You’ve applied to a plethora of grad schools and you finally received your letter of admission! You couldn’t be more excited to embark on this new adventure. While a masters or doctorate degree could mean a heftier paycheck, there are many different things to keep in mind when you start grad school.
1. Grad School is Expensive
You’ve been forewarned [if you don’t already know] but grad school is expensive. In undergrad, you could receive grants and loans to pay off your school or perhaps you could pay your way out of pocket (which many people do). But in grad school, if it’s not being financed by either your employer, grants or scholarships,it can cost you a pretty penny.
2. Where Did All Your Friends Go?
One very rude awakening for me when I entered grad school was that it’s not as easy to make friends as it was during undergrad. During undergrad, I didn’t realize how close I would remain with many of the people that were in the same dorm as me. I had many different groups of friends and expected things to be the same in grad school. I was wrong. Many grad school students are considerably older than your peers were during undergrad. In grad school, students often have 9-5s, along with children and spouses to occupy their time. It’s harder to make friends, especially if you’re still in the “let’s go out and get wasted” phase of your life.
3. You Actually Have to Study
I don’t know about you, but in undergrad I
partied all the time didn’t devote as much time to studying as I probably should have. But at the same time, I could do a half-assed study session and still pull decent grades. But in grad school, you can’t really do that anymore. You actually have to [dare I say it] study. (Who knew?)
4. C’s and D’s Aren’t Passing
In undergrad, satisfactory grades in all your major subjects are permitted and you can pass a class with a D and still receive credit and get your degree. In grad school it’s not the same. In many programs you MUST make an A or B in all your courses otherwise you can face academic probation and other unsavory consequences.
5. You Have to Write a Masters Thesis
Most graduate programs require you to complete a Masters thesis [or a pass a comprehensive exam]. A Masters thesis can me anywhere from 20-40 pages and is often mandatory in order to receive your diploma. My graduate program required me to pass a 100 question comprehensive exam regarding the 10 core subjects in my field. Needless to say it was nerve-wrecking.
6. Prepare Yourself For Lots of Writing*
Aside from a Masters thesis, you should prepare yourself to do a considerable amount of writing in grad school. Depending on your field, the amount of writing varies. The point of grad school is to show mastery in a specific area, so one way that professors
use to torture you have you demonstrate mastery, is through lots of research papers and projects.
7. Grades Don’t Really Matter
In undergrad I slacked off a great deal, so once I got into grad school I was so excited about my good grades. I worked hard and was dedicated, so you can imagine my shock and sadness when I realized that there isn’t much importance placed on your actual GPA; as long as it’s above a 3.0 that’s all the really matters. I thought at graduation, the speaker would state that my grades earned me cum laude status. I was wrong. Once you get to grad school there is less emphasis placed on actual grades and more emphasis placed on mastery.
*Congratulations on your admission into grad school. It is a great feat and you should genuinely feel proud of yourself. This list was based on my experiences, as well as experiences of others in grad school that I know. One thing to keep in mind is that the amount of writing is based on your field of study. Every field is different but these are just tips and important tidbits that I picked up along the way.