It is tough. I recently spoke to a fellow student who was having a hard time. I told her that if graduate school were easy, everyone would do it. That is the honest truth. It takes a lot of time and dedication to get a master’s, MBA, or beyond. Imagine if they gave out degrees at a drive thru window. Would it hold the same esteem it does today? Probably not. When the going gets tough, the tough get going!
Graduate school is a team sport. You are only as strong as your weakest link. Graduate students come from all different educational backgrounds—various majors, online students, community college graduates, etc. This means you are placed in groups for projects with students who may not be as familiar with a subject as you are. Just like any team sport, you have to help each other and bring others up to your level. They will do the same for you when the time comes.
You need a buddy. Or two. Or three. The people! I have met some amazing and talented individuals through my graduate program. Students from all walks of life and located all over the country! It is always good to be in it together. I text almost every day with various people from the program; we keep each other grounded and focused. I’ve made sure to align myself with positive go-getters; these are the folks you want in your cohort!
Online learning is not for everyone. Thankfully I completed my undergraduate program in an online environment, which made it an easy transition to graduate school. In my current graduate program, there are students who struggle with the online approach. Essentially the student is teaching themselves. The learner needs to have the discipline and smarts to figure out tough concepts by reading and synthesizing the information. Some learners require more hands-on teaching and that is okay. It is best to figure out your learning style before you enter an online program.
You learn what you’re made of. I learned I get cranky after a few hours of statistical analysis but I am really great at cranking out A papers in a few hours. I also learned that I feel compelled to teach and help fellow students who are struggling—whether that be with the concepts or to be emotionally supportive. Some students crack under the pressure. You really see what you are made of when you enter graduate school.
Efficient time management is key. When I decided to go to school full-time and work full-time, it was a big decision. I had no idea if I could handle the course load on top of my 40+ hour work week. I am extremely dedicated and I make sure not to squander one single moment. Waiting in line…reading a textbook. Lunch breaks at work…writing a first draft. Every second counts! Weekends aren’t glamorous and most often I am chained to computer. It is all worth it in the end!
You feel proud and accomplished. According to the 2015 Census, only 12% of Americans have an advanced degree, this includes master’s and doctorate degrees. This means as a graduate student, you are doing something that not everyone else is doing. You are learning more, doing more, and going beyond the norm. Personally, this makes me feel extremely accomplished and proud!
Thinking about graduate school and have questions? Let me know!