People choose to go back to school and enroll themselves in a graduate course for several reasons. Some do so for the purpose of career advancement, while others opt to go back to school for personal reasons. Whatever your reason is in enrolling in a graduate school, the first year will surely be very challenging. As a graduate student, some adjustments will have to be made on your schedule, and this is where efficient time management comes in. Graduate school is often considered to be more demanding than undergraduate education. With the right planning and time management strategies, however, there is no reason why you should not make it successfully out of grad school.
Common misconceptions about graduate school
Unfortunately, many students apply to graduate school without really understanding what it entails. Some graduate students, moreover, expect a graduate degree to be their only ticket to professional success. Here are some of the typical misconceptions about graduate school:
– Graduate school is for everyone.
– A graduate degree is the answer to all your career woes.
– All you need are good grades to make it to graduate school.
– Being a full-time graduate student does not require any time management.
The real graduate school scenario
When applying to any graduate school of your choice, you need to remember that a graduate degree is not for everyone. Just because your best friend is taking up graduate studies or because all your office mates are getting their own PhDs does not automatically make you a good candidate for a graduate degree. Before anything else, you need to understand what motivates you to enroll in a graduate school.
Many professionals believe that getting a graduate degree will immediately help them secure a top-ladder position once they graduate. Although a graduate diploma or certificate will surely add to your credentials, this will not immediately ensure a high-ranking position within your chosen career or your promotion within your current company.
Making it to graduate school is also beyond getting good grades. While it is crucial that you maintain good grades especially during your first year, you also need to establish ties, which can potentially help you after graduation. Networking is just as important as maintaining decent grades when you’re in graduate school.
Finally, it is impossible for any student to make it to graduate school without effective time management. Graduate school can be overwhelming and many graduate students will find themselves pressed for time when accomplishing tasks and completing projects. Being a graduate student requires commitment and time management skills.
Setting reasonable expectations
Whether you are applying as an incoming college freshman, a law school freshman, or a graduate school freshman, setting reasonable expectations will help you get the most out of your graduate school experience. It is crucial that you learn how to separate misconceptions from the real stuff, to keep yourself from feeling frustrated as early as your freshman year. Although graduate school should not intimidate you, being prepared for all the adjustments you will be facing should always be one of your priorities.
You can talk to a faculty member or an adviser in order to get a full description of the program you are planning to enroll in. You can ask questions about the exams, projects, research and thesis requirements so you will understand as early as possible what the demands of the program are and what you can do to make the most out of your first year.
Preparing for your first year
– If you’re still planning to enter graduate school, make sure that you choose the right course and the right school. Prior to applying, make a review of potential graduate schools within your area or those which offer your desired graduate course.
– Make sure that you have the syllabus for the graduate course/s you will be taking. A syllabus will help you keep track of readings, assignments, and research requirements.
– Be prepared to read a lot. During your first year a lot of reading will be required, as this will allow you to get the right background on your chosen course. Comprehensive exams are also typical in graduate school, and these will often require a lot of reading.
– Learn how to be an independent thinker. If you want to make it through your first year, you need to be able to think and analyze on your own. During your first year, you also need to participate in discussions, as well as attend seminars and other fora.
– Set up a schedule in advance to make time management easier. If you’re working while studying, make sure that you understand beforehand what graduate school entails. You will need to organize your schedule to be able to commit to both your studies and your career.
– Be prepared to ask intelligent questions. Graduate school is more on interaction and less on lectures. Graduate school professors are more likely to conduct discussions, which allow students to raise questions, analyze concepts, and create new ideas.
What the rest of your years in school will bring
Your succeeding years in graduate school will be no less taxing; however; it will be fairly easy for you to adjust to life in graduate school once you’ve breezed through your freshman year. Due to all the adjustments you will be making, your first year in graduate school will be one of the most demanding. Before your first year is up, you will have to choose which areas of research you will focus on. During the rest of your graduate school life, moreover, you can expect to have more readings, more discussions, more in-depth studies and research. Also you will need to start looking into networking opportunities, not only from your fellow graduate students but from alumni and your professors too.
Life in graduate school is going to be overwhelming for some, but with reasonable expectations, commitment, and successful time management, there is no reason why you should not ace your graduate studies and get the diploma or certificate you’ve always aspired for.
Photo Credits: Ed Brambley, The Italian Voice, Lars Plougmann