By Mel Sim

What is it really like to be a postgraduate student? We get the alumni to share their story as well as offer tips on how to make the best of it.

“I decided to embark on my postgraduate studies because I wanted to learn more about the business side of things to complement my technical experience. When it came down to choosing the right course, I based it on reputation, price, location, duration as well as the type of assessment. I wanted a combination of exams and projects, and did not want my course to be just fully project-assessed.

There was a team-building programme at the beginning emphasising that it would help if participants worked together during the programme. There was an introduction to finance for non-finance participants, giving the basics of financial calculations, which were in the practice essential to non-finance people. We set up study groups that met weekly. My course focused on the usual core subjects for an MBA. My personal favourite was Strategic Management. The IT focus was to do with the implementation of IT to help with the business aspect.

Looking back, I think the most challenging part of the programme was time. There was the need to balance between personal life and the course. The fact that assessments were by exams and projects – both group and individual – meant there was little free time. Coping was the tough part. My family needed to understand that I would have to have a lot of time on my own to complete the projects and studies.

The most rewarding part of the programme? Finishing it! Especially the finance-related subjects. There was the feeling of self-accomplishment. The best lesson I took away from my experience was definitely having the knowledge of the business aspect of work and applying strategies to business.

My advice? Choose wisely – part-time or full time. Choose when to start it, whether immediately after your undergraduate studies or after working for a few years. My personal choice was after working so that it would be easier to understand the MBA subjects with application in real life. But on the other hand, taking it immediately after your undergraduate studies – possibly before starting your working life – would mean that you have more time but at the cost of not earning for a while longer!”

“It has always been my dream to take on postgraduate studies. It was also mainly due to my work and the family business. I picked my course because of its price, reputation and mainly the location. Moreover, the classes were during the weekends.

At the beginning, I was struggling; the first semester was very difficult! But I had an excellent support team in the college and we somehow helped each other with our assignments. Definitely, being a working adult made it challenging as well, especially where time was concerned. But it was rewarding because of the knowledge I gained as well as the friends I made.

Through my experience, I learnt that life is full of challenges but if we are focused, many things can be achieved. Which is how I approached my postgraduate studies. My advice? Taking on a postgraduate study can be a very good experience and you will gain a lot as well as learn new things. Especially if you have a good set of classmates from different backgrounds. I had a very interesting doctor, a general practitioner, in my course and we learnt a lot from him!”

“I took up a postgraduate study because I felt that I needed new skills and know-hows to expand my career path. Choosing the school, price was definitely the first factor followed by the structure of the programme (mine was weekend lectures and written assignments) as well as reputation. My course was a general business degree at a master’s level, focusing on quantitative and qualitative analysis.

“Initially, you feel like a young student again but this time round you spend more time with classmates who are working professionals. You are expected to know the theories and if you don’t, you are expected to read about them yourself. During class, you are expected to learn through real-live cases and the programme requires students to participate through group activities such as discussions and public speaking.

Time management was definitely the hardest part of the programme. It was a challenge to have a full-time job as well as having to complete assignment after assignment on a monthly basis. I made a conscious decision to set aside time for my study. This meant blocking out the classroom schedule way in advance and working on the monthly written assignments as soon as possible. With deadlines looming near, it is important to plan ahead and make daily progress. Of course, it is easier said than done!

But you definitely discover a lot about yourself – what you are good at doing, what topics you lean in naturally and how to work with others. The programme helped a lot in developing my mental stamina.

If you are thinking about it already, then you should make a forward progress to find out more. Find a programme from a school that fits your budget and most importantly, the schedule if you are a working professional. Map out your journey and put together a game plan that works for you.”

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