The Postgraduate Journey

Dear Prospective Postgraduate Student,

As I’m almost towards the end of my MSc I think I can confidently write this and hope you find it useful. I always relate more to real stories rather than just a list of how-to’s, so here is my story.

Ever since graduating from high school I lost confidence in my ability to succeed academically. While I didn’t fail high school, I did fail in the goals and expectations I have set for myself. To me that’s worse. Losing faith in yourself and your abilities is something you should stay away from because it’s a slippery slope. I completed my undergraduate degree with a 2:2 and that was another failure towards my goals.

I left university with very little confidence in my lab skills and my ability to get into the competitive postgraduate programme I wanted. I spent a year trying to get as much experience as I could in the field of genetic counselling before applying to 7 different universities. I got rejected by all of them. My work experience wasn’t enough and my 2:2 definitely didn’t help. One of the admission officers from one of the universities that rejected me suggested I apply for another MSc and after that try applying again. So I did exactly that.

I applied for another 6 universities sometime in May 2015. Two of them rejected me and I got accepted by 4, one of which is ranked in the top 10 universities in the UK. While I was excited to get into one of the top universities in the country, I was worried I’m not up to standard. So on the first day, I walked in with so much self-doubt it was unbelievable. I felt intimidated by everyone in the group because I knew if someone decided to rank us I’ll be at the bottom of the list. It didn’t stop me from trying my best.

During my first day of labs, I cried. After our first programming workshop, I went back and cried. During every lecture I wondered if I’ll make it to the very end. Before exams, I spent an average of 10 hours in the library studying. I finished the material 2 times. I tried my very best to make sure I knew everything. My exam results were a shock. I was never good at exams. I did pass my exams but I failed my goals once again.

But things took a turn when I started my research project. I was more comfortable around the lab. For a change, I understood exactly what to do and how to do it. I was confident in everything I was doing. It reflected well in my mid-project presentation and it’s grade. It reflected in the way I presented without any paper or being nervous. For a change I felt good about myself.

So here is my advice:

  • When you start your master’s degree, you’ll meet people from different backgrounds and experiences both educationally and work related. Never compare yourself to other students.
  • Trust that you have been accepted into the programme because they know your ability to succeed in it.
  • Set your own goals and work towards them. For me, my main goal was to give labs a chance, and I did exactly that. I learned to love them!
  • A little bit of panic is good for you. It’ll keep pushing you forward. Don’t give up at your weakest point.
  • Seize every opportunity presented to you. You never know where it will take you.
  • Read. Read a lot! It will help.
  • Document your journey, it’ll help you reflect on your progress. I keep a journal and already on the second one. Sometimes I go back and read how much I was stressed out at the beginning and where I am now.

You’ll soon start your next higher education journey. You might either be confident about it or worrying every single minute of the day. Whichever you are, just know, it too shall pass. Make the most out of it.

Signed, sealed, undelivered,

The one that’s nearly done