Blog post

Adjusting to postgraduate study

I’m Laura and I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Derby in Event Management. I arrived in the cold, Derbyshire Peak District hills at the Buxton campus on a snowy, Monday in January 2009. I loved my degree and learned so much. I met so many wonderful people (including my now husband).

By Laura Stroud - 20 May 2020

Ten years later, I decided to progress on to postgraduate study and applied for an MA in Creative Writing as I wanted to develop my passion and learn new skills. I enjoyed my time at the University of Derby so much the first time it seemed like a natural place to progress.

What’s different about being a postgraduate student?

Here are a few things I’ve learned as I’ve spent the last few months digging into my postgraduate degree. These things have helped me adjust to postgraduate study and really get the most from my degree.

1. It’s down to you. The books slam onto my desk as the combined weight of their pages makes a loud ‘whack’ sound. The reading you are expected to complete as part of your degree is extensive. It’s as you would expect. It’s how you are going to learn but there is no one telling you when, where and what you should read. It’s down to you to explore and research. To have fun and to learn.

If you turn up to class and haven’t examined the pre-reading material, you miss out, no one else. You can’t join in the lively classroom debate or increase your confidence by sharing your voice and your ideas. It’s all down to you. To plan, to manage your time, and to put the effort in that’s required to learn something new. Your postgraduate study will be hard, but it will be worth it.

2. It goes so fast. As an undergraduate student, the three years of study seem to stretch out in front of you like an intimidating and exciting obstacle course. It feels like you can take your time. Exploring and adjusting slowly, taking small steps or big leaps. There is plenty of time for mistakes, reflection, and success. Yet in postgraduate study, everything feels very condensed. It’s very fast and the learning curve is steep. But that’s why it is so exciting.

The challenge of advanced study is what makes it so worthwhile. The pace of growth is so quick, sometimes you surprise yourself by how much you are learning and growing and changing. Learning to adjust to this pace will help you succeed at postgraduate study.

3. You are studying for different reasons. For me, my undergraduate degree was about meeting new people, learning life skills and getting a job. The reasons for choosing my postgraduate degree were very different. This has been a big adjustment for me. I wanted to be really clear on my reasons for studying and what I wanted to get from my degree this time around. This has allowed me to focus on specific things I want to achieve. Such as networking. I’ve made so many great connections and I keep adjusting how I’m moving through my degree to make sure it’s meeting the reasons why I signed up for it.

My decision to continue with my studies and complete a postgraduate degree was not a decision I made lightly. But my commitment and renewed approach have allowed me to tackle my studies with gratitude and enthusiasm, to try and make the most of every opportunity

About the author

Laura sits on a sofa and smiles at the camera

Laura Stroud
MA Creative Writing graduate

Laura studied MA Creative Writing at the University of Derby and now teaches creative writing at Derbyshire Writing School. She also writes creative non-fiction at Stories From a Backpack.