8 things you need to know about attending graduate school

8 things you need to know about attending graduate school

it's no secret that there's been an increase in the amount of students that have opted to further their education by attending graduate school. whereas, in previous years, earning your bachelor's was the "goal", it's clear that the bachelor's has become the equivalent of the high school diploma. as a result, it's as though you "have to" go to graduate school in order to make yourself competitive in the job force. yes, graduate school is certainly not for everyone. however, if you're one of those people who has decided to take on the challenge, here are some things you need to keep in mind to ensure you get the most out of your experience. 

8). excellence is a way of life, not a myth.

in undergrad, we often heard of common sayings like, “c’s get degrees” or “cheat or repeat.” you can’t really do that in grad school, though. as a matter of fact, in most programs, if you get two c’s over the course of your years in the program, you actually get kicked out of your program, low key. don’t tweak.

7). coming to class unprepared is an absolute no, no.

you know how in undergrad you used to be able to save money by not purchasing the book and using a classmate’s book when they weren’t using it? those days are basically over. get your own books and bring your own materials to class, fam. grad students tend to not share and at this point in their academic life, why should they? you know better.

6). you don’t miss class.

missing a single class in grad school is like missing a third of the semester, forreal. the reason for that is because many grad courses don’t meet everyday of the week. because of this, the times that they do meet are much longer than traditional classes; and because these classes are longer, more material is covered. that means you can’t afford to miss a class and if you absolutely have to miss, you better make sure you communicate that as far in advance as possible with your professor.

5). aggressively skimming will save your life.

in grad school, there are typically a lot of readings, readings, and more readings. as a new graduate student, you may be tempted to go “all out” and read everything line by line. i’m here to tell you it’s not always necessary, though. if your classroom setting is discussion based, you need to make sure you have something valuable to add to the conversation, period. aggressive skimming means that you don’t read everything. rather, you read the important parts, like the abstract, the intro and conclusion, wherever applicable. don’t forget to write in the margins, or at least on a separate sheet of paper, so you can remember key points. disclaimer: this method doesn’t work for everyone, so be honest with yourself and don’t force it if it’s just not working for you.

4). your professor may seem cool, but they will still fail you.

grad school has a much more relaxed classroom environment than undergrad, for the most part. your professor may even insist that you call them by their first name. but make no mistake, they will fail you like the rest of them if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do in their class.  so, instead of relying on being “cool” with the professor in order to pass your class, try acquainting yourself with the library and other resources that were created to help you be successful.

3). establishing a balance between your graduate and undergraduate friends is a major key.

long story quick, sometimes, you have to distance yourself from your undergraduate friends because they won’t always understand what you’re going through. this is especially tough if you are attending graduate school at the same place you earned your bachelor’s. establishing friends that are in graduate school is key. if you can find friends in your department, that’s even better. comradery among grad students helps to make the journey more of a shared experience and you’re less likely to feel like you’re in it alone. i’m speaking from experience here.

2). emails can make you or break you, choose wisely.

sometimes, you may get a grade on an assignment that you feel doesn’t adequately reflect the grade you thought you were going to get. before sending an email letting your professor know where they can go and how quickly they can get there, it would behoove you to take a breath, draft an email and walk away from it for at least an hour. after that, come back and read it with a new pair of eyes. make sure it’s not offensive, inaccurate and that it is based on fact, not feelings. pissing your professor off via email is one of the worst things you can do because they literally have the power to ruin you (academically). oh, and while we are on the topic of emails, here’s another secret--- spell check is there for a reason. use it.

1). you’re more than qualified to make it to the end.

graduate school is new territory. it’s so easy to get intimidated by your peers and feel like you don’t belong. don’t fall victim to “imposter syndrome”, which is when you feel like everyone is smarter, bolder and more effective than you. you know that scene from ‘the help’ when she was like, “you is kind. you is smart. you is important”? it’s really true.  you’re smart. you’ve earned your way into your program. it’s incumbent upon you to utilize your resources to see it through until the end.  

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