Written by Amy Potts
Let me give you a quick rundown of UG study for me: I worked hard, went to every lecture, handed in everything on time, and passed all my exams. I learnt what felt like a lot. I thought I was so grown up. I thought I had got this learning thing down. I mean 2:1s and an occasional 1st… I was doing well and working as hard as I could. I thought PG would be a breeze…well maybe not a breeze but at least not a full out gale of learning.
Boy was I wrong.
To say PG study is different from UG study is hyperbole in the extreme. PG study is to UG as a thunderstorm is to one loan drummer sitting in a park… so very different then.
But let me explain. There are two things I think it is important to know before you start out on PG study.
I have to raise up a hand and admit something here. Throughout my undergrad degree I did very little reading (beyond obviously reading for assignments and dissertation). And at undergrad level you can get away with coasting like that.
But no longer. PG study is a harsh mistress, and will chew you up and spit you out if you dare think you can get away without reading. It will become something you do every day. No fail. No questions asked. It becomes a habit. You will even start to get a little jumpy if you haven’t done reading for a particular unit that day.
But don’t worry. There are rewards for good behaviour. At first it will feel like a continuing punishment (and you will start to wonder what you did a past life to deserve this)…but as you keep going you will start to notice something. On about the 3 or 4th paper you read for the same unit you will think “hang on…I know about this. I read this earlier. And why are you saying this?” You will start to see things come together and connections starting to get made. And it is awesome! And actually worth it.
Having always wanted to be an archaeologist, I already had a lot of drive pushing me forward. Even at undergrad. But now you need to step it up a gear. Often at undergraduate level you are taught everything you need in the lectures (obviously not true for everyone but it is pretty common). However, things change when you get to PG. Now only the basics are told to you in the lectures. You need to take out time from the rest of the week and teach yourself. The labs and library will become your second home. And it is hard at first.
You need to plan, and work, and then work some more. Sleep, eat, read, repeat will become your life, no joke. Wave the majority of your social life out the door now; you will be happier in the long run.
But here is the thing. While PG study it is really hard…you aren’t alone. There are so many people who are struggling and determined right there alongside you. People who will help you. Cheer you up. Advise you. Who will sit with you for hours on end in a lab helping you get to grips with stuff. These friendships will be of such value to you this year. You will learn more and work harder than you ever thought possible. But remember, you are never alone.
So keep your chin up and get on with it.