So, you’re getting ready for your Master’s? Here is how you can prepare.
I prepared this list based on my previous experiences of doing a Master’s, and then a PhD degree. If you are reading this, you are probably motivated to make the most of your studies, so I trust that you will be motivated enough to follow this list. If you do, chances are you are going to be the most prepared student in your campus 😊
GET FAMILIAR WITH THE PRINTING AND PHOTOCOPYING FACILITIES (OR BUY A PRINTER)
I would personally suggest buying a printer (You can buy one for as little as £25), because you will be printing A LOT. You will also need to photocopy and scan, and it is best to rely on yourself rather than the university’s printing services (for example, when you have to print something late at night or early in the morning before classes).
LEARN TO COOK 😉
You will save time and money, and you will eat healthy, which is good for concentration and your overall well-being. I would also suggest generally paying attention to your physical health – consider signing up for a gym, jogging or playing sports in a park with fellow students. This will also help you to take your needed rests from studying and to either take your mind off the studies or (as it happens in my case) generate great ideas for your assignments/dissertation while engaging in physical activity.
PRACTICE EFFECTIVE TIME MANAGEMENT
As a graduate student, you will be given a lot of independence and, as a result, you will be tempted to procrastinate. At the same time, you will constantly have a lot of work to do – reading, attending classes, writing assignments (quite often with overlapping deadlines), some more reading, and some more reading…. You need to effectively plan your schedule for all of this because, believe me, it is not easy to keep on top of things when you’re studying.
Buy a calendar-notebook or download a desktop app – whatever works best for you. Learn to constantly use it – write down all dates in there, all deadlines and all things to do for each day. With larger tasks, such as assignments, adopt a “top-down” approach which I describe in this video on how to plan your dissertation (start watching at 4:20). In short, make a detailed plan for everything and always stick to that plan.
DON’T FORGET TO TAKE RESTS!
It is absolutely crucial that you are just as serious about setting up your schedule for resting as about your learning schedule. Don’t forget to go out to meet your friends, drink beer in a pub or do sports; watch your favourite TV shows, read a book, or find another hobby. I am serious, I know people who have Literally lost their minds trying to study too hard and forgetting that, after all, we all deserve to relax every now and then.
So, if you still haven’t put any days off studying in that calendar, do it now!
PREPARE TO READ A LOT
If there is recommended reading to go with your courses, start reading it as soon as possible. If you don’t, the amount of required reading will keep piling up, as you will also have to read a lot when you work on your assignments, and later dissertation.
Also, as you read, you will be becoming more and more familiar with the topics you are studying, everything will start to make more sense and you will gradually find that both the content of your classes and your homework assignments seem easier.
If you find a reference to a potentially interesting academic article or book that you are reading, check the reference list and find that text too, to read it for pleasure. As you read, you will gather ideas and develop interests in certain topics – make a note of these topics, eventually one of them may turn into the topic of your dissertation and you will be more or less familiar with the topic by then.
ORGANIZE EVERYTHING very well
This includes organizing course materials, notes and photocopies. Buy folders to separate and label these (as I said above, these documents and papers will keep piling up), create folders on your computer to put all the electronic stuff in (e.g. PDFs with research articles and books, assignment guidelines, etc.). When you read and find bits that you may potentially use for your assignments or dissertation, put them in a separate folder too.
COLLECT MATERIALS FOR YOUR DISSERTATION THESIS
I have said it several times already – during the whole academic year, whenever you come across topics/research papers, or anything else, that interests you, make a note of them. Also, write down your emerging dissertation ideas, if you have any (importantly, to start having these ideas you need to read a lot!). You will thank me later 😉
(The topic of preparing for your dissertation, in terms of thinking of methods of data collection, gaining access to your participants early, etc., will be discussed in my other blog posts, so I will not go into too much detail now, as the above list includes the things that you need to do really early in your academic year)
- PhD and former Master’s students – what would you advise from your own experiences? Please comment below and let’s make this a comprehensive check-list for new Master’s students!