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Written by Anjora G., Postgraduate student at UCL

Being a postgraduate student can be difficult. But being a postgraduate student, in full-time employment is a different ball game. Sure, people do it all the time, but it definitely feels like trying to write 100 essays, keeping up with deadlines at work as well as trying to win the Nobel peace prize all at once - it is overwhelming.  Being a postgraduate student means you have to take education seriously, with very little time, if no time, to procrastinate. It means starting your essay the day the topic has been given to you, and actually having references to back up your work.

However, Postgraduate study is rewarding - it challenges you to new ways of thinking. Professors become your new friends. You get to meet very different people with varying opinions, beliefs and values to yours. You are exposed to a wealth of knowledge in a short span of time, whilst also learning new skills that will put you in good stead when it’s finally time to ‘adult’.

But Postgraduate study can be isolating. Study days can be spread across the term, with very little interaction with other course mates, leaving students feeling lonely and apprehensive about coursework. Independent learning is promoted heavily, encouraging autonomy. Time is a commodity that is scarce, and working and studying is all fun and games - until deadlines and exams are approaching, and work-life balance goes by the wayside.

I’ve just managed my time strategically - I mean things do get on top of me, and they have because that’s just life, especially when deadlines are around the corner. But I prioritise what can be done on a week to week basis, I don’t worry about what is to be done in 3 weeks or 6. I only work through what’s important in the ‘here and now’.  Also keeping a small ‘pocket’ diary has really helped me, I have it to hand all the time, and it has all my deadlines/exams/as well as work deadlines and you have a visual aid that way. This has helped me massively because I tend to forget all the key dates and information. 

I have had to set aside study time and I now study on the weekends as well as some evenings after work, even if it’s 2 extra hours a day, it does go a long way. I use my uni days wisely; if lectures start at 10, I get to uni at 8 and do uni work at the library (precious days!). I have had to use my annual leave to do essays but that’s just the circumstance. So it does spill over, but overall If you plan properly, and do a little uni work every day then it’s no trouble. It might be tempting to take up offers to go to various events and socials but something will have to give and you have to say no, or you will just get bogged down by it all. Most importantly you need a balance between the daily mundane work, uni and the things you actually like to do, or you’ll just end up getting really overwhelmed if all you do is work!

You cannot discount the benefits - studying whilst in employment can work like magic. They complement each other, you can put the theory into practice (finally) and learn the tricks of the trade. You learn a lot about potential employers, how to improve in personal and professional development and you learn a lot about yourself.

Postgraduate study certainly has its ups and downs, but it definitely promotes a sense of achievement, builds character and resilience - two of which you need when you travel out into the big world!