for a postgraduate degree? 

You can prepare for your postgraduate studies in lots of ways, but it's important not to over-exert yourself before the semester starts. 

Always remember the power of rest, and caring for yourself. Though the below list of suggestions is definitely beneficial, you still want to start your postgraduate degree feeling charged and ready to take on this exciting new chapter. 

So if you are having a break before the semester starts, make the most of it! 


Plan ahead for key dates and deadlines

A postgraduate degree takes a lot of self-discipline.

Hopefully, you'll have had the chance to refine your independent study skills during your undergraduate degree. But most postgraduate courses are condensed into one or two years. 

This means managing your time carefully to meet deadlines and assignments is very important. To prepare for this, look ahead at the key dates or deadlines throughout the academic year and mark them in your calendar, or add them as events on the calendar in your phone. 

You can set up alerts when important pieces of work or reading weeks are coming up, so you can better prioritise your work and plan ahead.


Get ahead on your reading

We're sure it'll come as no surprise to you that postgraduate study requires a lot of reading.

So the sooner you can get a jump on this, the better. You should be sent your reading lists well in advance of your start date. 

If you start your reading ahead of your first semester, you can also begin your studies with a foundation of knowledge to build from. 


Get back in the habit of studying

It's likely you'll have had a break from studying by the time the semester starts, so try get yourself back in the right mindset. 

While you're getting ahead on your reading, highlight key areas of interest and dig deeper by looking up academic journals. You may also want to note down topics of interest, or questions about the reading material that you'd like to ask your future lecturers.

Remember, no matter how much you prepare for your postgraduate degree, the first few weeks are bound to be a little tiring as you adjust and take in all the new information.

So set that expectation with yourself early - things may be tough and new at first, but that's where growth happens!


Get organised

Don't leave anything to the last minute, especially if you're an international student. 

Make sure you've made all the necessary arrangements for your accommodation and your visa, if appropriate.  

Write a list of things you want to pack - including kitchen utensils - and start your packing early so you can steadily check things off.

It's always worth having a think about budgeting and living expenses too. Fortunately for Newcastle University students, Newcastle is joint 1st in the UK for affordability!


Join supportive networks

When you go to university, at any level, having a support network is so important.

University is supposed to be a social experience, one that will challenge you and help you grow. So take advantage of the support networks available to you in wellbeing teams and societies. 

You may want to research Facebook groups to connect with fellow prospective students in the run up to your degree, or even online chat with current students via our Unibuddy platform.  

Read our blog on whether Master's students can join societies.


We hope you have found our blog post useful, as you prepare to start this exciting new venture.  For more support and advice, explore our postgraduate study blog. And remember the best preparation you can do for any degree is to take care of yourself, and arrive on your first day recharged and ready to learn. 

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