The Art Of The Panic Masters: How Do I Graduate?

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“‘Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future,’ noted the writer Kahlil Gibran, ‘but from wanting to control it.’” – Pandora Sykes, How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right?

Ah, Masters degrees. Filled with a confusing concoction of intelligent go-getters with mood boards, perfectly winged eyeliner and breakfast smoothies, and those who refuse to acknowledge the fact that it’s time to move on from their student lifestyle. I suppose it could be argued that there truly is something for everyone in a postgraduate course. Whichever demographic you fit into (you’re looking at Group Two’s future team captain), I refuse to stand by and listen to people tell others that their decision to enrol onto a Masters wasn’t a snap decision including the words “fuck it”.

Even a year in advance, I see my Masters on the horizon; I’ll shrug my shoulders, live off meal deals, and skip into lecture halls like I don’t care that it is only costing me a mere £10,000 for another year of education. 

“Being a student is great, why not rinse another year out of it?”, I can hear myself sing.

The uncertainty and dread that washes over me when I think about finishing my undergraduate degree is nothing short of overwhelming. After graduating, I will have been in education for over twelve years. It’s a system that I have become accustomed to and, if I’m honest, very dependent on. The routine of school is familiar and straightforward; do as you’re told, work hard, and get a reward at the end of it. The beauty of it lies in that you always know where you are heading, and what is expected of you. Your only job is to fulfil that. Plus, the idea of ever being good enough at something to stop learning about it seems bizarre. The working world is terrifying, and the post-COVID job market looks… Interesting. Why would I want to dive into it all head first?

Then, when you inevitably chicken out and decide to go back to university, despite understanding that it’s probably time that you grow up a bit, you have a meeting with your personal tutor that leaves you even more confused than when you started this whole palaver. During your first year, you remember them telling you that you should only do a Masters if it helps you get somewhere that you wouldn’t be able to get without it. Now that you’re months away from handing in your dissertation, they’re selling a postgraduate degree to you like it’s salmon on a fish market. Now you’re really second-guessing yourself and wishing that you hadn’t come to university in the first place.

Is a Masters actually going to open doors for me, or have I made a snap decision? Didn’t I come to university to widen my career prospects in the first place? Why did the first three years not work? Why do I have to do an extra one? Am I being sold a Masters degree just so the university can make money off me? Who’s telling me the truth?

Well, I can’t keep up.

To make matters worse, the more you think about this ‘impending doom’, the more confused and stressed you get – as if we don’t have enough to be thinking about already.

Something that I have started to ask myself in this particular situation is: does worrying about post-graduation change the outcome, or ‘fix it’? No? Then you’re wasting precious energy that could be being focused on something beneficial. Cross that bridge when you get to it. If you just enjoy, and focus on, being an undergraduate whilst you can, opportunities, openings and ideas will come your way. Unfortunately the annoying part about that advice is that the solution takes time, and the easiest way to alleviate stress is by solving the issue at hand quickly- but hang in there. Trust the process!

Everyone is different. Your take on life is tailor made to suit your wants and needs. You can’t rush big decisions like this, you can’t listen to anyone else’s opinion but your own, and you certainly can’t see what your mate is doing and follow suit. I suppose what I’m saying is, try not to be for or against a Masters, be pro-you-doing-whatever-the-hell-you-want-and-need. Whatever you decide is going to be new and scary, so don’t mount pressure onto yourself in an already-difficult time.

“Temporary discomfort is an investment in your future self”, says Florence Given in Women Don’t Owe You Pretty. “Accept a small and uncomfortable transition now, for a lifetime of growth and self-development.”

Whether it’s making the decision to study for another year, whilst all of your friends go and get their first grown up jobs, or taking the leap into the working world for the first time, just know that if it feels uncomfortable, the likelihood is that you’re growing and learning from it.

Yes, learning! So it doesn’t end in school, like we thought.

Words by Morgan Hartley.

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