Doing A Master's Degree? Here's My Top 10 Tips
Over the weekend I headed up to Belfast with my core gal pals from my undergrad. They're a great bunch to be around and we've always been each other's biggest supporters.
We've all grown up immensely in the last three years, everyone is doing their own thing, working in their own fields and following their own journey. While catching up, one of the girls mentioned to me that I had sent her a really helpful message about studying for a master's degree - I had completely forgotten about this to be honest.
Doing a master's was one of the toughest things I've ever done. Looking back, I'm not too sure it was really necessary for the media industry but I'm a firm believer of "everything happens for a reason" and having no regrets. I did learn a lot and I now have an extra notch on my belt.
Hearing my friend Heather say she re-read my advice and found it helpful made me think I should share it beyond our direct message chat on Facebook.
There's such negative connotations linked to influence but in these kind of situations, all I ever want to do is share knowledge, help people out and show them they aren't alone during the non-Instagrammable moments in life.
So here's my top tips to those Masters' heads out there:
1. The main piece of advice I have is to take the year as a year for you - put yourself and your academic goals first.
One of the hardest things for me this year was that I found friends/family didn’t really get it. I had friends fall out with me because I would bail on plans to study or finish off assignments.
If you've decided to do a Masters, chances are you've pumped a good bit of money into this degree, you're older and you want to get the grades rather than take the piss and you're willing to work harder than you did in the entire three/four years of your undergrad.
(Side note- don't do a Masters for the craic. Be sure you're willing to put the work in!)
The important thing is to take it with a pinch of salt and just accept that it may happen. By the end of it all it will all go back to normal.
2. Start Your Work From The Beginning
Study wise I'd recommend getting into the habit of doing your work from the beginning and to keep at it, bit by bit. It's a time to push yourself and to try get the most out of the time you have to get work done.
Keep a schedule of assignment submission dates and tick them off as you go.
There's nothing more satisfying than ticking off boxes!
3. Be Attentive In Class
Put your phone away in lectures and take in as much as you can. You more than likely have a small class size - use that to your advantage. Make sure to ask questions, go over things you don't understand with your lecturer and always ask them to evaluate your work.
If you get a grade you’re not sure about, ask.
4. Keep A Journal/Diary
I found my masters to be one of the most challenging years for my mental health. I was often stressed, felt lonely, felt hopeless and just... sad?
There were days when I would come home from the library at around 10pm and I'd just cry in my pillow.
Writing a diary has always been a great way for me release stress, anxiety and tension. It feels like putting it all down on paper stops it from clogging up my brain.
5. Accept The Long Hours
Hard work pays off, remember that.
There will be long study days, endless assignments, unpredictable exam questions - do the work and you'll be grand.
Accept that you may be in the library from 9am-10pm on the reg.
6. Find Out How You Work Best
I always struggled with studying and working alone when I was in school. Once I got to my MA I found what hours, environment, method worked for me.
Doing this is imperative.
I learnt that I work best early in the morning. My best environment is sitting alone in the library or a café and I can't listen to music unless it's lo-fi or subtle beats.
That was one of the best things I learnt in my master's because I now understand how I work best and I can take full advantage of that.
7. Invest In Good Stationary/Copy books
Honestly, this will just make note-taking sexier.
Neat notes are the best notes.
(I'm a bit of an organisational freak if you haven't noticed!)
8. Go Over Referencing etc. Before Every Assignment
Chances are you're a bit rusty after the undergrad so make sure to go over how to properly write answers and score highly on exams.
Keep that up for the year and you'll fly through your thesis.
9. Set Up A Facebook Group With Your Class
This is a great place to share advice, notes, ask questions and just be mates. It's a hard year so it's good to have the chats with people who are in the same boat as you.
Make friends with your classmates - it'll make the year so much more enjoyable.
10. Don't Become A Hermit
Put in 100% but don't cut yourself off from the world. You still need a social life.
I used to pick one night in the week that I would go out, meet up with my friends and have a few scoops. It honestly kept me sane being able to go a little cray every once in a while.
Don't spend the whole day glued to your desk - it's not good for your eyes, head, everything. Take study breaks, make sure to eat your three meals a day (I stupidly used to skip meals because I was working so much) and go for walks to clear your head.
Don't feel guilty about taking time for yourself.
Most of all, try enjoy it as much as you can. It's one year - that's all.
You can do anything if you put your mind to it - never stop learning.