Should you do a postgraduate course?

Rachel Munford
Jun 14 · 4 min read

I’m finally returning to university to undertake a masters course but is it worth it?

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.” — Albert Einstein

He has a point.

The best education is the type that encourages students to think twice about the information they’re presented with. Instead of simply accepting the advice of teachers, students go out and search for it.

I, unfortunately for most of my lecturers, was this student at university. I questioned a lecturer about his reading list choices, I spoke up in class and engaged in real conversations with lecturers. I participated in my education with passion which is why I took so long to decide what course I would go back for.

I have applied for a postgraduate course nearly every year since I graduated

Graduating in 2016, I did automatically apply for a masters course in creative writing at a different university. It was a MLitt in creative writing. It was prestigious, it offered networking with publishing contacts and it had a diverse range of classes. It was a great course. They gave me an unconditional offer.

I didn’t go.

At the end of 2017/the start of 2018, I applied to do a psychology conversion masters. After experiencing frustration at the realities of communications work, I thought I wanted to contribute to society in a more meaningful way. The university gave me an unconditional offer.

I didn’t go.

This year, I applied to go back and do an undergraduate degree in photography. I worked for nearly 6 months on my application and portfolio. After a rather tense interview, I was rejected.

I then applied for a creative writing masters at my old university where I had studied as an undergraduate. I spoke with the lecturer and finally felt enthusiastic about actually doing it.

I got an unconditional offer and I accepted it.

Postgraduate study isn’t an easy choice

I decided not to attend both the psychology course and the creative writing course initially because of financial issues. As I live in Scotland, I couldn’t afford to make up the difference from what the loan would cover and what the universities were actually charging.

Due to Scottish students having not to pay tuition fees on undergraduate courses, there is a lack of student loans available for postgraduate courses maybe as there is only one student loans organisation. It wasn’t until after I graduated that the loan from student loans body was available for all postgraduate taught courses in Scotland. This was an obstacle for those who did not have savings or were not from an affluent family.

But it wasn’t just the financial side of things that stopped me from accepting any offers.

When I applied for a postgraduate course before I had even graduated from my undergraduate, I was doing it because I felt I had to. Everyone around me was applying for graduate roles or moving onto further study. It felt like the right thing to do but once I received my offer, I felt nothing.

It didn’t feel right and I decided it was for the best to not accept the offer.

When I applied for the psychology course, again I was doing it because I felt like I should apply. It was something that I should do because of not only my expectations of myself but also the expectations of family and friends even though no one had said as much to me directly.

But when I would tell people I wanted to be a writer, they wouldn’t get it but telling people you want to be a psychologist seems incredibly sensible when you’re academically inclined.

I rejected the offer because I knew in my heart it wasn’t for me and my boss at the time, despite offering flexible working, did not think it would be possible to keep me on if I attended the course.

As the role was something I needed to do in order to eventually do a PhD in Clinical psychology and was the first job I had truly enjoyed, I wasn’t happy with giving it up for something I didn’t think was the right fit anyway.

Why now?

Getting rejected from art school reminded me of what I enjoyed and did instinctively: writing. Visiting my old lecturer reaffirmed my interest and I applied eagerly.

Now that I’ve paid the deposit, I will definitely be going.

I couldn’t tell you precisely why I know this is the right thing for me to do but I just know. The course wasn’t available before and now I know roughly what I want to do, it feels like the next step in my career. However I do know that postgraduate study doesn’t fix all of your problems or make you a better person.

I know people who have studied PhDs who regret it and I’ve met people who have dropped out of undergraduates degrees and regretted it.

Education and academic study isn’t for everyone. It shouldn’t be the expected route for every teenager and early 20s adult. Everyone learns differently and studies differently. Everyone finds their careers in a different way.

Finding out whether postgraduate study is for you is your process, and your process alone. You need to assess the time in your life, your financial situation, your needs, your goals, and your skills.

Also you will know in your gut if it’s the right thing to do.

Just trust your instincts.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the education system

Rachel Munford

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Freelancer. Writer. Poet. Scottish.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the education system