Relief, joy and pride.

Michael SeaverSo that’s it. All done. A BSc in Politics and International Relations. When I saw my exam results this week my reactions were relief (because I felt a bit glass-half-empty after the exams in May), joy (at getting three results over 70%) and pride at the overall First Class Honours degree I was awarded.

I won’t use the cliche “journey” but lots of aspects of my life have changed since I started the degree. Unlike full-time students that get sucked into the bell-jar of academia and pupate into “real world” graduates four years later, those of us studying through the University of London International Programmes have to blend studies with our daily realities. My academic studies – like many other distance learning students – was squeezed around the changing fortunes of one-and-a-half jobs, family commitments and curveballs like house moves.

Paradoxically, my busy life has probably helped me get better grades. Study time was snatched and exam preparation had to be ruthlessly focussed. In preparing exam questions I continually interrogated my knowledge and tried to paint myself into a corner about positions on various topics in each course. If I had a strongly defined and solidly backed-up position on any topic, like Euroscepticism, then I should be able to position my argument much easier in the exam whatever question is posed.

As I have written before on this blog, I have a journalism background so being able to write a convincing answer served me well. Knowledge is important, but being able to apply that knowledge to an exam question is twice as important. Knowing how to structure an answer is vital to getting good marks in an exam. Practise writing exam questions!

So, while I am glowing in celebrating my achievement, I understand, through social media,  that others have had disappointing results. It’s deflating, I know, but I really feel that anyone embarking on an online degree is doing more than getting a qualification. Again, I’ll avoid the word “journey” but I have learned a lot about myself and my ability to focus on and apply myself to an end result. My goal wasn’t to change career – I’m a full-time musician and part-time dance critic – but for many it is. A degree will make one more employable – but what students (and potential employers) should recognise is the achievement in earning a diploma or degree while holding down a job.

So wherever you are in your studies, keep going. It can be lonely. And the celebrations at the end are certainly lonely – there’s no wild party with classmates – but part of the challenge is testing yourself. If you can do this by yourself, you can pretty much do anything!

Michael studied the BSc Politics and International Relations  by distance learning through the University of London International Programmes, with academic direction by LSE.

5 thoughts on “Relief, joy and pride.

  1. Congratulations Michael. A fantastic achievement. Thank you for your posts on this blog. I especially liked your comment about the celebrations being a little lonely afterwards. I earned my degree last year from UOL and you do feel somewhat deflated after the an initial euphoria! Wishing you every future success and kind regards.

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  2. Thanks Melanie and congratulations on your own graduation. Yes, however much we are in a “virtual” community when going through our studies, in the end those of us studying by ourselves are a collection of individuals. I’m in two minds about attending the graduation next year because of work commitments. It’s only a short hop to London from Ireland, but maybe that will be an opportunity to hook up with fellow students.

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  3. Thanks Timothy. I suppose I would just recommend being really fluent in structuring your answers as outlined in the Handbook. I found that if I thought about a topic within the “template” of an exam answer, then it helped me retain the information and enabled me to formulate the arguments (for and against) easier. I would encourage you to look back at past exam papers. In general there isn’t an unlimited series of questions to be answered, but maybe four or more ways of interrogating a particular topic. Be sure that you have a position/answer on each one. What I think served me wasn’t how much I knew, but how I could apply what I knew to a particular question. Oh and stay up to date with current affairs (I’m still availing of a great student rate subscription to The Economist) and check out CFR podcasts, particularly The World Next Week. To be honest, I’m still slightly incredulous that I got the mark I did and can only put it down to how well I argued each question.

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