Venturing into a Masters- mature student - hints , tips and advice please

posted
08-Nov-17, 18:47
Avatar for Lilmissre
posted about 1 week ago
Hi everyone !
Yes , as the title suggests , I have decided to enrol onto a masters course . I’ve been working for the past 10 years and am thinking of studying full time . I have however heard that it is super intense . Do any of you have any tips , hints or advice ( things you wish you’d done or known ) that You could pass on ?
For example : to buy or not to buy books , how you stayed organised , what kept you going , what was the most difficult part , any websites that are particularly helpful for students , grants and funding , things like that really .
I’d really appreciate it !
posted
14-Nov-17, 17:56
edited about 6 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 5 days ago
It's not more intense than full time work. Also depends on what kind of masters - taught or research, subject area?
posted
14-Nov-17, 21:26
edited a moment later
Avatar for chaotic1328
posted about 5 days ago
I suppose it really defends on the field, and what you mean by 'super intense'. Having finished a one-year, full time Master's this September after 23 years out of education, my experience is that a taught master's is not really that hard compared to undergrad degrees. I completed mine whilst also working full time in my business (50-60 hours per week, and its a long story why I had to do both together).

As buying books, not really sure that is necessary, as the library had everything covered in my case, and the online access to articles makes finding relevant material far far easier than my undergrad days, especially useful for finding references for concepts/idea we already know but can't quite remember where we got them from. This is especially helpful when working on assignments. That said, I did pick up some second-hand books from Oxfam, but they were dirt cheap ('Just and Unjust Wars' by Walzer cost me a quid).

Funding wise, most unis give discounts to former students, and some offer scholarships. Best to check on their websites. There's also the Master's loan, £10K a year, and repayable as in the undergrad loan.

The thing I found most difficult to get used to was that the preferred academic writing style seems to have changed compared to my undergrad days. Whereas we were discouraged to write in the first person in my days, this now seems to be the default style. Also, concluding statements are now often also expected in the introduction, which I found strange, but after the first taster essay, I was able to adjust.

Hop this helps.
posted
15-Nov-17, 01:47
edited about 4 minutes later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 4 days ago
Quote From Lilmissre:
Hi everyone !
Yes , as the title suggests , I have decided to enrol onto a masters course . I’ve been working for the past 10 years and am thinking of studying full time . I have however heard that it is super intense . Do any of you have any tips , hints or advice ( things you wish you’d done or known ) that You could pass on ?
For example : to buy or not to buy books , how you stayed organised , what kept you going , what was the most difficult part , any websites that are particularly helpful for students , grants and funding , things like that really .
I’d really appreciate it !


It certainly CAN be more intense than a full time job but very few students engage to that extent in my experience. Most will cruise through with a bit of cramming around exam time or dissertation submission date. It really depends on what you personally want to get out of it.

I don't recall much in the way of social interaction in my Masters year or during my PhD. It was a struggle to get quality family time at stages. For me, it was absolutely all about attempting to master something I enjoyed. I was, and remain, obsessive about that. I wouldn't have had it any other way but many people are uncomfortable without lots of social interaction.

Books are great as a reference source but there won't be time to read many of them cover to cover. I should have used them primarily as sources of high quality problems to solve. I am getting the opportunity to read them now but during the Masters/PhD? No chance. Most of my reading was journal articles. I should have made more use of Youtube videos and online lectures and tutorials.

Stay organised using lists and a traffic light system. High, medium and low priority. High priority gets done first, then medium and then low. To prevent things being left, all medium and low priorities get upgraded after 1 or 2 weeks. If they don't get done after that time, they get relegated to the blue list which is tucked away out of sight. A "rainy day list" if I run out of other things to do. Be ruthless about this or you will sink in a swamp of tasks.

My Masters and PhD were both fully funded so can't help you there.

A word of caution about following my "hyper intense" approach.
1) It's very isolating. I love this but most will not like it at all.
2) You'll find it hard to achieve these levels of technical intensity again. Work almost certainly won't do it. Work will bring intensity of hours and tasks needing done but will usually not provide the technical rush that throwing yourself properly into a Masters/PhD will give you.


Good luck.
posted
15-Nov-17, 21:59
edited about 8 seconds later
Avatar for Lilmissre
posted about 3 days ago
Thank you for your replies and for your tips! I really appreciate it !

Based on my very brief research on the internet I seem to remember reading about students who barely survived their masters . Some have attributed that to extensive reading lists ,numerous essays due and sheer exhaustion. Is it really that bad? How much reading do you do outside of the contact hours? Say if you had 10 hours contact time a week?

I have been teaching full time at a secondary school for over 10 years , and will have to most likely quit my job to pursue this, so I’m hoping that the intensity of the course won’t be too unfamiliar and that I can keep myself organised. I am very excited at the prospect of immersing myself selfishly in a subject that I find so fascinating (Climate Change and Sustainability)– a welcome break if I’m honest. I also hope that this course allows me to be part of something bigger than myself, and perhaps guide me to a different career path . I do hope I’m not being naïve though.

It is a taught masters, and having only just paid off my student loan I really do not want to succumb myself to that again. I have looked at the alternative guide to postgrad funding and not surprisingly, I’m either too old, or too far away to qualify for any of the grants available. So I will be diving into my life savings to fund this.

