What you should know when starting your postgraduate studies

SOURCE: Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

By U2B Staff 

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Whether you’ve recently received your undergraduate scroll or have a couple of years of working experience under your belt, the decision to pursue your postgraduate studies can be exciting and yet, nerve-wrecking, if you don’t know what to expect. 

So, how can you best prepare for this next great adventure? The transition can seem complex, but here’s what you should know:


The learning experience

Naturally, a master’s degree will be more in depth than your bachelor’s, which means you can expect the workload and intensity to be higher than your undergraduate years. 

While you may have a supervisor to guide you when taking your master’s, you can also expect more self-learning and to be more independent with your studies than your undergraduate years. 

You’ll be forced to flex your critical thinking skills too — postgraduate students will need to critically evaluate sources and research literature to support their work and ideas.


Assessments at the postgraduate level will depend on the course you enrol in. This could include a wide range of written assessments such as reflective journals, essays and posters, in addition to group work and presentations.

In some cases, your dissertation will make up a chunk of your assessment. You can also expect longer essays to complete than your undergraduate years, which will call for more critical analysis. 

Forming deeper relationships with academic staff 

You can expect to work more closely with your lecturers at the postgraduate level, compared to your undergraduate years, who will help you explore your subject at a deeper level.

As there are, typically, fewer students in postgraduate programmes, you can also expect more academic attention.


Less time to complete your postgraduate studies 

Postgraduate degrees can take one to two years to complete, compared to three to four years for your bachelor’s. The shorter duration doesn’t necessarily translate to an easier ride as it can be emotionally challenging when students are under pressure to identify a research topic and supervisor for their dissertations, in addition to coping with their research inexperience, notes studies.

A wider age range of classmates

As an undergraduate student, chances are, most of your cohort are also fresh out of secondary school. In graduate school, however, you can find your classmates to be a mixed bag of nuts. 

Some may be students who have recently completed their bachelor’s, others may be mid-career professionals or more mature students in your cohort. 

These different generations can fuel insightful discussions in class, especially when older students have much to draw from their working experiences in group discussions. 

At the end of the day, the decision to pursue your postgraduate study isn’t always an easy one, but with the right mindset and preparation, the journey can be less emotionally taxing for anyone.