As a postgraduate student, you are subject to new expectations that differ from anything you might have experienced as an undergraduate. You will have to deal with unfamiliar routines, new housemates, and the daunting combination of being closely supervised while having to make a lot of your own decisions. There are a few simple tips that will make dealing with all this a little easier.
Manage Your Timekeeping
Postgrads can’t get away with slacking the way undergrads might. If you miss classes or other appointments, it will be noticed. It is crucial to establish routines and get to grips with timekeeping. Use the reminder and alarm functions on your phone and other devices to set and synchronise reminders for important events.
Even with those systems in place, you should consider investing in an alarm clock, particularly if you have trouble with oversleeping. An old-fashioned alarm clock adds an extra layer of protection. Set the alarm in addition to those on your phone, and then place the alarm clock at the far end of your bedroom. This forces you actually to get up to silence the alarm. Getting a reputation for being punctual and reliable will stand to you.
Make Backups and Also Make Backups
Technology is great when it works, but sometimes it just doesn’t. Your work can vanish in crashes and corruptions, so it is important to minimise the risk of data loss by establishing consistent backup habits. Your university or college probably has online storage options that can be used for backups. You should add to that other free cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, and One Drive. Set your systems to synchronise regularly with multiple online storage options.
You should consider adding offline backups to your routine. External hard drives or small USB drives are affordable options for this. You don’t need to be online to access these, so they are particularly useful in the event of a power or internet outage. To be extra careful, you could set up a swap with a friend whereby you exchange off-line backup devices once a week. In the event of a catastrophic loss, this gives you an additional off-site backup that is never more than a week old. It also gives you an excuse to meet a friend regularly, which is another useful habit to get into.
If you didn’t learn to cook as an undergraduate, then it’s past time to do it. Eating well is important when you are busy and under pressure. Knowing how to cook for yourself makes it easier to avoid the temptations of fast and unhealthy food. It is also a better option if you are on a tight budget.
Get some basic cooking equipment and learn a few simple dishes. If you are sharing a house, you will find that having your own pots, pans, plates, and cutlery is useful for avoiding arguments about who used what and didn’t wash it. If you are not sure where to start with cooking, ask friends for help. Cooking and eating together is a great way to socialise. Building a supportive network of friends and contacts is important as you begin to think about what will come after your studies.
Dress the Part
As well as focusing on coursework and research, postgraduate students have to think about what is next. This is an even more pointed question for postgrads than for undergrads. Graduate students are expected to attend seminars and faculty events. As a postgrad, particularly at PhD level, you may also find yourself undertaking teaching duties and presenting papers at academic conferences. It is best to approach this with a professional attitude, and that should include dressing the part.
You don’t need to spend a huge amount, but you should get a smart outfit that suggests professionalism. As your postgraduate work advances, elements of it can become an audition for an academic or other career. The right outfit helps you to make the right impression on potential colleagues or employers.
Many of these tips relate to this shift towards professionalism, but they are also about becoming a person who can be relied upon and a person who understands how they rely upon others. Building a network of friends and contacts can be as important to the success of your studies as building your expertise.
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