Gaby Harris, who graduates this autumn with an MSc Inequalities and Social Sciences, shares some of her insights into how to approach your time at LSE:
What I’m going to say below might seem like common knowledge, but undertaking an MSc for many (myself included) is unknown territory, and there is little guidance for how to make the most of it. So here are a few things I’ve done, and things I wish I’d have known.
Strike a good work-life balance
I found it really useful to treat my MSc like a full time job – working 10-6 on weekdays, adding weekends in only during deadlines. I started this at the beginning of the year and made a habit of it. This enabled me to keep on top of my workload, whilst also having evenings and (most) weekends free for a social life.
During work hours, it’s good to find out where you work best; for me it was the library, for others it could be home, a café, a quiet place on or off-campus – did you know as an LSE student you can gain access to other University of London libraries? I didn’t for a long time! Meanwhile, when it comes to socialising, your course-mates are probably some of the best people you will meet. They (hopefully) have similar academic interests to you, so not only can you strike up good conversations, but you can support each other throughout the course and beyond.
Use the resources
LSE offers so many different teaching tools – you can meet with library staff to learn the best ways to search for publications, how to speed read, and how to structure essays. They also provide lectures designed to help with areas of your MSc such as your dissertation. Even if you feel as though you know some of it, the guidance is useful and they are all services you are essentially paying for anyway – so make the most of them!
LSE academic staff are very busy and sometimes not easy to get hold of, but they’re also really supportive. Find out who is useful to you in terms of topics, and get in touch or book in to their office hours. If you can’t get hold of someone specific, try another person in the department – there’s always help available.
Write about what you’re doing, what you’re learning, what you’re finding, what’s going on in the world around you – get published in the form of LSE blog posts, this gives you the opportunity to apply what you’re learning – and will look great on a CV!
Apply for jobs early
Finding a job post-dissertation can be tricky. Start looking early and thinking about what you might want to do. Any relevant experience you can accumulate during your MSc will help you no end when it comes to finding jobs; search for ways to boost your CV throughout your MSc and take advantage of any opportunities to get involved at the university and outside. There’s a natural lull after exams, but before dissertation deadlines, which is a great time to update your CV, adding in any experience you’ve gained throughout the year and aligning this with the requirements of the field you’re interested in. Search for and start applying for jobs – bearing in mind finding a job can take a few months, this will leave you well prepared for when you complete your dissertation and finish your MSc.