Deciding whether or not to do a Master’s degree is a big decision! But what is the difference?
My take on the Master’s students life:
In the table below I’ve noted down the key differences between my two degrees to try and make the distinction a bit clearer.
||PGT (Molecular Medicine)
|Application via UCAS
||Application to the University
|9 month academic year
||12 month academic year
|Build on assumption of low level knowledge
||Assume a high amount of previous knowledge
|Low expectation of technical skills
||Higher expectation of technical skills, improvement sought
|Highly supervised (laboratory)
||Supervision present but self-directed research
|Short laboratory project
||Extended laboratory project
|Guided opportunities for direction and feedback
||Expected to seek your own opportunities to ask questions and direct your learning
|Wide discipline knowledge
|Set hours (laboratory)
||Expected to manage your own time
|Lecturers/ researchers are seen as senior, with a clear power dynamic
||Lecturers/ researchers are still seen as senior but the dynamic is more of colleagues
|Research seminars may be a requirement in third year
||Increased invites to seminars/talks and lab meetings- expectation that they will be of interest
|Large class size
||Smaller class size
The big differences summed up:
- Master’s level learning comes with much higher expectations of your drive, knowledge and dedication.
- Master’s level learning is a lot more independent. You are in control of your own work and expected to manage your own time.
- Master’s level learning is intensive, with a heavier workload and faster pace than at UG level.
This progression is cheekily summed up below:
The main take-home message is that a Master’s degree should not just be something you undertake as you don’t know what to do, it in itself is a choice.
Motivation in these final weeks or months of your degree can be tricky. It’s hard enough finding the motivation during it but seeing the sun outside and thinking about a heavy workload isn’t exactly helpful! Here are five light-hearted nuggets of advice to help motivate yourself for the final push. (They might sound stupid but give them a go).
- This is going to sound odd but work out how much you have roughly spent on this degree so far. Even first years will be set back ~£13,000 on loans alone! Do you really want to waste all of that money by messing it up now? I didn’t think so! Whatever your situation you can still make a difference.
- Write down your goals on post it notes and note how your degree helps you get there! Put them all around your room! Regardless of whether it is ‘make my mum proud’, ‘get a PhD’ or ‘earn a lot of money’, a good degree is a step in the right direction.
- Do a big picture timeline. Think about where you are now, how you got there and where you want to be. It helped me realize that whilst knowing how a particular protein channel opened may not help in the long run, it is what is needed now to keep moving forward.
- Make a plan for once this semester/ your degree is over! Whether it is booking a holiday on a tropical island, organizing an end of semester night out or scheduling nothing for a whole week so you can binge on TV, it might help motivate you!
- Get competitive. As a twin I’ve always had a fierce competitive streak, if you are similar then use it to your advantage! Do an extra hour of revision to beat your course-mate, ask them what they’ve done so you can beat it, use their grades as motivation for the future. Get crazy with it!
Good luck with the rest of your degree, now go forth and conquer!
This one is for a bit of procrastination for me as much as you, as I look out the window at a sunny evening. I’m a postgraduate taught student so will be hanging around until August (and then probably staying on) and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ll be doing this summer in Sheff. Apart from labs of course.
What about Uni?
What happens to the SU in summer? Do nights out still happen? What’s open? All questions I have been pondering as the summer draws nearer. Well I’ve done a bit of research for us both:
- If you have work to be doing the IC open as usual. BUT bare in mind that you can only enter if your U-card is still in date.
- Volunteering projects are still run (although it is likely that you still need to be a student) and there is a GIAG programme. The Global Campus also arranges activities for students staying during the vacation with events from walking to pub trips.
- Lots of events run throughout summer at the University, ranging from classical concerts to learning how to ride a bike!
- The University Counselling service, Careers service and other key student services run but with slightly reduced opening hours!
The summer housing crisis (not the national one!)
Not applicable to all as most undergraduates will be sorted for summer housing! However, like most student tenancies my contract ends at the end of June so like most Master’s student have a housing dilemma. There are various options available for people in this position who have to fill a month and a bit:
- Stay in Sheffield. Simple just sign for another place. This is my current plan to take a year out and figure out my life.
- Crash at a mates. Got a mate that doesn’t need their room in Sheffield over summer, ask to use it and pay their rent?
- Find a room. There are plenty of websites out there for finding a room for the short-term so this shouldn’t be to hard!
- Move home with the occasional commute. Obviously this is very dependent on where you live and your course, for instance I’m from London and have to be in 9-5 each day so this is not feasible for me! But if you only have an extended piece to write you could potentially
That precious free time
Now onto something a bit more fun! What can you do with that summer free time in Sheffield? To put it bluntly, a lot.
