Six months into my journey at LSE as an MSc student, I realize the striking distinction between the nature of undergraduate studies, and studies at post-graduate level. For one, the degree of specialization offered in one year of graduate school cannot be likened to four years of general study in a Bachelor’s degree. Which is why I constantly remind myself – this is why I’m here. I wanted to learn about every nuance, corner and edge there is to organisational behavior and management.
In retrospect, although my undergraduate background in business studies equipped me with a strong interdisciplinary understanding of management, and also, with several opportunities to practically apply what I was learning, my academic journey now at the MSc level is exposing me to a depth of study which I held no awareness of before. However, this depth of study comes with its own set of unique challenges for any new Master’s student, hence, keying preparation ahead as a critical factor to success.
In that spirit, here are 5 things I wish I knew before beginning my MSc degree at LSE:
The academic article – If there’s one thing you must familiarize yourself with before you begin your Master’s degree, be it here at LSE or anywhere else for that matter, it is the academic article. Acquainting yourself with how to efficiently dissect and highlight the abstract, results, discussion and conclusion sections of a journal article, will make your learning process infinitely easier once you begin. A large percentage of being in an MSc program is spent analyzing and extracting key points from research, and if you are able to hone this skill before you begin, you will hit the ground running.
Tired is the new normal – Perennial exhaustion is a way of life. There never seems to be enough hours in a day to cover all readings, work on your dissertation, prepare for exams, write essays, work on job applications and a never-ending list of other extra-curricular involvements. As a result, you soon learn that being an MSc student comes with both good news and bad news. The latter is: you only have so much of an energy reserve each day. The former is: it resets every day without fail. This is the magic of being engrossed in the spirit of learning at LSE – you want to relentlessly know and learn everything about everything.
“Stand on the shoulders of giants” – Building general knowledge in any walk of life should be a priority, but mostly if you plan on studying at a social science focused institution like LSE. As the saying goes: “The greater the reader, the more their thinking is stimulated.” To gain more out of the readings you will have to cover throughout the year, regardless of your program, learning more about global political, social and economic matters will enrich the information you process by enabling you to connect the dots between academic learning and the ‘real-world.’ Moreover, it will broaden your holistic understanding of how societies, organisations and individuals operate.
Religiously maintain a learning journal – A mentor of mine suggested I use a learning journal to make sure I retain an essential element of being a graduate student: having fun throughout the process (which can at times be easy to forget)! At LSE, whether in a classroom, or even during a faculty or peer discussion, you will have plenty of ‘light-bulb’ moments, in which you feel enlightened to a new concept, insight or pattern of thought which resonates deeply with you. Some may be connected to your subject of study, and some may be entirely unrelated, yet equally as transforming. Make sure to record these ‘aha’ moments. After all, these thought triggers will stay as a souvenir with you once you graduate and seek to reflect on how you grew during your time at LSE.
Develop the capacity to work (tirelessly) – In Brian Tracy’s book on procrastination and productivity, “Eat That Frog,” he suggests the key to working effectively, is to tackle the most important and largest task of the day first, instead of putting it off, otherwise known as “eating the frog” first. Well, at LSE, you will have many frogs to eat per day, simultaneously. For that reason, nurturing your attention span and developing a capacity to work relentlessly, is crucial to staying on top of your workload once you begin graduate studies.
If you’ve patiently read through this list, you might realize that the pursuit of obtaining a Master’s degree is a commitment to say the very least. It’s the ultimate exercise of self-discipline and perseverance – there’s no looking back. It’s a stimulating one-year experience which is dichotomous: it is mentally and emotionally consuming yet extensively gratifying at the very same time. Consider it as academic boot camp if you will – immersive academic boot camp. You will through the process emerge as a clearer writer and thinker, and more productive worker. I have six months left here, and at the end of it all, I look forward to becoming a master of the academic hinterland, and a master of myself, as will you.