Making the transition
Who better to give you an insight into what studying at postgraduate level is really like than the people who teach it?
We caught up with Dr's Christina Lee and Martyn Gray to get an idea of what you should expect when making the transition from undergraduate to masters level.
How challenging is the step up to masters level?
Martyn: "This very much depends on the course that you are hoping to study. Some postgraduate courses will build upon the precise subject that you may have developed skills for at undergraduate level in which case you are simply further developing those skills. Other postgraduate courses will use your existing knowledge to introduce you to another subject. The latter courses are probably the more challenging, but regardless of which course you are hoping to study, you should be prepared to take your knowledge and skill set to a more profound level."
Christina: "I agree, it is going to be challenging, but we're not going to drop you in at the deep end! There are plenty of people you can ask for support."
What support is available to me as a masters student?
Christina: "There are many people here for you. You'll get a personal tutor and there's a faculty senior tutor. You'll also be a member of a student community and even though your classes will be smaller than previously, your cohort is a supportive group of people who will work together. You'll also be able to attend induction activities targeted to postgraduate students which are an important part of the transition."
Martyn: "You'll also have the same uni-wide support services that undergraduate students can expect to have, such as welfare, finance and accommodation.
As Christina says, you'll have in-house school and departmental support, through dedicated course directors and personal tutors. Module convenors and tutors are always available to help, too. Just because you are now a postgraduate, rather than an undergraduate, doesn't mean that you shouldn't come looking for help when you need it."
Will I need to employ a different style of study?
Christina: "Your undergraduate degree has already equipped you with an understanding of how to write an essay and how to research, but now you will need to develop a systematic understanding of research."
Martyn: "You should be ready to do more independent study at masters level. The style of study does not change per se, but certainly we expect students to be in a position to do much more for themselves."
How much contact time will I have with academic staff?
Martyn: "You'll have slightly less contact hours on the whole compared to undergraduate students. Let's take a 20-credit module for example: at undergraduate level, you may have had 3 hours a week, whereas at masters level, you are more likely to have 2 hours a week.
The reason for this is that we tend not to need to 'lay the foundations' to the same extent that we do at undergraduate level - we expect that you will have some knowledge and skills that we can already draw upon. We are not starting from scratch."
What is the postgraduate community like?
Martyn: "It's very close-knit. Unlike at undergraduate level, where you may be attending all of your classes with people from different courses, you tend to do all your modules at masters level with people from your course, or at least a very closely-related one. There are also plenty of extra-curricular opportunities."
Christina: "There are communities within your school, but there are also communities that go beyond so for example, as a medievalist at Nottingham we have Medieval At Nottingham, where all the students from the faculty come together. There are always activities that students can participate in that go across the faculty."
Find out more about the support available to postgraduates