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Should I try again to do an MA or am I just too un-independent?

(7 Posts)
doloresthenewt Mon 06-Jun-16 18:00:27

I'd really appreciate some advice from academics who routinely teach MA courses.

I had a false start last year. I started an MA, but completely underestimated my ability to set myself an independent study programme. Foolishly, I thought the requirement for independent study was more a demand to manage the workload without the structure of daily lectures etc, and as an Open University student with a full-time job, I knew I had the discipline to sit and study at home. I had been slightly concerned that I wouldn't know what to study (IYSWIM - sounds so stupid) but I thought in a taught MA I would get sufficient guidance to be able to progress.

In reality, I felt completely clueless, and didn't feel there was any direction forthcoming at all - but I want to emphasise that I think this is my failing, not that of the course supervisors, so please don't think this is a whinge!

Long story short, I deferred on the grounds that I wasn't managing a 32-hour week and a part-time MA very well - which was not far from the truth, as I work 32 hours a week doing an evening shift that runs into the small hours, so chronic tiredness and lack of alertness is a real factor, particularly because I've been doing it for 20 years and the effect tends to be cumulative (or I'm just getting older - also true!).

And now I'm absolutely torn whether to go back in. I can start again at the same Uni; or I can apply to a different Uni that does a similar course, but teaches in the evening, which brings its own problems but which may mean there are more people of my age (52 - being the only mature student among brand new 21-year-old graduates was, surprisingly, much more of an issue than I expected).

I know you can't make a decision for me, but if any of you have any experience on students who really struggle to have ideas as to the study programme they want to follow, any insight, any sympathy, anything to contribute on the issue of " I think I'm bright enough to do an MA, but I seem to need more help, perhaps, than normal, in deciding on my study programme", it would be great. I am really feeling the failure very keenly.

Just to be clear - I'm open to being told that an MA doesn't sound like the path for me. I just didn't want to give up without throwing out the question to a group of anonymous academics as to whether, perhaps, it's not that unusual to get stuck on this, and it can be got past.

<*deep breath, heads for Create Conversation. Leaves house.*>

doloresthenewt Mon 06-Jun-16 18:05:42

Sorry to drip. Just to clarify, when I say "study programme", I mean nothing more complicated than deciding what I want to write about in my four essays and dissertation. The four modules are specific in their focus, although I think if someone's hellbent on writing about something off-piste, that would be accommodated. It's probably also easiest to say that the MA is in literature/culture.

japanesegarden Mon 06-Jun-16 19:37:59

I am 51 and just getting to the end of a part time MA in the humanities. I have encountered the occasional other mature student on some modules, but have generally been the only one. For me, that hasn't been too much of a problem - I have felt they have all treated me as an absolute equal intellectually (as I have them) and we have got on fine. I found that my tutors were really helpful in assisting me to develop ideas for work once I'd had them, but it was very much up to me to make the initial suggestion. With one essay I had a real crisis thinking I'd chosen the wrong topic at one point, and the tutor was really helpful about reassuring me that the idea would work and making one or two suggestions that helped shape it successfully.
There surely must be a reason why you chose this subject? Can you pick some aspect of each module that appeals and think of an approach to it that your own interests can bring a new dimension to? For example, one of my modules was film related, and I chose a film to write about that concerned my particular field of interest, so that I could combine my own expertise with the requirements of the module. This worked well - I got a good mark!
But I have to add that I would have struggled to do it while working so many hours, unless you have very little demand on your time at home. It has been a bigger commitment than I expected at deadline time, but also much more rewarding than I anticipated. Hope this helps.

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Mon 06-Jun-16 21:54:02

What's your motivation for doing the course? If it's got no real end goal or consequences for failure then that might be why you are struggling to get your head down.

doloresthenewt Mon 06-Jun-16 23:25:53

That's a really interesting point. I have no reason or consequence. I just liked the way learning made me feel. Good point.

Also grateful to japanesegarden. Very helpful to consider that maybe if I have the germ of an idea, the course supervisors have a fighting chance of helping me!

Bother, I posted before coming to work, so I'm limited in my capacity to either reply or say thank you! But thank you!

CityDweller Thu 09-Jun-16 22:29:40

I think if you're generally stumped about what to write your essays and dissertation on then it might not be the right thing for you (sorry if that sounds harsh!). Choosing their own essay topic is something I expect of my final year undergrads (with a certain amount of guidance and input from me).

Is it that you struggled to come up with topics/areas you were interested in to write on? Or that you struggled to narrow down a topic/area of interest to a specific point of view/argument? If the former, then I'd worry about how interested you were in the MA subject. If the latter, then you may just need more 'training' in how to tackle essay writing...

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Thu 09-Jun-16 22:31:36

If there's no end goal then no wonder you are struggling.

Why not sign up to some MOOCs instead?

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