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Ananya

April 3rd, 2023

Postgraduate versus undergraduate coursework: a few differences

0 comments | 1 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Ananya

April 3rd, 2023

Postgraduate versus undergraduate coursework: a few differences

0 comments | 1 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

As the academic year progresses, I can’t help but notice just how different the university experience is as a postgraduate student compared to my undergraduate years. A glaring contrast is that of academic coursework. It makes sense for your coursework (and subsequent workload) to be different in your master’s programme, simply because a master’s programme, at the end of the day, is meant to make you a “master” of your own education. Therefore, while the undergraduate school provides you with a more foundational and general understanding of your subject, graduate school provides highly specific learning opportunities, to support your individual and career-specific goals. For example, I learnt major schools of thought in psychology at undergraduate level, covering a wide range of fields ranging from developmental to clinical psychology. At postgraduate level, I was interested in narrowing down to the field of organisational and social psychology and, accordingly, my master’s programme allows me to understand recent developments in the field, and practically apply my learnings to corporate settings.

Studying alongside equally talented students means that there is a greater level of intimacy with your coursemates as compared to your undergraduate programme. This is true especially in the case of LSE’s master’s programmes which have a smaller intake than other institutions, owing to its prestigious reputation and rigorous admission requirements. While my undergraduate cohort had 250 enrolled students, my current programme has only about 50 people, which includes professionals and previous students from a variety of industries and institutions. Through smaller, more intimate classroom discussions, everyone eventually becomes acquainted with everyone’s backgrounds and even tries learning from one another. The same also applies to lectures and professors, who teach a smaller group of students as opposed to a huge class of undergraduates. I was pleasantly surprised to see some of my teachers knowing me by my name and remembering my previous academic work. During their postgraduate study, students interact with academics and their research on a much more regular and in-depth basis. They’ll also participate in more extracurricular academic activities like departmental seminars and workshops. These events are a great way to meet people in your industry and hone your professional skills.

Coming back to the workload, while I had to study about five courses per term as an undergraduate, I only have 3 courses in my second term in my master’s programme. However, these courses offer highly specialised teaching and require more reading and research as compared to undergraduate courses. Similarly, the assessments are designed to test specialised knowledge and are in that sense more intensive as they must demonstrate your expertise in the subject.

With fewer assessments and courses, it might seem that masters’s students might have more time outside of academics. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and I have noticed that although master’s students have a higher level of autonomy when it comes to their work, they are expected to undertake independent research that goes beyond the general reading lists. For me, this meant delving deeper into psychological literature, and I ended up learning a lot about certain topics in the process. This doesn’t mean that master’s programmes are completely hands-off. Your teachers are there to support you every step of the way. With weekly catchups with my academic tutor and office hours with my seminar teacher, I have been able to clarify my understanding of the teaching content, and then go further by independently researching specialised content for my essays.

Finally, academic coursework in a master’s programme is incredibly exciting as it is rewarding. Every time I look at a lecture topic or an essay topic that aligns well with my research interests, I am reminded that is the reason I chose to do a master’s programme- to widen my knowledge of the field of organisational psychology. And as all of the resources and developmental opportunities provided to me are within this field, I am very motivated to make the best of my postgraduate experience and emerge as a master of the discipline!

About the author

Ananya

Hi! I'm Ananya, an MSc student in the Organisational and Social Psychology programme. I'm originally from Delhi and have been living in the UK for the past 4 years. I'm very excited to be studying at LSE and experiencing life in London. In my free time, I like to cook and bake, go on walks in one of the many beautiful parks in London, explore cafés and restaurants, and watch Netflix shows!

Posted In: Student life | Study: Masters

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