Next Steps? The Big Further Study Question


This month I have been toying with the notion of pursuing further study following graduation. In many ways the idea of a Master’s degree has its allure; I’ve just about figured out what specific area of my undergraduate degree I irritatingly can’t-shut-up-about, and it would be extremely fulfilling to explore that in even more depth. Under the weight of roughly a million logistical questions about this endeavour, however, one really stands out. Am I willing to part with just one of my kidneys, or multiple internal organs, in order to fund another degree?

Being a student can be easy and fun. You don’t have to partake in the 9 to 5 grind that governs the average adult existence, and you appear to have a free pass whereby it’s totally acceptable to dine on cheap vodka (that might actually be paint stripper, watch it mate) and leftover pizza for breakfast; in any other functioning adult this behaviour would absolutely constitute a concerning red flag for potential full-scale breakdown. Aside from keeping a weird daily schedule that no-one else understands, however, the intellectual stimulation of university can genuinely be extremely rewarding. So much so, that it may seem only natural to want to step up into the realm of Master’s, PhDs, and general God-level academic prowess. The sacrifice, however, comes when one weighs up the economic benefits of an actual career versus further study (read: burgeoning financial stability, or extending the uncomfortable waltz with student debt for even longer).

So, what are your options? A great place to start is the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding, which can be obtained from the university Careers Service. This extensive brochure lists every source of potential funding under the sun, and even provides advice on how to approach funding bodies in a professional manner when enquiring about the options available to you. Additionally, it depends on where in the world you want to be. As a chronic sufferer of extreme wanderlust myself, I have been exploring postgrad options outside the UK and trying not to bounce too hard with excitement at the extensive range of possibilities available; some definitely more cost effective than others.

The largest spanner in the works as of late for British students to consider, perhaps, is that thing they refer to as ‘Brexit’ (or ‘the most upsetting event of the year’, depending on your personal leanings). Europe has long been regarded as a haven of minimal university tuition fees, and thus an extremely attractive option for further study. However, with Theresa May tightening the noose around our European relations with the promise of a ‘hard Brexit’, I myself may not be alone in feeling uneasy jumping into the belly of the beast when our associations with the EU currently remain so uncertain. Similarly, it is a turbulent time for UK universities; valued relationships with European institutions and numerous sources of funding appear to be under threat, with no clarification for some time, because basically no-one knows what the f*** is going on. Saying that, it is clear that universities such as Glasgow are working their hardest to minimise the impact of Brexit on students; we can only hope that they are successful.

The United States hosts some of the best institutions in the world but is notorious for its dire tuition fees, particularly for international students. However, foundations such as the Fulbright Commission offer extensive financial help towards a US university experience, and individual universities often have a range of scholarship programs available to international students, such as Harvard’s Frank Knox Fellowships.

If you’re willing to venture even further afield, some countries such as China have significantly lower tuition fees than places like the UK, US and Australia, and have much more manageable living expenses, too. Additionally, some even offer government scholarships, like the MEXT scheme in Japan that covers postgraduate tuition and provides a monthly stipend towards living expenses.

If postgraduate study is on the cards, there are a myriad of options available to you; it just takes time, dedication and a stress relieving glass of wine or three to explore all possible avenues. Some destinations abroad have fairly early application deadlines in November and December, which is another thing to be mindful of, but if you’re aiming to continue studying in the UK you still have plenty of time to panic, calm down, panic, change your mind, and repeat for a while yet.

The liberty of studying beyond undergraduate level, however, is that you can come back to it at any time. If you need to work for a few years to save up some more dough, or you have a burning desire to go and spend a year in Nepal to “find yourself” first, postgraduate study is always available as an option down the line, too.

[Annie Milburn – @annie_milburn]

 

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