- Tramlines. A great inner city festival with some great acts this year including The Libertines and Primal scream! I went last year and had an absolute blast.
- Day trips. Sheffield is pretty much in the middle of the country in lovely Yorkshire, so you’re spoilt for choice. The old city of York, metropolitan Leeds and Manchester and idyllic Bakewell are all on your doorstep. If you fancy some seaside there’s Whitby or if you fancy some outdoors there’s the Peak’s, Yorkshire Dales and North Yorkshire Moors all nearby!
- Doc Fest. Running the week after the semester ends is Sheffield’s DocFest with the one and only Louis Theroux attending this year! I’ve already got my ticket!
- Sheffield Pride. Support the LGBT+ community in Sheffield whatever your sexuality at a wonderful free festival!
These are just some ideas, obviously you can do all the standard stuff in (hopefully) some sunshine!
I hope this has helped or at least served as a welcome distraction!
Useful sites for finding accommodation:
The theory goes that after a 3 week break you should be full of life and ready to revise, submit assignments and get straight back into the swing in of the final semester. But any student or former student knows that this is not really the case, the first week back is often a bit of a nightmare. Most likely the Easter break was a mix of gorging on chocolate, doing less revision than planned, catching up with ‘home friends’ and perhaps even having a mini holiday abroad. Or it may be that swamped in deadlines you didn’t really have a real break at all.
With that in mind here are some tips from me to you on how to get those creative juices running and maximise the revision time that’s left and get back into the swing of things, with a focus on wellbeing.
- Get some exercise. Be it a stroll around Weston Park, a half day in the Peaks or trip to the gym. Exercise has been shown to help lower stress levels and refresh your mind.
- Get a good sleeping pattern. Aim for around 8 hours each day, and tailor around your schedule and preferences to be an early bird or night owl. To enable this to actually happen you want to avoid screens for about an hour before you want to sleep and avoid caffeinated drinks after dinner.
- Put down the highlighter. A controversial opinion but some research indicates that the go-to stationary item may be less effective than thought, isolating instead of connecting information.
- Ditch the phone. If you’re anything like me having your phone on the desk is a distraction in itself, you want to check your messages, twitter, instagram and before you know it FOMO has kicked in and half an hour is gone. There are loads of great distraction minimising apps available (check the end of this post) if having your phone in another room is too much.
- Take proper breaks. Not ‘fake breaks’ that consist of eating and reading slightly slower or going to the toilet. In my opinion a proper break needs to be at least 20 minutes long and should occur every 40-90 minutes depending on what you’re doing. Think of all the things you can do; catch up on your favourite tv, crazy dance to Beyonce, have a catch up with a friend the possibilities are endless. (Just don’t let it go on too long).
- Don’t compete with other people. This can happen all too easily as the conversation moves on to revision, who cares if they’ve done 5 hours already or spent all night in the IC. You don’t know how effective it really was and everyone is different.
Good luck with that revision!
Top distraction avoidance (free) apps:
- Focus keeper.
- Power Focus.
- Study break.
Feeling like things aren’t going your way? Feeling sleep-deprived? Feeling like you want to give up? You aren’t alone! University IS a stressful time and recent studies have shown that student mental health is suffering as a result. With a heavy workload, exams, financial concerns, personal circumstances and other factors all running parallel you have a lot to deal with. This post is an attempt to give some three real pieces of advice from someone who has seen some dark times whilst at Uni. Helpful links and extra reading are given at the bottom!
1. Give yourself a pat on the back. Whether you take this literally or not is up to you but seriously don’t be too hard on yourself. You have already got the grades to be at a Russell Group University, made the big decision to attend University with all the associated changes. This is often overlooked especially if you have a lot of friends and family members that are at or have attended University. You are doing seriously well so far in life.
2. Don’t be afraid to seek support. Regardless of your problem, whether it is concerns about money, a potential mental health problem or a falling out with friends get some advice. Every person has a support network around them of differing levels containing a mix of friends, family, University staff, other students, online forums. Decide which is best for you and talk it through. If you think it’s likely to affect your academic performance let the University know as soon as possible!
3.Take time for you. Sometimes it can feel as if you have a mountain of work on top of you and another mountain of life worries. This can really be mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting so you need to take some time out. Find out what helps you relax or what you enjoy doing, for me it’s exercise and drawing. Dedicate some time for this and you might start feeling more relaxed.
