Author: Flavia Olivieri -
Maintaining a sound work-life balance, while completing an MSc degree, is essential - it will allow you to complete your degree while protecting your mental health and wellbeing. Prior to starting, it might benefit you to self-assess and understand what it is that you want to achieve in 12 months, besides completing your degree: A distinction? Meet new people? Learn a new language? Work part-time? Below is some advice that I offer based on my own experience in completing two MSc degrees.
If you strive for top marks, be prepared to spend a lot of time on academic papers - gaining the comprehensive, in depth understanding required to critically analyse a topic will take some time. If this sounds daunting to you, then possibly it’s not what you need (or you may want to reconsider your degree subject). In my first MSc degree, I chose to only focus on studying; the result was one of the most intellectually stimulating years in my life, through which I became a real critical thinker. Rewarding as it was, if I could go back I would put less pressure on myself and enjoy the social side of being a student a bit more.
The above is especially true if you are not striving for academic excellence - nor should you feel compelled to. Completing an MSc degree is, in itself, an outstanding achievement, and employers are unlikely to prioritise a distinction over a second class grade at MSc level. University years are unique; in few other environments will you have the repeated opportunity to interact with a wide range of individuals. Socials, freshers week and joining societies can facilitate this. Most sports clubs offer regular activities which will help you bond with your team, there are biweekly nights out in the SU, and more in town. Being sociable is rewarding in a totally different way, in that you will get to meet an interesting and diverse variety of people. Once you start working, you will likely yearn going out spontaneously at 5pm on a Tuesday, so my advice as a young graduate is to enjoy the fun side of university.
If you would like to earn some extra money, the SU website offers a plethora of opportunities, including zero-hour contracts, which allow you to take full control of your working life and balance it with your studies. Platforms such as MyTutor can also be an option, since it allows a flexible working schedule that caters to student needs. Working alongside an MSc degree is feasible, an excellent way to boost your CV and gain new skills. For example, as a student ambassador I participated in live webinars, interact on social media with prospective students, guide campus tours and more.
No matter what it is that you want to gain from your 12 months as an MSc student, it is important that you organise yourself. Keeping on top of the degree is hard work, but by no means impossible. No matter what you choose to do, don’t place too many expectations on yourself. Joining two societies, learning Japanese, achieving a high grade and going out every week may be too much. It might be useful to mentally narrow down on what it is that you want to gain from your university experience, which will allow you to make the most of your experience. Always remember that your student years will give lifetime memories, lifelong friends and an enriched mind. Good luck with your journey!