Can I ask, for those that have completed their masters degree- aside from a deeper understanding of an area you were passionate about , has your masters degree paid you dividends? Have you changed career paths, has it opened up more opportunities for you? Was it all in vain?
posted
16-Nov-17, 01:15
edited about 40 seconds later
Avatar for chaotic1328
posted about 3 days ago
My course had only 6 contact hours per weeks, all small group seminars. Plus there may be half an hour to an hour of meeting with the module leaders, but that is infrequent, and mostly only used prior to assignments or if we have any problems. On top of that, they expect you to do about 40-50 hours of reading. I am not sure if anyone really did read that much, but one of the advantages of being a (very!) mature student was that I had came across most of the concepts in some way already, and really mostly did about 5-10 hours of reading per week to gain more depth.

I did the course out of personal interest rather than any thoughts of a career change, so can't say that it's opened that many new doors. It has, however, enable me to apply for funding for a PhD, something that was not on my mind when I enrolled. So in that sense, it has opened at least one door that was previously closed to me, though I did not know that I wanted that particular door opened. I think you should go for it. You never know where it may lead, and even if the destination doesn't lead to anything new or exciting in terms of careers, the journey is very much part of the fun. It is never in vain!
posted
16-Nov-17, 05:28
edited about 1 minute later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 3 days ago
In my opinion, you need to treat the Masters as a full time job to get the most out of it. Whether that will mainly be reading or not will depend on your course.

It really depends on what you want to get out of the experience. You can get the classic mediocre pass or you can excel depending on how you approach it.

Exactly what do you want from it? Can you put a value on it?
posted
16-Nov-17, 06:54
Avatar for Lilmissre
posted about 3 days ago
You’re right . The experience will be what I make it . All very exciting .
Pm133- I don’t think I can put a value on it really but as I’m paying for the course myself , and leaving my job there’s an opportunity cost I guess!
posted
16-Nov-17, 08:46
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 3 days ago
Quote From Lilmissre:


Based on my very brief research on the internet I seem to remember reading about students who barely survived their masters . Some have attributed that to extensive reading lists ,numerous essays due and sheer exhaustion. Is it really that bad? How much reading do you do outside of the contact hours? Say if you had 10 hours contact time a week?

Can I ask, for those that have completed their masters degree- aside from a deeper understanding of an area you were passionate about , has your masters degree paid you dividends? Have you changed career paths, has it opened up more opportunities for you? Was it all in vain?


Don't be surprised if you find your Masters is very light touch and pretty easy, especially if you are coming from a school teacher background and probably already know a thing or two about reading, writing and the real work of work.

I suspect these people that think their Masters is difficult are used to attending a few lectures a week and thinking they are working hard.

My taught Masters was exactly the same as undergrad, as someone else said. I did zero extra reading, but that's because I was already burnt out from undergrad and probably should have taken time out before doing it, plus I was working 15-20 hours a week on top of a 25 hour a week contact time course, so wasn't much time for it anyway. You are supposed to spend 40 hours a week in total, contact time and your own time on BSc/BA or MSc/MA course.

I would say yes, my Masters paid off. It gave me an extra edge at getting on to my PhD (none of the other interviewees had one - probably won't happen these days though) and now I'm in a teaching role at the University where I did my PhD, so can't complain!
posted
16-Nov-17, 10:33
edited about 29 seconds later
Avatar for Lilmissre
posted about 3 days ago
Ah ok - there are 8 hours contact time for a full time masters compared to 6 hours for part time . I’ve opted for full time as the contact hours will be all over the place and very difficult to fit a teaching timetable around. I also thought that the experience may be a little less isolating in a full time course compared to part time - is that right ?
From the posts I’ve read on this forum It appears possible to temp here or there to earn a little bit of money without jeopardising my studies . That’s reassuring .
posted
16-Nov-17, 14:23
edited about 18 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 3 days ago
Quote From Lilmissre:
You’re right . The experience will be what I make it . All very exciting .
Pm133- I don’t think I can put a value on it really but as I’m paying for the course myself , and leaving my job there’s an opportunity cost I guess!


In which case you probably want to make sure you treat it to the 40 hours which ToL spoke about above so that you give yourself the best chance of not wasting your time and money.

There are no guarantees that this will be worth your time but equally there are no guarantees it won't be.
My philosophy is to do something you enjoy and commit like hell. At least then you can say you have achieved something worthwhile.
posted
16-Nov-17, 16:20
edited about 26 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 3 days ago
I think it's a better experience as full time student yes. And masters students in my department have the same opportunities to earn money teaching as PhDs do. People aren't supposed to work more than 6 hours a week on a full time course though. When I was in my writing up year, I tried to work as much as possible in the department, and the most I managed to get was 8-10 hours a week.
posted
17-Nov-17, 01:35
edited about 3 seconds later
Avatar for blocksof
posted about 2 days ago
You will be okay, I use to travel 75 miles each way 3 times a week. My heaviest teaching day was Monday 3 blocks of 2 hours. The other 2 2 hours lectures, but I spent those day covering the assignments and further reading. Just remember to bring food and teabags, milk and buy only hot water (10-20p) otherwise I think my tea addiction would be £20 a week.

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