Published: 19 January 2017

Taking the step from undergraduate to postgraduate study

MMus Music (Composition) student and BMus graduate Kirsten Parry shares her experience of transitioning from undergraduate to postgraduate study.

Students talking and holding books

"There’s a certain level of adaptability needed if you’re diving straight into a postgraduate degree after completing your undergraduate. It’s not merely an extension of a degree; it’s a different qualification where you will learn to master your subject. In my case, I chose to specialise further in Composition, having done a Music degree. This allowed me to dedicate more time to specifically research composition and the impact of different ways of music-making on people, as well as fully focusing on the part of my degree that I enjoyed the most.

"The main difference between an undergraduate and postgraduate degree is that even if the latter comes under the ‘taught’ category rather than ‘research-led’, it is far more focused on research than undergraduate study. You are still learning about your subject, yet simultaneously endeavouring to produce independent research on what really drives you forward as an academic. Another difference is that you do work more independently, often with fewer contact hours and less guidance and restriction on your work. This can be beneficial, giving you free reign, but it can also be difficult to adapt to such freedom. As a creative student, I prefer to be given boundaries and instructions, so often find that I need to put these in place myself instead of expecting my lecturers to.

 I am thoroughly enjoying being a Postgraduate student at Surrey and would encourage any student to consider it too.

"I find that life as a postgraduate student is certainly busier and slightly more stressful; the course is a full year, so knowing that I won’t have a summer holiday to look forward to can be daunting, but I enjoy my course so much that I don’t particularly mind working through the summer. That, of course, is another big difference between undergraduate and postgraduate study; there’s often a large project, whether it is dissertation or practically based, due in September. It’s intense doing a course that lasts a full year, but rewarding by the end.

"The postgraduate society at Surrey is active and enjoyable; there are regular quiz nights at Wates, socials including meals out and ice skating, and it feels effortless to integrate with all of the other students at the University. It’s an institution where everyone is made to feel welcome regardless of their age, course or interests.

"I don’t feel particularly different as a postgraduate student, only busier and finding comfort in the knowledge that I have my degree under my belt and any extra qualification is now a bonus – so what is there to stress about? The student support remains the same, and tutors and lecturers are very helpful when assistance with work or commitments is required. I am thoroughly enjoying being a postgraduate student at Surrey and would encourage any student to consider it too."


Learn more about our Music degrees and read what our students have to say about life at Surrey to discover why we were named ‘Best University for Student Experience’ by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016

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