Postgrad DS - to quit or persevere?

(10 Posts)
Morven11 Fri 26-Sep-14 00:25:47

DS phoned me this evening. Gone back to his old uni, which is a very remote (and very lovely) part of the UK, far from home. But his undergrad years were mostly very happy and he wanted to go back. And to a strong department.

He sounded uncharacteristically sad - said postgrads he's seen during this first induction week appear much older - 30s, 40s, 50s - the one or two he recognises from his undergrad course won't engage in conversation with him - his old pals, some now third years, he's seeing but finding it a bit hard to re-integrate. GF has left the uni.

Said at induction staff didn't recognize him - think he was a bit hurt (explained that sheer volume of students is usually the problem and that the postgrad year can often be rather more personal so wait and see).

Said he would work (has been offered a p/t job), study hard, get his head down but he sounded lonely. I did say, very nicely, that he didn't have to do pg so soon after graduating, that maybe lots of his former classmates were taking some time off to work before further study, and that he might have thought about a bigger place with a younger profile ... But of course it would be hard for him to leave now. Deposit and first month's rent on room in really very nice house has been paid (by us) and a family trust (very stroppy, difficult trustee ... another story) has paid the fees in one go.

I don't know - I did tell him it was very early days and that once you settle into your groups, the age differences don't matter so much and in fact can be stimulating. That he should throw himself into life of department and see what happens. That he could resume sporting activities which he likes so much. But I shudder when I think of him sad and without company -

Before teaching starts next week - should I be tentatively enquiring about refunds? Anyone else been in this kind of situation with their DCs? The postgrad year is very intensive - it's meant to be - but, but, but.

Quiet assurance and a listening ear is what I'm giving him so far. Should I be more proactive? The uni wouldn't talk to me about my DS but they might shed light on what happens to students who quit at this early stage. It would not be ideal and I think he should give it a go but I'm going to bed now with his sad little voice ringing in my head! Thanks for reading -

OP’s posts: |
CatHackney Fri 26-Sep-14 01:07:14

He hasn't even started classes yet! Give it a chance. Postgrad is very, very different to undergrad, and it's true, it can be better to have a job first, but others do very well going straight into postgradute study. Try to be positive and suggest things that help him to integrate better.

Sapat Fri 26-Sep-14 01:52:00

Postgrad is a completely different experience to undergrad, the social element is much less. Is it a Masters or a PhD? He should get advice from a tutor about his options, though I would be careful about how I go about it, especially since his complaints are not about the academic side. If his complaints are that his friends are not around and all his fellow students are old, he might not get much sympathy.

The age of the other students can mean various things: if it is an MBA, for examples, students will be older because they would be expected to have worked in between. Ditto for something that might be continuing education. In my field, you can't get promotion without a postgraduate qualification, so some people might go back in order to progress their career. In which case he is smart to get it now. The worst is that it is a vanity diploma, which people do for the joy of learning, which will attract older students who fancy a change, especially if the criteria to be accepted are not very high. Those qualifications are of little value to employers.

Why did he choose his old Uni? Is the course excellent? For postgrad you really need to chose the course over the university. A reputable department will provide better employment opportunities (whereas at undergrad the reputation of the university is probably slightly more important). For my job for eg, the undergrad Uni is irrelevant (as long as it is good), but the postgrad needs to have come from about 5 universities who offer what we look for.

For what it is worth I slightly regret having stayed at the same university for mine. I wish I had broadened my academic horizons rather than played it safe. The biggest problem was getting funding for my PhD as my tutor was not the best in the specialist subject I had selected (though the department was excellent).

This said, he should have thought of this before, he is now there and should at least give it a go for a few weeks and see if the academic content of the course suits him and his chosen career path. This course needs to put him in a better position than he was previously to get a job to be worthwhile. If it doesn't, you may wonder at the expense of it.

Morven11 Fri 26-Sep-14 08:50:51

Thanks, Cat and Sapat. DS is doing a MA in his chosen subject - a competitive field (Politics) and he is at a uni that boasts a strong department in this area. He didn't exactly throw himself into the life of the department last year and he could have. He was afforded lots of opportunities. Perhaps this year he will rather more.

You're quite right - it is early days and the first few can be troublesome for any student, any age, anywhere. Sapat - you are right about the bottom line. The course needs to put him in a better position - and I think it will.

