The MSc Experience From a Returning Student…

… by Xiaodong / from Jiangsu Province, China / MSc Operational Research with Data Science / PG (2018-19)

Happy New Year! My name is Xiaodong and I’m doing MSc Operational Research with Data Science. Now that the first semester has come to an end, I’m able to sit down and share some thoughts with you.

I’m a returning student who has spent the past few years on undergraduate studies here at the University of Edinburgh. I graduated last summer with a first-class degree in BSc Mathematics. Now you might start wondering why I choose to stay here for another year. Well, the past 3 years have been enjoyable for me to study here in the School of Mathematics. The School offered a wide range of courses to choose from and I was able to pick many interesting topics to study. One of my favourite courses was Linear Programming, Modelling and Solutions (LPMS). It gave me a good first impression of what operational research is like, and so I decided to spend another year studying material from this particular field. I make this decision I discussed it with my personal tutor and Dr Julian Hall, who delivered the LPMS course. So, if you are studying undergraduate mathematics and find an interesting topic that you really want to spend time focusing on, just meet with your personal tutor and discuss the details. Then you would probably have an idea whether an MSc is right for you.

Now I want to talk about some similarities and differences between MSc and BSc from my perspective, starting with similarities.

Needless to say, the first similarity for me is that there is no change in my student life as a whole. Everything seems just the same as undergraduate: the city, the School, the staff, etc. The second similarity is the structure of the courses. Since I’m doing a mathematics degree, most of the courses are still of the assignment-plus-exam kind, where assignments are released weekly or bi-weekly.

Next, differences. First, academic-wise, the most obvious difference is the workload. Although I’d like to admit that I had a lot to do in my undergraduate years, the workload in MSc is much heavier. Here in the University of Edinburgh, students normally have to take courses with total credits summing up to 120 each year. For undergraduate, many of my courses carried 20 credits, which means 3 courses per semester. However, for MSc ORwDS, most of the courses I can choose from carry only 10 credits, which are likely to require around 60% to 70% of work done as compared to 20-credit courses. Therefore, make sure you don’t have major problems in time management and coping with a lot of deadlines if you’re considering doing an MSc in Operational Research. Another difference in academics is that the courses I take are more closely related to each other as compared to BSc. During my BSc, I was able to choose a diverse range of courses but this is not the case for MSc. The MSc structure is designed in such a way that it focuses on those courses with direct contributions to the selected degree. Therefore, my advice for potential applicants is to make sure you want to study this topic. Because if you choose the wrong degree subject, you’re likely to struggle and suffer.

The biggest difference other than academics is that there are likely to be more international students in MSc as compared to BSc. For some of our future students, this might be a good opportunity to expose themselves to exotic cultures and socialise with people from all over the world.

So, these are the similarities and differences I have found as a returning student at the School of Mathematics. It might be different from the experience as new-comers, but I still hope that some of the information might be useful to potential applicants and even existing students. I wish you have a wonderful year in 2019!