Sources of support at University:
External sources of support:
Without a doubt University can be a stressful experience, sometimes you probably want to cry when thinking about the amount of work you have to do and sometimes you just ignore it in the hope it goes away.
In my 3 and a bit years of study I’ve learnt a bit about dealing with the stress of Uni work and conquered the dreaded dissertation, so here are my tips…
An actual photo of me after my dissertation.
- Easy to say in hindsight but don’t leave it all to the last minute, make sure you spend enough time planning, researching, writing and proofreading. Say you have 1 month to complete an essay, I would ideally spend 2-3 weeks planning and researching and 1-2 weeks writing and proofreading. Your stress levels will never peak above a panic threshold with this approach and you might actually hand it in early.
- Realistically, few will manage this. So if you do find yourself with a few days to write 2000 words you need to get practical. Ask yourself some key questions. Break it down into more manageable bits and it will seem less daunting.
- What do I currently understand?
- What do I need to understand?
- How much can actually be read in the time left?
- What sections am I going to use?
- Am I answering the question?
- Have I referenced?
Follow these questions through for a (slightly) less terrifying experience.
3. Plan ahead. At the beginning of each semester you should roughly know what assignments will be given and roughly when, unfortunately this depends on the organisation of your department. If you know what’s coming it can’t surprise you, simple!
4. And RELAX. Don’t forget to do breaks to do the things you love. Whether that is a few hours walking in the Peaks, playing video games for a few hours or having a nice coffee and cake. If you feel overwhelmed you won’t be productive.
Good luck in battling through your Uni Work!
I only have a few months left of University and simply typing that out is making me worry. Suddenly it feels like I’m going through UCAS all over again with applying to graduate schemes and jobs and obsessively checking my email for a reply. You realize that you might not be as prepared for the ‘real world’ as you thought…
What are the main options?
I’m a Master’s student so have had this problem before, based on what friends have done there seems to be four general routes.
- Getting a place on a graduate scheme: a lot of these have already closed for applications with a seemingly ridiculous amount closing in November. There are still a lot out there from HR to technology to strategy, so don’t fear! Really have a think about what you want though, do you want rotations to provide a wider breadth of experience? Do you want a strong training scheme? What do you want out of it?
- Going straight into a graduate level job: you don’t get the same training and breadth as a graduate scheme but you do have a secure job. This is ideal if you know exactly what you want to do but can seem daunting as everywhere seems to expect a crazy amount of experience. Don’t let this put you off though you probably have more experience than you give yourself credit for!
- Postgraduate study: This was my choice and comes in many different forms. You can pursue a taught Master’s, a research Master’s, a PhD, a vocational course such as a PGCE or perhaps a graduate entry second degree. You really need to think about why you want to do it and whether now is the right time.
- Having a break: a very tempting option after the stress and strain of doing a degree, especially if you didn’t take a gap year! This seems to be different for everyone with some people travelling, some people working in part-time roles or old summer jobs and some people moving home whilst they figure out what they want to do in life (for now at least). This can be a great chance to re-evaluate your values and gain more valuable experience.
There is no right or wrong answer you really need to do what’s best for you! But here is a bit of an action plan to help:
- Visit the careers service. you can get solid careers advice, help with applications, CV reviews and so much more. A good place to start.
- Think about what you want out of a job. What are you motivated by? What support do you want? What do you want to do day to day? Does location matter?
- Think about your welfare. Do you need a break? In particular is the commitment to a 3 or 4 year long PhD right for you now?
- Think about what skills and experiences you have and how can they be demonstrated. Do you need to develop them more?
- RELAX. You are young and have achieved a lot already, give yourself a break and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
Useful services at the University:
GOOD LUCK IN WHATEVER YOU DECIDE!
Yes you guessed it, I’m now even older. I’ve turned the big 22 today in fact. Whether I’m wiser is up for debate but I thought I’d share some thoughts on this day.
In my final hours as a 21 year old I finally attended a workshop…
So yesterday I’m proud to say I attended my first 301 workshop, presentation skills. Shocking, I know, considering that I’m an intern here! With a presentation coming up for a graduate scheme and component of a course module I thought this would be the perfect time to attend, and based on this I’m definitely signing up for the Academic Skills Certificate!
Despite working here I wasn’t that sure about what to expect in terms of content when I arrived, when you’re printing the resources you don’t really take it all in you see. The session was very well-organised with a logical structure and lots of great content. There was a real emphasis on planning the presentation to suit the purpose, something that I admit I have often overlooked. Here are my three main takeaway bits of gained knowledge:
- Planning a presentation is a process that begins before loading up PowerPoint (who knew- I’ve always been a fan of starting by opening PowerPoint). You need to consider the audience, topic and time limit at all times to guide this process- this can help you gauge the level of detail needed, how many points to include and how much should be on each slide.
