The Postgraduate Survival Guide
There’s lots of advice for those starting college life, but there’s no survival guide for postgraduates – until now
In August, the nation’s collective attention turns to the Leaving Cert results and the panic for college places. With reliable precision, The Irish Times and other serious and important newspapers swoop in to provide reams of advice for the terrified, excited, wide-eyed innocents who are about to be packed off to very big school: “How to survive college”; “100 things you need to know about student life”; “What kind of student are you?”
The poor graduate student barely gets a look-in. Sure, don’t they know all about college life already? But graduate life is a very different beast, and it needs its own special treatment.
The graduate student is jaded from years of crisps for breakfast, exhausted from 18 years of non-stop exams, and weary from the ever-present suggestion of damp. Sure, a small part might be clinging onto the comfort blanket of student life, and indeed some will be desperately batting off the horrors of a real job. For most graduates, however, it’s time to move on; they just want some money now.
But it’s tough. Things have changed. A third-level degree isn’t enough anymore. Employers want more . And so, those 18 years of education don’t come to an end. Instead of being propelled into the real world, these twentysomethings are increasingly signing up for another year, or two, or three, or four, of studying.
In 2013, there were 42,375 undergrad graduates and 17,647 postgrad graduates. These numbers are expected to rise in coming years.
Postgraduate life is not easy. At postgraduate level, there are fees to be paid, and most parents can’t continue to bankroll their no-longer-so-young geniuses. And there’s real, intense and exhausting work to be done: no more four-month long summer breaks; the library owns you and your summers now.
If all this seems a bit cynical, it’s because I spent (let’s just say three) years eking out a living during an interminable MLitt (research master’s) in UCD. Undergraduate life was immensely fun, but at master’s level, the student politics and the college papers and the parties and the buzz of college life became very distant and I felt too old to stay involved.
So, here is my long overdue Postgraduate Survival Guide, guaranteed to keep you healthy and sane during these oft-frustrating years. With a bit of luck, you’ll be in and out in a year.
Postgraduate is to undergraduate as sixth year is to first year
Remember the start of your Leaving Cert year, and how superior you felt to the little kids starting secondary school? Postgraduate students can relive these feelings.