Just finished your undergraduate degree and starting a postgraduate course? Taken a break from studying and returning? Here are some tops tips past and present postgraduate students have shared to help you make the most out of your time at Kent.
An undergraduate degree isn’t the same
‘Never underestimate the importance of good time management. Although you receive guidance and support from your supervisors, PhD and MRes degrees are ultimately self-led and personal to you. Therefore, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are dedicating ample time to your research whilst also managing your other work/life commitments. Remember, though, that work doesn’t mean that you have to formally be producing something – a day spent reading can be just a beneficial as one spent writing.’
‘It isn’t the same as your undergraduate. At all. It’s far easier to feel isolated and out of touch so try to put in some timetabled social time – if it’s with people on the same course it almost counts as working!’
‘It’ll be tough, it’ll be stressful, but it’ll also be fun, and you’ll probably miss it when it’s over.’
‘Planning is everything. Being organised will help you meet your deadlines, have time to chill out with friends and even fit in holidays alongside your studies!’
‘Strive for an effective work-life balance (whatever that may mean for you) from the offset. Postgraduate degrees are very time consuming and can be quite stressful, so if you don’t allow yourself regular opportunities to relax and unwind, then you will lose your enthusiasm for your research and find yourself producing low-quality work. Planning daily lunches with friends or “no-work weekends” can be really therapeutic and help relax your mind.’
Work smarter, not harder
‘Find a way to collect and collate your notes and sources ASAP. It’s much harder to play catch up later. Try to have some defensible time that is for you/spending time with friends or family. Make that sacred and do your best not to work at that time.’
‘It is ok to take a break between degrees or time off during your PhD. You’ll come back stronger.’
‘You are allowed to have days off and you will NEED those days off to stay sane. Dedicate days for work and days for fun — sometimes work can be fun too, but give yourself permission to watch Netflix (or whatever helps you relax) and not care for a while. You will need friends other than SPSS and EBSCOhost, although those two are good fun too. Network and get to know people, you’ll never know where life takes you and knowing people from all over the globe is always helpful.’
It’s OK to have cheat days and take some time for you!
‘If you feel like you are burning out. Then you most probably are burning out. Go sit in the garden, or play a sport, watch a movie. Tell yourself that tomorrow will be a better day and try again tomorrow. I have pushed myself hard when I had no fuel left to work on, resulting in more burnouts. Eventually, I started normalising regular breaks to let the steam off, even when I had deadlines, and it worked.’
‘It’s important to take a break, take a walk, attend events that interest you and most importantly, interact to avoid getting lonely. In the autumn and spring terms, the sunrise in the field next to the Kent Law Clinic is spectacular. I made it a habit to be there for that and it set me off every day feeling ‘sunny’.’
Moving into student accommodation?
‘Pack the things you think you’ll need and take a maximum of half of that. You DO NOT need SO. MANY. THINGS. Except for obviously wine glasses, having lots of those is helpful.’
‘I didn’t spend a lot of time in my student house, so I didn’t need as many things. I found that the more I had; the easier it was to be messy. If you are anything like me and cannot work in an untidy room, I would advise you to bring less to university. It’ll help save you lots of time in the long run.’
Talk about your feelings
‘…to other postgrads, to your GP, your family etc… I let worries accumulate and creep up on me and had a major anxious breakdown which might have been avoided if I had voiced them earlier.’
‘If you find yourself struggling with any part of your work, go to a tutor before you really think you need to. That way they can help shift your focus or change up your workload *before* it becomes a problem.’
‘Things are far worse when you let them build up. There are many confidential services available through Kent Union and University. Make sure you register at the Medical Centre so you can see a GP on campus if you need to. They are brilliant with signposting even if they cannot directly help.’
Give it a go
‘Don’t be scared to sign up to groups and teams because you think that there will only be for undergraduates. It doesn’t matter if you’re a postgraduate and older, you’ll get to meet great people. It’s loads of fun.’
‘Being involved in co-curricular activities for me was key and ensured I had at least one break a week. Sports helped me to stay active, and it sounds weird, but I was less tired overall. If you like having a routine, there are lots of sports clubs and societies you can join which hold sessions in the evenings. Kent Sport also offers classes and I used to go to yoga or dance in the mornings to help kickstart my day. Make sure you attend Kent Union’s Welcome Fairs to find out more about each group!’
‘Get involved in university life in some way. Whether that’s joining a society, or taking a job on campus, it’s always helpful to have a network or friend base outside of your academic cohort. Sometimes, we need a break and a fresh perspective.’
And last but not least…
‘Enjoy the experience!’
To find out more information make sure you also check out the Student Guide Postgraduate website.
Thank you to all the above-featured contributions from past and present students!
Kasia Senyszyn, Kiia Huttunen, Shelly Lorts, Zoe Wible, Arifa Syed, Silja Wiedeking, Christine Ciel, Naila Alakbarova, George Gachiri, Samuel Hales, Timo Kuerten, and Laura Carlin.