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The differences between undergraduate and postgraduate study

Choosing to do a postgraduate degree is a big decision.

Whether you’re coming straight from your undergraduate degree or are returning to study after a period of working, there are some big differences to consider, but the leap from bachelor’s to master’s might not be as scary as you think.

1) Studying

Most undergraduate degrees are 3 to 4 years long, and during this time you’re likely to find yourself settling into certain study patterns. For example, how much reading you need to do, where and when you study best or how you approach assignments. Your typical postgraduate degree is only 1 year and this is significant for a few reasons. 

Firstly, it means that the course is a lot more intensive – you are covering a lot of content in a short amount of time. Although this might seem intimidating, it actually means that you get a much more direct education, focusing only on the key elements of your chosen subject.

It also creates a mysterious but positive change in your study habits. The work-load is heavy but you’ll probably find that instead of it weighing you down, you simply adapt. I have to admit that in my undergraduate degree I was a bit of a nerd so put a lot of time into studying, but even so, I have found that I am scheduling my time better, dedicating more hours to independent study and really leaning on my tutors for help and feedback.  

2) Funding

Another big difference between undergraduate and postgraduate life is funding. I often hear people dismiss postgraduate study because of costs. Whilst this is definitely something that should be carefully considered, it is important to know that there is funding out there. Whether you apply for a post-graduate loan, secure a scholarship or are eligible for an alumni discount, funding a master’s is possible.

Unlike with undergraduate degrees, the loan for postgraduate studies is not means-tested so anyone can apply for anything up to the maximum amount of £10,906 (although this figure changes frequently). This money is to help you cover fees, accommodation, and living costs, so it’s really important that you keep on top of your budgeting, and look at your costs thoroughly.

You can find out more information about postgraduate funding and budgeting in Emily’s blog on the Master’s Loan.

3) Lifestyle

When I came back to university for my master’s, one change that I was not expecting was the lifestyle. It may have only been a few months since I had finished my bachelor’s degree, but when I started my postgraduate I felt a lot older, a lot more mature and a lot more focussed. 

I think that one of the key motivations of undergraduate study is the experience, the independence of living alone, making new friends, and going out. By the time you get to postgraduate, you’ve probably done all of this and so your key motivation is to learn, to progress your career and fine-tune your research skills, and this gives you a new focus. 

Ultimately, postgraduate study is different from undergraduate study, but it is also one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, and a decision I would make over and over again. It is important to do your research but if you do decide to pursue a master’s degree, or have recently started one, we would love to hear about how you found the transition. 

This article is featured on Learning at Lincoln. 

Please note: This content was created prior to Coronavirus, and some things might be different due to current laws and restrictions. Please refer to the University of Lincoln for the latest information.