Thursday, August 14, 2014

Being a Part-Time Postgraduate

jakusic_dino_21_03_2013.jpgby James Horrocks, Warwick Postgraduate Study:

Part-time study is an excellent way to combine postgraduate education with the needs of a family, career, or just your personal finances, but it is important to find a study-life balance and engage with the rest of the PG community.

I chose to study both my MA and start my PhD part-time for financial reasons.

Even with a very accommodating mother accepting another member of the “clipped wing generation” back into the familial home there was no way I could afford to study without also working, at least part-time.

So I have combined my studies over the last few years with a plethora of jobs selling Terry Pratchett to mothers of young teens, coffees to impatient academics and Jaeger bombs to thirsty undergrads, before joining the team right here at Warwick Library

The main skill any part-time postgraduate needs to master is time management. It is essential to make time not just for study but for everything that goes along with being a post-graduate at Warwick as well as the rest of your life.

My first piece of advice is to make sure you have a good diary or diary app. I would stick with a single diary for all your activities, study and non-study, but maybe pick up a couple of highlighters for colour coding!

Once you have the unmovable activities in place (important seminars, shifts at work, picking up the kids) it becomes much easier to see where you might have the time for more flexible activities (reading key texts, going to the pub) and fill in the rest with the non-essentials (eating, sleeping, breathing).

You, more than your full-time peers, have to be very aware of deadlines. It isn’t easy to bash out an assignment last minute whilst on your late shift at The Varsity or trying to get darling Thomas to just shut the hell up and go to sleep. So make sure you’re ahead of the curve.

Schedule in time to work long before the due date and don’t assume it’ll only take an hour. I like to set false deadlines for myself just in case something comes up last minute. There’s nothing like the Schadenfreude of watching your frantic full-time friends panic writing the evening before an assignment is due whilst you put your feet up and watch Goggle Box with a glass of wine.

Get involved in the PG community as much as you can. Come onto campus, spend one or two afternoons a week working from the PG Hub or Research Exchange and organise meet ups and study sessions with your fellow students (it’s a lot easier to get things done away from the accoutrements and distractions of the rest of your life).

Attend as many relevant workshops and events as you can get to and make sure you come along to social gatherings too. We’d love to meet little Thomas at one of our PG Hub Cultural Events so bring him along, or drop him off at the on campus nursery.

It isn’t always easy finding the time to be a student but it is an essential part of the Warwick experience and part of what makes postgraduate study here so worthwhile.

This last one is tricky but try not to feel guilty about taking breaks. It is the curse of the part-time student to always feel like you should be doing something else and I never really get a weekend but the odd afternoon off is essential for your own well-being, schedule these into your diary too.

Being a part-time postgraduate isn’t always easy but it can really be worthwhile. Sometimes it can feel like you aren’t really a proper student but don’t let this stop you from getting involved with the rest of the PG community.

Warwick also has some great Support Services to support you so make sure you take advantage of them if you need to and drop in and see us in the PG Hub or Research Exchange.

What are your concerns/experiences of part-time study? What advice would you share with someone about to begin a part-time course?

About Author

James Horrocks is a Wolfson Research Exchange and Postgraduate Hub Assistant at Warwick University Library and a PhD Candidate in English (Creative Writing) at Birmingham City University. He writes and performs as Ted Bonham.

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