It's that time of year again! Summer is winding down and everyone is going back to school. If you’re among those who are continuing their secondary education beyond college, congratulations.
You deserve credit for embarking on what will surely be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of your life.
It is worth noting that graduate school is not quite the same as college. You should be eager to let go of your college security blanket and embrace this new stage of life.
To help you know what to expect and ease your transition into post-grad education, here are seven ways graduate school is different from college:
1) It’s a job hunt from the get-go
When you first go to college, you usually don’t have a clue what you want to do, or if you do, you change your major a year or two into your coursework.
This is completely acceptable behavior, as college is a time for you to explore your interests and rule out any fields you don’t like through trial and error. By the time you get to graduate school, the time for exploration is over. Most everyone there knows exactly what he or she wants to do and is looking for a job from day one.
Don’t be the person who's left behind; go into grad school with the mindset that everything you do for the next two to four years should be for the purpose of landing a specific job.
2) You will have older classmates
Gone are the days of fraternity men or freshmen. Your classmates will no longer be people who are the same age as you, all doe-eyed and bushy-tailed for the first day of school.
Your classmates will be professionals, many of whom are older and have been working in their chosen fields for years before deciding to pursue an advanced degree.
They’ve taken out additional loans and are putting their family’s finances at risk to be there. As a result, they could care less about “where the party’s at.” All they want to know is where to get the best outlines and study guides.
In short, they mean business, and you should, too.
3) Extracurricular activities are not that important
When I was in college, I became involved with every organization possible. It was a great way to meet people and added something to my résumé aside from my academic merits.
In graduate school, being a well-rounded person is the last thing anyone’s concerned about. Academics are the end-all, be-all of graduate school, and grades are first thing employers consider when determining whether or not to even interview you.
Most times, a 4.0 from a lesser-known school will afford you more consideration from a potential employer than a 3.0 from a well-known school with a bevy of extracurricular and volunteer activities. Keep that in mind and prioritize accordingly.
4) Your grades all depend on one test
Remember class participation or getting an "A" for effort? That doesn’t exist in graduate school. Most courses last 12 to 14 weeks and culminate into one giant final exam.
Your grade for the course is solely dependent on that exam. There may be potential for swaying your professor from the B to a B- if you go to every office hour possible and really show an effort in the course, but more than likely, you’re stuck with what you get.
As already mentioned, grades are important. Do not count on cramming like you did in college; prepare at least two weeks out if you want a chance at doing well.
5) Everything you learn will be relevant
In college, you may have taken underwater basket weaving or another obscure course of the like. The bad news is, you won’t be taking any of those courses anymore (so long, history of the Beatles!).
The good news is, you also don’t have to take courses that you have absolutely no interest in anymore, like statistics or biology.
From here on out, everything you study will be relevant to your chosen field, and should actually call your attention on an intellectual level. This is exciting! It’s a time to really learn, and you’re paying good money for it, so you may as well take advantage.
6) You will no longer have time for leisurely reading
Gone are the days where you could sit in your room and get lost in "The Hunger Games" trilogy for a weekend.
For the next two to four years, you will be so tired of reading academic material that the last thing you will want to do for fun is more reading, no matter how avid of a book fan you were in your college days.
You will watch all your news on TV because the thought of having to comprehend one more written word than necessary will be utterly overwhelming. The upside? At least they’ll have a new e-reader released by the time you graduate and return to normal society.
7) Your celebratory tastes will evolve
In college, your idea of a good time might have included a toga party or all-night rager. In graduate school, your tastes will become more refined and include trivia nights at your local bar or a good bottle of wine and Netflix on a Friday night.
Sounds lame, I know, but you will learn to love it -- that, and your comfy graduate student pajamas you'll practically be living in for these next few years.
Graduate school is not all fun and games, but it’s definitely worth it. Prepare for these minor changes and you’ll be set to handle anything thrown at you. Best of luck!
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