- The presentation should aim to have 3 main topics. These topics should be indicated at the beginning and summarised at the end. This is an optimum level of key ideas that allows you to go into sufficient detail in any setting and retain the audience’s attention. It’s important to think about the order these topics are presented in and how you will link them together during the presentation.
- Visual cues can have a big impact, but are to be used wisely. I knew that a presentation shouldn’t consist of just text but hadn’t really considered the effective use of visuals, and how they relate to verbal and vocal information and what they add. A slide with a well-used image that sums up the key points can help people take in the information more compared to a slide with text and a generic/ cartoon image. It made me think about so much of the data I need to present could be displayed visually with no text and still get the point across, and how both text and images can be a hinderance in presenting.
(Did you get the link- 3 main takeaway points, see I did learn.)
My advice? Attend these workshops, even if you go in a bit arrogant like me, assuming that you know the subject, you will come out with an altered way of thinking or new thing to consider.
The real question here is why not? This job has huge benefits and is, in my opinion, a very good student job in a friendly environment. You won’t be dealing with drunk people trying to get a discount on drinks in Pop Tarts and you won’t have to deal with bosses that don’t understand that you have to go home during the holidays.
So without any further hesitation, here are my top 10 reasons (in no order) for applying.
- You get workplace experience. Trust me this is important: I recently went to a graduate scheme open evening where they said that having any job puts you at an advantage as you learn how to work in a team, juggle responsibilities and deal with people effectively.
- You learn more about how the University works as a whole. I have seriously learnt so much more about how the University operates as a whole, the idea of internal post was something I hadn’t even thought of before!
- You get a lot of experience in a customer focused role. Unless you are working alone in the Arctic or something you will have to interact with people. This job will give you those examples to put in job applications and on your CV. Thinking about it even in the Arctic you would need to communicate to get supplies, so ha every job!
- You can use your social media skills and develop them further. I have learnt so much already about using social media for promotion! Hootsuite is absolutely amazing I now use it for Women’s Cricket! These skills are key in a world that relies on social media.
- Everyone here is really lovely. Like seriously. Everyone. There isn’t anyone that I dislike. It’s a fun working environment.
- You develop a good telephone manner. This will come in handy for those call-backs and telephone interviews.
- You learn about all that 301 has to offer and wish you’d come before. I personally did not know that 301 also ran the SURE scheme.
- The pay is above the national minimum wage. This helps a lot as a student the extra pounds an hour make a big difference.
- They get that you are a student. If you have deadlines they understand, you go home at semester holidays, you can swap shifts with other interns.
- The working hours will still allow you to have fun at Uni! 4 hours will give you that extra £35.72 (to save you doing the maths) + holiday pay a week. Which is more than decent. Whilst only taking up part of one day of your week.
So get that CV, cover letter and blog post in ASAP. Hint- use pictures and diagrams in the blog post and don’t forget to draw from your own experience.
University an odd one in my opinion. You make the transition into a proper adult (at least legally), and have to deal with a whole host of new problems! What is budgeting? Who will I live with next year? What is a seminar? As a Master’s student approaching her 4th Christmas as a student the time sees to have flown by! So here are some top tips to make the most of all that Sheffield has to offer! (We are the #1 student union for a reason)
- Visit the Careers Service. It is never too early or too late. They offer a whole range of help from looking over CVs to having a career meeting to discuss your future. You might as well pop in between lectures, you’ll be thankful later on!
- Look for opportunities targeted at students at the University and do them, whether it is networking with employers on campus, taking part in the SURE scheme or becoming a campus guide. Build your skills and experience.
- Start noting skills and experiences down. This is so underated. You could do it in a notepad, write ideas on post it notes, create a spreadsheet, just make sure you do it! So much time would have been saved on job applications and postgraduate applications if I had done this! What have you learnt? What skills does it show?
- Do some volunteering. It can be doing something you enjoy, a chance to gain some experience (e.g. working with children, conservation) or simply a chance to give back during some free time! It looks great and feels even better!
- Join a society! This is honestly the best decision I’ve made at Uni, you make friends for life and have a lot of fun with a shared interest.
- Explore Sheffield! Sheffield has loads to offer from scenic areas, cute shops and amazing food places (the Peddlers market is an absolute fave). You might as well get to know the city you’re living in, who knows where graduate life will take you!
Oh and don’t forget to have fun before the 9-5 life becomes yours!