Student Issues

Masters life vs undergrad life

Having graced the daunting real world with my presence for a year and a half before deciding to go back to do a masters, I was not sure how I would find adapting back to college life.

Two days into my new course and I found myself comparing it to the undergrad days when everything seemed so carefree and simplistic.

Walking past the buzzing student bar, I glanced inside and felt like I was in a scene from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, where my guardian angel was showing me glimpses of the previous life I never appreciated.

At 25, I feel like it is unacceptable to consider going into the bar at 2 pm for a three euro can of cider. What a difference a year and a half in the real world has made.

Aside from midweek alcoholism in the college bar not being a feasible opportunity any more, there are other striking differences between life as a master’s student and that of an undergrad student.

An employee from a bank came up to me assuming I was a first year and informed me about the great deal they have on offer for new students: “If you set up a bank account with us today, you get €100.”

When I advised her that I am a master’s student, the enthusiasm was a lot less noticeable as she informed me I would receive a free portable charger if I signed up. Thanks, but no thanks.

I also fondly remember the first week of term always being fairly easy going when I was an undergrad. Lectures finished early and mostly involved looking at a PowerPoint presentation about the work you will be doing over the course of the next twelve weeks (and which you weren’t expected to be doing in week one).

The first week of a masters, on the other hand, replaces spoon feeding with the dreaded wooden spoon. Lecturers purposefully try to put the fear of God into you and throw you into the deep end of the college pool with no armbands to see if you sink or swim.

“This is not an assignment you can leave until the night before,” was an urban myth in the undergrad days. When lecturers say this to masters’ students, however, they are actually not joking.

The amount of work and thought that is expected to go into your assignments is increased tenfold and the standard of work you produce is more carefully scrutinised as you are now viewed as an adult who has an undergrad behind them, not an innocent, little teenager straight out of the Leaving Cert.

One year of a degree is obviously a lot more jam-packed than a degree spread over the course of three/four years, so it is always going to be more demanding and challenging.

I am not complaining about the hard work expected as a masters student, I am simply advising undergrad students to make the most of their college experience while they can, because if you decide to do a masters or venture into the big, bad, real world, it is not all going to be free pizza and three euro cans of cider!