Your Guide to Postgraduate Success: Academic Strategies and Insights

27 June 2024

Hamna Kizhakkiniyakath shares some hints and tips to help postgraduate students thrive academically, based on their personal experiences.

Whether you are a recent graduate or returning to academia after a break, postgraduate studies bring new challenges and opportunities. From the thrill of diving deep into your chosen field to the daunting task of balancing studies with everything else life throws at you, there is a lot on our plates. Many of us may be juggling family commitments or a job alongside our studies.

Alongside those challenges come some incredible opportunities for growth and discovery. You get to delve into subjects you are passionate about, connect with peers, and make groundbreaking contributions to your field.

Here are some strategies and insights to make the most out of your postgraduate journey:

Time Management

Unlike undergraduate studies, postgraduate programs demand a higher level of autonomy and self-discipline. Balancing coursework, research projects, teaching responsibilities, and personal life requires meticulous planning and prioritisation.

Lots of postgraduate students also get involved in extracurricular activities such as volunteering, part-time jobs, or leading student groups. Engaging in these activities enhances our experience, but we might struggle to balance them. It is tough when you have to choose between finishing an assignment and attending a club meeting or working your part-time job.

One approach is to create a structured schedule that includes dedicated time for both academic tasks and extracurricular activities. Prioritize your academic tasks with tools like the Eisenhower Matrix. This helps in allocating dedicated time slots for studying, attending classes, and completing assignments. Next, prioritise your extracurriculars around your academic responsibilities. Set achievable goals and include buffer time for unexpected delays.

It is also essential to learn to say no sometimes. While it is tempting to take on every opportunity that comes your way, it is okay to decline if it will overload your schedule. Focus on quality over quantity when it comes to extracurricular involvement.

Additionally, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Make sure to schedule time for relaxation, exercise, and socializing to prevent burnout.

Lastly, don't hesitate to reach out for support if you are feeling overwhelmed. Talk to your professors, advisors, or peers about your challenges. They may be able to offer helpful advice or resources. And remember, finding the balance is an ongoing process. Be patient with yourself as you figure out what works best for you.

Skill enhancement

Enhancing academic success involves not only individual effort. It also includes leveraging various resources and support systems available within UCL.

For those coming back to academia after a long break, the Notetaking Techniques Course would be incredibly helpful in reacquainting with academic study skills.

I found the Library Skills course to be a game-changer in my academic journey at UCL. Mastering the library's resources improved both my research skills and confidence in managing coursework and dissertation research.

PGT studies require a whole different level of writing compared to undergrad. It is no longer about memorizing facts; it is about delving into intricate concepts and articulating ideas with precision. That is where these writing courses come in handy. They give us the lowdown on academic writing conventions specific to our field.

UCL's Academic Communication Centre also have several workshops on academic writing, critical thinking and presentation skills. These are not just essential for academic success but also for professional development.

You might have study days spread out across the term, with little chance to hang out with your coursemates. This can leave you feeling isolated and worried about your coursework. However, there are coping mechanisms that can be employed to overcome these challenges. These include participating in societies, clubs and faculty-specific activities, seeking out study groups, and making use of networking opportunities.

Attending events organised by various societies as well as career fairs and panels enriched my academic experience at UCL. Moreover, getting involved within my faculty such as serving as a Sustainability Strategy Officer on the Green Impact Committee provided me with hands-on experience in implementing sustainability initiatives.

In a nutshell, it is all about striking that balance between seizing opportunities and mastering time management. By utilizing UCL's resources and managing time effectively, we can maximize our potential and make the most of our academic journey.