OP’s posts: |
Theas18 Fri 26-Sep-14 13:23:59

It's a big change. He will adapt. He can't pull out yet unless things really are horrendous, he hadn't even found what the course offered really has he.

If he makes an effort the other students will talk to him and might get on really well.

I'd also really suggest he finds a hobby outside uni to meet " town" people. Music, church, park runs , am dram, anything he has a slight interest in. He could try the uni social groups but I think being a postgrad and not having any of the " bonding experience " freshers have would be hard ( the daft things we don't usually note like the bendiness of the hall toast, or preparing fancy dress for an event all give them a bit if social " glue" .

Eldest is doing MA similarly but her " choir family" have provided her social continuity.

Doesn't he have any friends from his old uni year on 4 ir 5yr courses? Medics tend to be a bit insular but language students who've been abroad or scientists that have had a year in industry will still be about.

Tell him the mumsnet massive say stick with it, make a little effort and it's likely to turn round by Xmas.

AMumInScotland Fri 26-Sep-14 13:41:11

I'm guessing that he expected to slot back into his life there like he has after every summer break up till now, and it's been a jolt to realise that things are going to be different now. If he was starting in a new place, he'd have been prepared for that, but going back to the same Uni has probably pushed that to the back of his mind and it's only now that the 'newness' of his situation is hitting him. And most of us feel sad and worried in new situations.

He needs to give it a fair chance, get involved with the department, find a new 'niche' for himself there. And as Theas says, find a life outside of the uni too.

He needs to give it time, then I'm sure he'll start finding his way.

Messygirl Fri 26-Sep-14 16:27:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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UptheChimney Fri 26-Sep-14 18:10:55

OK, tough love from me coming up grin

As others say, PG is very different from UG study, and student life. Mainly because well, it's post-graduate. While we pretend that 19 year old UGs are grown ups, PG students really are. They need to be self-directed and know why they'r pursuing high level studies in a subject.

Generally, PG courses will have far fewer contact hours and directed, guided teaching: they're about developing independent research, particularly if PG students are thinking of a PhD.

If he had a good time as an UG, I'm suspecting that he may be wanting to recreate that in his life, and that he's not quite ready to leave the security of the university womb. I'm not entirely sure that doing a PG course will do that for him. He needs to want to be there for the work, primarily, not because he can't think of anything else, or because he likes the security and is scared y change. An MA is a different experience, and he can't expect to recreate the days of being 18 and without too many cares in the world.

His plans to get back involved in a sport, and so on, are really sound -- that's good thinking. But PG work -- particularly in the summer when he'll be researching & writing his dissertation, is not UG life, and he needs to just acknowledge that.

I think he needs to stick with it, and to branch out and make new friends, and try new activities. He needs to develop resilience -- that will take him a long way in his life generally,not just in his PG studies. If he's sad and without company -- well? it's his life. He needs to make opportunities not to be sad and alone. Unless there are serious underlying problems, this isn't actually difficult. Departments are always looking for active students to get involved in Staff-Student committees, or to organise research seminars, or just the Student-Staff annual cricket match (we used to have one -- lovely day off). There's loads he could do. If it all feels too big, could he just do one new thing, however tiny, each day? Talk to a new member of staff, go to a club meeting, whatever ...

Bottom line, he is a grown up, and no-one is responsible for his happiness except him.

JeanneDeMontbaston Fri 26-Sep-14 19:18:34

What everyone else said.

FWIW, his course mates will absolutely love him if he can muster up the courage to push for socializing. If he has an email list for everyone on the course he could email and suggest they go for coffee before a seminar? That way he'll find out if there's anyone else who's feeling like socializing and he will get the credit for being the outgoing type who made an effort (even if he really doesn't do that naturally and never does it again!).

Is he on FB and twitter? If not, twitter is really good for making you feel as if you've got an instant postgrad community. There will be loads of other Masters students doing his subject, and it might well be there is a hashtag for his discipline. There might also be a facebook group for postgrads at his university and in his subject.

Does his course run seminars/faculty events? He should go. It is scary and you do feel tiny and small and stupid - but everyone in the room remembers feeling like that, and those who claim not to are pompous idiots.

JeanneDeMontbaston Fri 26-Sep-14 19:20:44

Btw, I am stressing links with his research community because there is absolutely nothing that comes close to being as supportive as a good research community. It really, really is worth the effort. I did my Masters in 2008-9 and I still completely rely on the friends I made. We did different things after than year and live on different continents, but there's nothing like that shared experience.

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