From Doubt to Confidence: Building Confidence as a Postgraduate Student

Agata Piotrowska
Thursday 19 October 2023

We are pleased to express our warmest welcome to all the new postgraduate students, and those returning for another year of their study and research. Thank you, and congratulations, for being here!

by A.Piotrowska

We are delighted to have you as our readers. With autumn in full swing, it is now time for us to kick off the 2023/24 blog posts series “Skills you can develop throughout your PGT/PGR experience”. We will commence with a contribution by Winifred Maduko, who will engage with the theme of building confidence during your postgraduate degree.


“Every academic year is accompanied by various kinds of emotions for students most especially international postgraduate students, like myself, who travelled about 2,897 miles or more from different parts of the world to begin a fresh academic journey. Beginning a new academic path can elicit a variety of emotions, including, but not limited to excitement, worry, uneasiness and apprehension. While every academic year provides an opportunity for students to meet people from distinct backgrounds, experience new cultures, and gain a deeper understanding of the world, it also offers a unique chance to build (self)confidence that can support students to thrive as postgraduates and in subsequent career paths they desire.

As a postgraduate student at the University of St Andrews, I have engaged in various activities as a Student Ambassador, Communications Director – Rectors Committee, Travel Survey Intern Transition, among other positions. These undoubtedly supported me in boosting my confidence and improving the work which I do. In this article, I will briefly share how you can move from doubts and build a rewarding confidence you need even beyond your postgraduate journey.

Confidence can mean several things to many people but when it comes to me, confidence implies courage, the ability to believe in yourself and your capabilities against all odds. The strength to do more, make a positive impact and the nudge to let yourself strive, shine, and grow. Building confidence allows you to not just be seen, but to also be heard in whatever form or manner you desire. You can build this confidence through the following ways as a postgraduate student – if they don’t seem new to you, consider this as a reminder.

For most postgraduate students their first responsibility will be attending scheduled lectures, actively participating in lecture conversations/activities: this can significantly support students in building confidence. Doing this effectively begins with reading and researching about topics, articles, and relevant case studies necessary for a planned lecture. Understanding lecture materials through independent research and reading can boost your confidence in grasping lecture contents which then helps you in analysing and critically evaluating information. Moreover, engaging actively in lecture conversations/activities allows you to express your opinion, make adequate connections about different concepts, and become more comfortable in communicating with your peers which creates a low-pressure platform to practice speaking within an audience. Overall, actively participating in lecture conversations/activities deepens your understanding and ability to assess complex issues, improves your critical thinking skills and effective communication which leads to increased confidence.

I remember hearing the popular adage “All work and no play makes a person dull” when I was little. As a child this adage was translated to me as working all day without a break to do something else makes a person boring. While this adage can be interpreted in many ways, I want us to focus on one crucial point that in my opinion, the proverb indirectly highlighted: the importance of engaging in extracurricular activities. Beyond the work responsibilities that come with being a postgraduate student at one of the prestigious universities in the UK, there is a plethora of activities, clubs, and social impact groups you can participate in. Taking some time to engage in extracurricular activities within the University will undoubtedly build your confidence. How, you may wonder – let me explain. There are over 150 societies at the University of St Andrews. Actively participating in any of these societies allows you to network with a wider audience across the University and even take-up leadership positions and responsibilities. Extracurricular activities provide postgraduate students with the opportunity for personal and professional growth. This builds your confidence through supporting you to develop various skills, widen your social network and gives you a sense of purpose and achievement that is beyond your academic path. Nevertheless, it is crucial that you do basic research to identify groups or activities that align with your interest, career, and goals.

There are countless ways to build confidence as a postgraduate student, but it is crucial to keep in mind that confidence is not something that just happens. Confidence has to be built, learned, practised, and perfected. You are only constrained by the barriers you create for yourself.

What other ways do you think confidence can be developed as a postgraduate student? I would love to read them!”


Thank you so much, Winifred, for sharing your valuable insight with us! If any of our readers would like to connect with the author of this article, or with GRADskills and CEED team with any questions feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].

If you would be keen on sharing your personal reflections and perspectives, we would love to hear from you! Our upcoming themes, which we will discuss here further as the semester progresses, will include:

  • How to develop leadership skills during your postgraduate journey: insights on self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, motivation, and empathy. This month has seen St Andrews successful Enterprise Week taking place again, and thus this theme will build upon some of the inspiring ideas behind this initiative. The Entrepreneurship Centre is also organising a number of upcoming events, such as Lunch and Learn: Business Changes and Embracing AI and Lunch and Learn: The First Steps to Raising Investment, with which our blog post(s) focused on leadership will align.
  • How to nurture and increase your creativity. This theme will mark November – the Academic Writing Month!
  • Applying for a PGR degree and scholarships. With the end of semester fast approaching this theme will conclude out semester 1 series of posts, providing some help and guidance for all those considering applying for a PGR degree in early 2024.

If you think that your insight could help others navigate these areas of university life, do not hesitate to write to us.

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