October 2019

How Grad School Differs from Undergrad teaser image
  1. One subject means more focus
In undergrad, there were common classes that everyone in the university had to take to graduate. As a science major, I had absolutely NO interest in history classes. I am sorry, but it is a subject that is just not for me. However, I had to take history classes and many other classes that I had little interest in just to satisfy my degree. I disliked most of these classes that were not in my interest area. There’s no such thing as this in grad school. You have already found your passion, and your degree program is very focused on that subject. Therefore, your classes become much more enjoyable because they align with your interests, and you know they are all applicable to what you want to do in the future. I will never have to take a history class again—yay!!
  1. Fewer credit hours, but not less work
Grad school is no longer about going to class, learning surface-level topics, and taking multiple-choice exams. Depending on the subject matter, grad school can be hours of reading, writing papers, and/or preparing for classroom discussions. I have heard things like you should spend 1-3 hours outside of class studying for or working on assignments in a class for every credit hour you take. That’s 9-27+ hours of classwork (for a 9-hour course load) outside the classroom. Then you have to actually go to class. Then maybe you have a part-time or even a full-time job. Then maybe you are on an assistantship, so you have to spend time in a lab or grading papers. Then you are expected to attend meetings, seminars, and workshops. Is there even enough time in the day to get everything done? Some days it sure does not feel like it! 
  1. More close-knit community
The numbers vary between grad programs, but in general, the class sizes are much smaller in grad school. I don’t think many grad students miss sitting in the large lecture halls filled with unfamiliar people. In grad school, you quickly become friends with your cohort because there are less of you, you all have similar interests, and you can be sure that the person next to you is as serious about their future as you are about yours. No more sitting next to that student who never failed to watch at least three episodes of The Office every single class period in your undergrad program.
  1. No more procrastination or being unprepared
Oh, how nice were the days where you could quickly read something on the bus before walking into class to learn about it? Now, I must have time to digest the material, apply it to other scenarios, and be prepared to discuss it in-depth. Or how about all those classes that only had big exams or large projects? I was so guilty of only studying the night before the test or whipping together a project the night before. I procrastinated because I knew I could still get the tasks done in a small timeframe. However, now I know that my projects and papers require much more thought to complete. Additionally, I can always count on myself getting writer’s block the first time that I sit down to work on a paper or project, so I need time to work through that. I have a constant workflow, and I am always worried about being prepared for class—both things that I did not worry about it in undergrad.
  1. Being Looked at as a colleague more than a student 
This difference may just be the best part about transitioning to grad school. When your professors treat you more like a young professional than a student, it is easy to develop imposter syndrome. However, you deserve to have this new and improved distinction from the undergraduates! You have proven your academic ability, and you have taken the next step to ripen your knowledge. Your professors know that you are serious about school, your career, and ultimately, life. It is a great feeling to be invited into your chosen field with open arms!

---Courtney Adams
Courtney Adams is a Masters student in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences

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