So you've graduated: Now what?

School's out forever, and you may be wondering what to do next. Postgraduate study could be the answer says Emily House, in the second of four guides to the first days of the rest of your life

As students we are all expected to have some idea of our lives after university. After all, we chose our degree path to fit, right? Well, unfortunately not all of us are that decisive.

While some of us have a clear plan of what lies ahead after graduation, others have no idea and with our final years of education fast approaching it’s about time we made up our minds.

This four-part series will look at the most popular choices for students when finishing their courses: travel, postgraduate study, internships, and work. We will be looking at what each of these involves; the pros, the cons and most importantly if this is the path best suited to you, providing all the information you need to make an informed decision about life after university.

Postgraduate study

What it involves

Much like undergraduate courses, postgraduate courses can be undertaken full-time or part-time, and range in price depending on your chosen institution and discipline. Full-time students will study for an average of one year during their postgraduate course whereas part-time students are more likely to study for two years.

There are two types of course available and they are referred to as taught and research degrees. Taught programmes traditionally consist of lectures, coursework and, depending on your chosen subject, exams, whereas, research programmes involve research methods training and a large research project.

What it costs

Postgraduate study varies in price between around £3,000 and £12,000 per year. This is dependent on the subject you wish to study and the university to which you apply. This means it is worth doing some research when looking for the course that’s right for you.

Many universities offer a discount for students who continue their postgraduate study at the same institution. For example, Bath Spa University offers a £1,200 discount for students who go straight onto postgraduate study and already attend the university. This is useful when considering taking on the debt of a postgraduate course.

Acquiring the funds to attend a course can be managed in various ways. Some of the most common ways to secure funding include:

  • Scholarship: Covering your tuition fees and applied for through your university.
  • Studentship: Including both fees and living expenses for research students.
  • Trusts and charities: Organisations may offer grants to students from low-income households or to those who have achieved academic excellence.
  • Career Development Loan: A bank loan that can secure you £300-£10,000 for the development of your career. Applied for through the bank at least three months before starting the course.
  • Employment: Working alongside a part-time course to pay for tuition and living expenses. 

Funding opportunities often vary from course to course and university to university and scholarships aren’t very common so researching your options is important. However, bursaries and grants are available for students in certain areas such as the NHS and social work. In addition, courses such as the PGCE are eligible for statutory funding through student finance.

For more information on acquiring funding for your course visit: www.gov.uk/funding-for-postgraduate-study

How to go about it

The most common way to secure a place on a postgraduate course is by applying through the university of your choice. To do this simply go to the university’s website and find the ‘How to apply’ page in their postgraduate tab. This will usually give you all the information you need and how to apply. Most commonly institutions will ask you to use some form of online application in which you can upload and submit your personal information.

What you need to remember

Much like applying for your current course, looking carefully at the course content is important. Not only will it enable you to explore the possibilities of study for the coming year but you can gauge which courses are best suited to you. Remember to check the entry requirements before you apply. It seems simple but universities often look for different things in their potential students.

It’s also important to consider if you are going to move to be close to your ideal university. This will be costly and with the funding already being an issue can you afford to relocate? One of the most important things to remember is that postgraduate courses are about developing your skills for your future employment. So if you are unsure about what it is you want to do, postgraduate study might not be right for you. It will just lead to more debt if you change your mind after starting your course.

What makes this right for you?

There are a number of reasons why postgraduate study could be right for you. It may be that a postgraduate course is the only way to get into a desired field, like with teaching and the PGCE. If you also want to build your knowledge and experience while training to achieve your career goals postgraduate study could be the ideal option for you.

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