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Published: 07 July 2021

Advice for new psychology masters students

MSc Psychology (Conversion) students, Nikolina, Shelley and Takunda, share their favourite places to hang out on campus, things to do in Guildford and what they did to prepare ahead of their studies.

What stood out about Surrey?

Nikolina:

  • It’s one of the leading educational institutions in the area, it’s very well known for its research and it has an excellent reputation
  • The psychology facilities, including the Baby Lab and observation suites
  • The masters is accredited by the British Psychological Society
  • The teaching is concentrated over two-to-three days each week, leaving plenty of flexibility to organise my study schedule and family commitments

Shelley: The MSc Psychology (Conversion) course stood out as it’s accredited by the British Psychological Society and enables people like myself to make a career change. The course also emphasises research methods and the practical application of psychology, something that set it apart from its competitors.

I was also drawn to the beautiful surroundings on campus, the incredible facilities at Surrey Sports Park, and the opportunity to be able to play netball and become part of Team Surrey.  

Takunda: As well as the location, I was drawn to how research-active the psychology lecturers were. The recently refurbished psychology labs are really stunning – it was just a shame we couldn’t use them as much because of the pandemic!

What’s your favourite thing to do on campus?

Nikolina: I’ve really enjoyed spending time in both the MySurrey Nest and Hive, which have common spaces for gatherings with friends to discuss hot issues. 

Shelley: I enjoy grabbing a coffee, chilling in the MySurrey Nest and wandering around the lake. It’s great to have a range of spaces on campus where I can rest, relax and catch up with friends.

Takunda: Spend time by the lake. It’s such a peaceful space to quickly spend some mindful moments watching the ducks before a lecture or during a revision break.

Where’s your favourite place to study on campus?

Nikolina: The Library – it’s a peaceful, stylish, vibrant and productive workspace.

Shelley: I often study at the Library, particularly the silent area, which allows me to focus on my work in a peaceful environment. The walk across campus to the Library really helps set me up for a productive day and the shop underneath is ideal for a quick refuel during my study sessions.

Takunda: I’ve found the MySurrey Nest a quirky and comfortable spot on the campus to study. I love all the various seating options and regularly use one of the pods, hammocks or lounge chairs as study spots, over my usual chair and desk at home. You can eat and talk in this area as well, which is great for relaxed group study. If I need somewhere quieter, I make use of the Library.

Where’s your favourite place to hang out with friends?

Nikolina: Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I couldn’t spend a lot of time on campus socialising. But I used a WhatsApp group to keep in touch with my peers, send reminders for deadlines and generally keep our spirits up.

Shelley: Having Guildford only a short walk from campus has meant I’ve been able to hang out with friends over a coffee, lunch or dinner.

Takunda: I love to hang out with my friends and coursemates in the Nest. It’s nice to grab a coffee or lunch and have a good old chat in a hammock.

What’s your favourite thing about Guildford?

Nikolina: It offers the ideal mix of urban and country life and it has some of the lowest levels of recorded crime in the UK.

Shelley: I often find myself venturing out on lovely walks and bike rides in the countryside. There are plenty of beautiful places to explore while you’re here! I often visit the town centre to meet up with friends and wander round the shops. Moving from London, it’s been easy to make trips back to see people, jumping on the train from Guildford to Waterloo, and pals have been able to visit me here, too.

Takunda: I really enjoy the fresh air and lots of green spaces around Guildford which are lovely to explore when going on walks.

Did you do anything over the summer to prepare for your studies?

Nikolina: I took an online cognitive behavioural therapy course, which taught me so much about my thoughts and behavioural patterns. It inspired me to improve my habits and monitor and challenge my views.

Shelley: After several years out of education, it was helpful to undertake a couple of free introductory psychology courses on FutureLearn to get me back into the swing of things. As this was my first encounter studying psychology as something more than just an interest, I wanted to make sure I was able to hit the ground running.

Takunda: I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a free online psychology statistics course over the summer. Having not studied maths for quite some time in addition to never studying psychology before, it was quite nice going into Semester 1 already knowing what a significant p-value meant!

If you could go back in time and do one thing before your studies, what would it be?

Nikolina: Get plenty of volunteering experience! This provides an invaluable insight into the profession and it helps make you stand out from other candidates.

Shelley: I’d tell myself that my questions and opinions are worth being vocalised. At first, I found it daunting speaking in front of others. But once I started asking questions, I quickly realised my voice was valued by others. I’d really urge you to trust yourself and what you have to say and take that forward in your studies.

Takunda: I’d find and read any psychology research papers that I could access for free. You’ll spend a lot of time on the course analysing research and writing up your own. In hindsight, getting a little accustomed to this scientific writing style early would have been quite helpful.

As well as this, I’d have emailed the programme leader for a pre-reading list which some of my other coursemates found helpful, especially books on critically thinking about scientific research

What 5 items would you recommend bringing?

Nikolina:

  1. Enthusiasm
  2. Determination
  3. Laptop
  4. Umbrella
  5. Money

Shelley: There are too many to choose from, but I’d recommend:

  1. Home comforts
    A plant, rug, pictures and your favourite mug will make your room feel more homely.
  2. Your favourite self-care items
    Two personal favourites of mine are a hydrating face mask and hair mask.
  3. A weekly planner
    I find writing out the week ahead on a Sunday allows me to stay organised, keep on top of my work and assignments, as well as manage life admin that can sometimes creep up on you!

Takunda:

  1. A notepad or laptop to take notes during seminars.
  2. A diary (paper or electronic) – it’s a packed course with lectures, seminars, readings, deadlines and career days interspersed throughout. Getting a handle on your time management early is a definite key to success!
  3. Sign up to free software called Mendeley – great for reading, organising and easily referencing all the psychology articles you’ll be downloading throughout the year.
  4. A printer – there are lots of texts you could be reading, so having a printer handy is a nice option if you experience eye strain when looking at screens all day.
  5. Comfortable outdoor shoes to enjoy all the outdoor spaces and sports facilities nearby.

What other advice would you give to new students starting in September?

Nikolina:

  • Consider where you want to be in 10 years and make a plan.
  • Apply for volunteering opportunities early (e.g. Samaritans, Shout and PeerTalk) as organisations have long waiting lists.
  • Be very organised, keep up with deadlines, work hard and aim for the best possible grades.
  • Most importantly, enjoy the ride!

Shelley: Know that the tutors, lecturers and staff at Surrey are wonderful, and they’ll be there to support you every step of the way! The guidance I’ve received has not only enabled me to develop the skills required to move forward with my career change. It’s allowed me to grow as a person and build my confidence – I’m even considering applying for research assistant roles!

Honestly, it’s been an absolute pleasure studying here!

Takunda: Enjoy it! The course goes by quickly, so try to make the most of the opportunities to spend time and build relationships with your coursemates. Also, don’t worry if you’ve got no idea what research topic you’d like to explore for your dissertation, the lecturers are very good at easing you into that and supporting you throughout the year.

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