Tips for a Great Academic Experience

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Once again I find myself looking back and deriving lessons from my past year in London. This time, I have examined my academic experience and asked myself what worked and what didn't. Here is a summary of my findings:

  • In order to ensure a class will meet your expectations, you should attend at least an introductory lecture before you sign up for the class. Even if you are interested in the topic, the professor's methodology, the specific content of lectures or the pace of the class may not provide a fulfilling learning experience, and it is usually easier to "shop" for many classes during the first week than to switch classes later into the year.
  • Another note on course selection, especially for Master's students: If you already have a career path in mind, it would be wise to take at least one course that could enhance your candidacy during the job search. Applied or pre-professional courses are particularly useful.
  • If you are lucky to have effective professors, do not miss the opportunity to establish a good relationship with them. This relationship can make the classroom experience infinitely more rewarding, and professors can provide invaluable dissertation advice as well as recommendation letters. Attending office hours, active participation in class and even an invitation for tea or coffee are all great ways to get to know your professors better.
  • UK universities offer a wide range of opportunities to advance and complement your studies. Conferences, research projects, competitions and journals are some of the most popular activities in which you can get involved.
  • Find out early about the perks of being a student at your university, and take advantage of them! Some institutions give you access to Think Tanks, societies, archives and other exclusive groups or places, which can enhance your academic experience and expand your personal network.
  • My undergraduate thesis adviser always says that a dissertation topic can only develop into a successful final product if it matches a student's passions and personality. In other words, before you embark on the dissertation process, pick a topic that truly interests you and that would require the type of research that would be enjoyable to you. Are you the type of person that likes interviewing people or hiding in the archives all day? These factors can make a surprisingly big difference on your experience.
  • If your dissertation or particular investigation project would benefit from hands-on field research, ask your department about funding opportunities available at the university. If no internal funding sources are available, chances are your department faculty will be able to identify and even connect you with some external sources.


Maria is a Cuban Harvard graduate and a guest blogger for Foreign Students. She posts regular updates of her experiences as a postgraduate student at LSE in London. Click here to see her older posts.


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