Written by Lauren Bishop
MSc Public Health
Being a part-time postgrad student is, to be honest, hard work! But fear not, it has its plus sides too! Here are a few pros and cons from my own experience…
When I started out on my Master’s, I naturally wanted to get it done as quickly as possible, to enable speedier career progression. So, if it hadn’t been for the need to earn money, I definitely would’ve gone full-time. However, I realised that full-time study on top of work wouldn’t be a great idea if I wanted to maintain my health and my sanity, so I opted for part-time with a view to completing in two years. I’m now a year in, and to be honest, the frustration of the fact that it’s going to take me longer to finish has largely gone. One of the main reasons for this is that it gives me a chance to spend more time thinking through what I’ll base my dissertation on, and I think I’ll end up with something better than I would’ve done if I’d been forced to decide on something just six months after starting the course.
Another really positive thing about being a part-time student is increased flexibility on deadlines. The teaching staff recognise that the workload needs to be spread evenly across the year, and fit with work commitments. Therefore, we are usually given the opportunity to renegotiate deadlines at the beginning of a module, particularly when two of the original deadlines fall close together. Of course, this isn’t really an option for full-time study, where modules must be completed in quick succession, and the course is so intense that delaying a deadline will really set you back on other work.
A key challenge for a part-time postgrad is balancing study with other commitments. Personally, I’m really glad to be working alongside studying, as it gives me a more varied lifestyle and allows me to learn and develop in different ways. At the same time, I’ve been surprised by how challenging I’ve sometimes found it to move between the mind-sets of work and study. In recent months, I’ve only had one day each week available to study, and I’ve found that I inadvertently put so much pressure on myself to be productive on that day that often the opposite ends up happening! So, a top tip I’d give to any part-time student is to think really carefully about how many hours you work and how much uni work you take on each year, and balance these carefully (with leisure time factored in too of course!). This is a balance I’m anxious about for the next year, but I’m aware that I may need to adapt and make sacrifices if things become too much to handle.
One thing I’m not so keen on about being a part-time student is the fact that I’m not finishing the course with my full-time classmates. They’ve been a great bunch this year, and I think I’ll feel strange going into class this year with a new and unfamiliar group. Whereas last year I very much felt part of the core group, this time round I’ll be one of the few students who dips into the third module of the year, with most of the class not knowing who I am! On the plus side, I’m really looking forward to meeting a new group of people, who I’m confident will be just as interesting and inspiring!
In summary, while it’s not without its challenges, I’m really happy to be a part-time student. It’s a slower route than full-time study, but offers more flexibility and room for professional development beyond the academic environment. If you can get the balance right, it’s a great way to study!
By Lauren Bishop