The Biggest Differences Between Postgrad And Undergrad

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I finished my undergraduate degree at the end of 2015, and since then, I’ve been enrolled in three different postgraduate degrees at two different universities.

So yeah, you could say I’m a bit of an expert when it comes to postgrad life. These are the things I’ve found are the biggest differences between undergrad and postgrad life. 

#1 The Flexibility

Almost all of my classes have been evening ones, or at least had evening classes as options for those who can’t make the daytime ones. This approach acknowledges that the majority of postgrad students are working in addition to studying and makes it possible for students to work full-time around their studies if they need to. By comparison, the majority of my undergrad classes took place during the day, making 9-5 jobs practically impossible.

You’ll also find that a lot of people are studying part-time and taking their time to finish their degree. There’s less pressure to graduate by a certain date, or graduate with a particular cohort, as everyone’s doing their own thing.

My path to graduation is evidence of this lack of pressure (and also evidence of my own indecisiveness, let’s be real). I started out in a Master of Media Practice at Sydney Uni, moved to UTS to do a Master of Advanced Journalism, and then back to Sydney for a Master of Publishing, which I’ll be finishing in November. Changing degrees so many times is pretty unconventional, but taking three years to finish isn’t, as everyone’s going at their own pace. 

#2 You’ve Already Been There, Done That

By the time you’ve reached postgrad, you know everything there is to know about essays, exams, group assignments, and time management. You know exactly how many lectures you can afford to miss, or just how many hours before the deadline you need to give yourself to write an essay! Also, longer essays and more complicated assignments aren’t as intimidating anymore, because your undergrad degree prepared you for this.

If you stayed at the same university for your postgrad degree, it makes things even easier. You know where all the classrooms are, where to get the best coffee, and which part of the library is the most likely to have tables available. 

#3 Lecturers Are More Like Your Friends

Because you’re a little bit older, and the nature of postgrad study means a fair amount of independence is assumed, your lecturers and tutors are almost like your friends. They’re no longer intimidating adults who hold your fate in their hands. Now you can talk openly with tutors and feel comfortable in the classroom.

Being treated as equals also means they’re more understanding of the fact that life can get in the way, and you can approach them and talk candidly about issues that have come up and are affecting your study.

#4 Your Peers Are More Mature

You’ll meet a fair few people in postgrad courses who’ve returned to university later in life, but there are a good number of students who are in their 20s too. This mix means everyone is generally more mature, and things like managing group work and assigning tasks are easier, because everyone is happier to accept responsibility and work accordingly.

 #5 Your Perspective On Uni Will Change

For me, I decided to do a Masters because I was worried about the lack of job opportunities my Arts degree would provide. So studying has become more like pre-employment training than what it was during my undergrad degree — which was an excuse to learn as many different things as possible.

This also means that I’ve been applying myself (I know, I sound like such an Adult) way more than I used to, and my marks reflect that. The essays I write relate to the industry I want to go into, and they feel more relevant to my life than an essay on the American War of Independence (no shade to the history department, I still love you!)

Postgrad study isn’t for everyone, and the amount of debt you’ll acquire means it’s a commitment you’ll want to seriously consider before taking on, but it was the right choice for me. It gave me perspective, experience and training that I didn’t get in undergrad.

Cathy Bouris is a freelance writer, postgrad publishing student, and creator of the Young Australian Writers Facebook group.