Going into graduate school, I had no idea what to expect. It had been a few years since I graduated, and I felt compelled to take that next step. As a second-year student now, here are 10 lessons I’ve learned from grad school so far.
1. It’s A Different Playing Field
Graduate school applications alone allow you to see how different this education level is. Undergrad still has an aspect of covering various levels of study before you are in your later years. Grad school narrows down everything to one area. Despite being focused on business or a genre in creative writing, you still encounter so many students from different majors. The great thing about graduate school is that you can use your degree to further yourself in a field you really want to dedicate yourself to.
2. Be Vocal
This especially applies to seminar type classes like those I am currently enrolled in. Graduate school emphasizes expressing your opinions in written work as well as aloud. Both aspects are given equal weight in order for you to get the most out of your education. It is also important to ask questions in grad school. Whether they are questions for clarification or future assignments, you are going to remain in a confused loop unless you speak up!
3. Not Immune To Human Issues
You are still going to have some bad days in grad school. Being at this level takes a lot of adjusting especially when it seems like everyone around you gets their footing on the first day of class. Along that same wave you are going to run into typical college issues. Whether it’s group projects gone awry or handbooks that have conflicting information, grad school is not exempt from these issues.
4. Huge Schedule Changes
The impact of a grad school schedule greatly depends on if you are attending full-time or half-time. As a full-time student, grad school turned my schedule upside down. Work hours had to be extremely adjusted and homework had to be reintegrated into my daily practice. You also have meetings, readings, and craft talks to attend all in the same schedule. It definitely seems, and felt, impossible at first but you find the right balance for you.
5. Time Management
Creating a balance while you’re in grad school takes shape differently for each person. Finding time to relax or decompress will require a lot more planning but it is a necessity. If you don’t take the time to slow down, you will face a lot more challenges and obtaining that degree will become an uphill battle. Managing time may not be easy but it can be done.
6. Interacting With Professionals
Despite still being recognized as a student, I’ve learned that grad school puts you in contact with a lot of professionals in your field. As an undergrad, there were few instances of this so learning to network with these “pros” has been a learning experience. You can witness their craft and mastery up close while still being in a structured environment. There is something so powerful about reading someone’s book then hearing them read at your school and talk about their process. It is a rare and fortunate circumstance to be in.
7. You Learn About Yourself
Before starting grad school, you have a vision for how things are going to pan out. You have specific goals and a vague idea of how to achieve these goals. Since starting grad school, I have learned a lot about who I am in terms of writing and have shifted career goals in a sense. Learning from your professors and peers allows you to expand your mind into various directions. This is something I had not anticipated but I am excited to see where I end up.
8. Opportunities Present Themselves
Sometimes you are presented with opportunities that are exclusively available for graduate students. Whether it’s something as simple as a student discount or on a larger scale, an internship in your field that requires you to be a current grad student. You want to experience all that grad school has to offer so take advantage of these offers when you can!
9. It’s A Lot Of Work
Whether your program is online or in-person, you are going to have to work. Once you get the hang of things it seems like time flies by then you are preparing yourself for the thesis process. There are going to be nights that seem to be overwhelming and times when you may need extensions but if you are aware of the work to come, somehow that makes the hill seem less daunting.
10. It’s Worth It
Once you get through the crazy schedules and mountains of work, you will treasure your time in grad school. I didn’t think I would make it through my first semester yet here I am in my second year. One of the most important lessons grad school has taught me is that even though the work seems never-ending, you will arrive at a place where anything is possible.
Wishing you copious amounts of strength & resilience in your grad school journey! What have you learned from grad school? Tell us in the comments!
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Rebecca was born in Hayward, CA and still resides there today. She received her BA in English Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and is the first in her family to graduate from university. She is a Poetry student in the MFA program at Saint Mary’s College of California and is furthering her involvement in the literary community. In her spare time, she likes to lose her voice at Giants games, read Young Adult novels, make lists, and aims to cross become a writer off it.