I thought this would be a good post to do because I know a few of my friends finished their undergraduate degree and were unsure about whether or not to apply for a postgrad. My comparisons of the two are based on my experiences with my two courses and consequently, if you have also gone on to do a postgrad, you may have had different experiences. If so, I’d love to hear more comparisons so please leave a comment!
Undergrad degree: BA Combined Honours in Psychology with French, Newcastle University
Postgrad degree: MSc Psychology, Northumbria University
- Contact Time
Postgraduate degrees need to cater for people from all backgrounds, not just young people who have finished their undergrad. Consequently, the contact time tends in to be one bulk, for example a whole day of back to back lessons with one to two hours break for lunch.
This is so that people can still work regular hours alongside studying and it allows parents to keep a regular schedule with child care. Some undergraduate degrees already have back to back contact time if they have lots of classes , for example my good friend and old housemate, Callum, studied Maths and he had long days in uni.My undergraduate degree was a Combined Honours programme and consequently, my contact hours were spread out across the week.
Although I like full days of classes because it means I get the rest of the week to organise myself and take the weekend to visit family or James, I find it quite intense concentrating for 4 hours straight from 09:00 until 13:00.
I definitely have a lot more assessments this year for my postgraduate course and they are back to back. During my undergrad degree, I would have several exams and maybe one or two essays due. The exams would always be in the general academic exam weeks but the essays would usually be a couple of weeks before or after so that we didn’t have too much due in the same period. Now, I have lots of assessments spread out across the year but it means that just as I’m finished writing one, I have to start on the next and during April and May I will need to be writing two to three assignments at the same time to keep on top of everything.
The word count for reports is also higher than undergraduate essays. I was never asked to write an essay more than 2500 words in my undergrad but for my postgrad, some of my reports are 3000-4000 words. Occasionally we have a partial report which is 1500 words and it feels like a breeze!
- Social life
For an undergraduate degree, students tend to live fairly close to campus so it’s very easy to call someone for a quick, spontaneous coffee catch up. Postgrad students could live anywhere as long as it is within a commutable distance and most tend to work alongside studying more than undergrad students. Consequently, it’s not as easy to socialise unless you plan to go for a drink or lunch on the day of contact hours or arrange something in advance.
Starting a postgraduate degree that is not taught in the same university as your undergrad also means having to make new friends and even if you stay in the same city, most of your friends from your undergrad move away to start work or move back home. In a way, having less opportunities to go out means I get more work done but I definitely miss my friends.
- Tuition Fees
Unlike undergrad fees, you have to pay these up front. You can still apply for a student loan, but you only get one lump sum and that has to cover living costs and tuition fees. This is why most people work alongside studying. You can opt to pay your tuition fees in either one, three or monthly installments. Different courses have different prices and if you opt to go part-time then your fees are even more spread out and you have more time for part-time work.
I decided to post this now as I know a lot of deadlines for applying to postgrad courses are coming up so I thought it might be useful before any final decisions are made. Please do let me know if you have any other experiences and comparisons of undergrad vs. postgrad, I’m really interested to hear them!