Becoming a postgraduate student brings with it challenges that require one’s vigilance to overcome them.
In undemanding terms, a postgraduate learner is anyone who is studying a post-graduate course, including a master’s course, a post-graduate diploma, an MPhil and Ph.D., that requires an undergraduate or Bachelor’s degree as part of the entry requirements.
As much as going back to the university is ostensibly intimidating, the rewards are worth the sacrifice and the sleepless nights.
The most striking thing can be the trepidation that one goes through particularly on the first day at university. As for me, the fear of being among new faces, partaking a new curriculum caused quite a lot of uneasiness.
At the post-graduate level, you meet students who have been to different universities for their bachelor’s degrees or several other qualifications.
You also come in contact with scholars who possess great intelligence and even some who struggle with their studies.
At the undergraduate level most of the students will be from a similar background and the way they respond during lectures lacks diversity at most whilst at post-graduate level the story is completely different. Students are highly opinionated and exercise academic freedom and maturity.
At this level, students are not only taught to know certain issues but to think outside the box and to be practical in their application of knowledge. Lecturers are there to lead, guide, and provide mentorship.
The need to give attention to one’s studies cannot be overemphasized and it is also imperative at this stage to take time to view the long-term picture by networking with people in the industry or area one would like to enter after finishing their studies.
Depending on how the lecturers initiate their lectures, the first moments can be exasperating and fear-provoking. You are bombarded with “unnecessary verbosity”, rich jargon and course outlines as well as housekeeping issues.
It is the amount of work at this level that has in most cases kept me under serious pressure denying me the opportunity to mingle and socialise with friends in the neighbourhood.
In a single semester, you can be studying just 4 courses however the stuff to be covered in those courses is just voluminous.
You are expected to become a voracious reader, possessing that penchant and appetite for information and academic pertinence.
Whilst at an undergraduate level over 100 students can make up a class at post-graduate level numbers can be as low as 10 making it unavoidable for one not to participate.
The lecturer can possibly know everyone by name and anybody can be asked to give a contribution during a lecture and the expectation is huge.
The very moments that have sent a quiver down my spine have come when I am asked to prepare for a presentation. This gives me sleepless moments. Being the focal person in the lecture as a presenter brings with it a sense of déjà vu.
It appears as if examination time is knocking on the door. At this level, lecturers really mean business and they expect you to be confident and show that you have satisfactorily understood the key concepts of the course and thus have to be done in a scholarly manner using the language germane to the course or discipline under study.
Every word that you utter in your presentation can either impact positively or negatively on your course work mark.
Due to smaller numbers, there is no room for one to evade presentations.
Depending on how colleagues have prepared for the presentation which in most cases they do, you can get into a quagmire if there are those who “shoot with big guns”.
It is most likely that you can be asked questions whose answers can actually expose your presentation. This is the most maddening moment and its worse if you are the first presenter.
A good presentation normally builds momentum for the class and there should be no room for disappointment.
At the post-graduate level, an assignment also has a propensity to cause one sleepless night and heightened anxiety. Most lecturers require meticulously researched assignments showing that the student has consulted several credible scholars.
This they will see in your assignment and reference list.
Coming up with an introduction for an assignment can be a thorny experience. This is the crux of the whole matter for an expertly done introduction that will help in shaping the rest of the assignment.
In sharing my experiences as a post-graduate scholar I feel duty-bound to strike a chord in the minds of colleagues not to enervate but keep shining and pulling for the destination is reachable.
Remember to study while others are sleeping, work while others are wishing and persist while others are quitting.
Luis Galarza says it well: “Success is what comes after you stop making excuses.”