I’m the first one within my immediate friends’ group and family to be attending grad school. Ultimately, I didn’t plan on going to grad school for my Master’s because I thought four years of college were enough to last me for a lifetime. I knew I wanted to expand my studies in Cinema because I wanted to become a scriptwriter for awhile, and I needed more studies in film and television if I wanted to pursue that as a career. I applied in Fall 2015 to attend a film school in Fall 2016. I got rejected due to limited spots within the program, and by that point, I felt extremely discouraged and told myself that grad school was officially out of the picture.
Until CSI granted me the opportunity to continue my studies in their MA program for English. I felt blessed to have this handed to me without having a backup plan after the film school rejected me, so I decided to stay at my college and study English (again) as a grad student.
I am currently wrapping up my first official year of grad school. I will be graduating this time next year.
Boy how time flies.
If you were to ask “22-year-old college senior Liz” what grad school would be like, I would tell you that it was going to be tedious, but nothing that I can’t handle. I still remember my last famous words being “I did 5 classes for two semesters straight; how hard could two classes be?”
Dear “22-year-old college senior Liz”, you played yourself.
Prior to attending grad school, I planned to do a lot of things with the spare time I thought I was going to have. I wanted to be more involved with my school’s drama club, I wanted to write a lot more scripts and potentially make them into short films or scenes, and I definitely wanted to finally get a job. After realizing that I had a project already due the first day of grad school, I realized just how intense grad school was going to be.
Grad school is definitely a different type of commitment you make than regular college. Nowadays, it’s ideal to go to college after high-school; most careers and jobs require a Bachelor’s degree. Going to grad school and getting your Master’s isn’t as common, hence why it’s more a commitment. The reality of it all is that you don’t have to go to grad school; you could be perfectly fine with life with just your Bachelor’s degree. So when you decide to pursue grad school and it becomes too much to handle, the question of “do I really need to do this?” definitely comes up. I know it did for me.
Grad school, especially studying English, requires a lot of research. You’re writing 20-page final papers, you’re putting on presentations for 4 different projects, and your vacation days and breaks that you have are strictly for doing work.
Grad school has definitely taught me a lot about my work ethic and how to properly handle my time management. My undergrad years I did my work very last minute, especially in classes that I really didn’t like. I went through many semesters not reading any of the books for my literature course and still managed to pass all of them with A’s and such. Grad school… a completely different ball game. The readings are longer, dense, and require a lot more of your time in order to engage in class discussions and most of all, you’ve made it this far. People don’t understand that at when in a grad-level class, everyone made it just as far as you. People are a lot more intellectual, and the people who may appear like they don’t do much in class are the same people who are honestly just low-key geniuses.
The truth of it all is that you have to physically prepare yourself for grad school and even then you’re not fully ready. People assume that grad school is just going to be a little bit harder than undergrad (or even easier) when really, two classes feel like two full-time jobs. Grading is different, attendance is different, the work is different, and yes – even the stress is different.
In my bad habits turned to good ones’ post, I explain how I had to revamp my time management skills by pretty much using my calendar to write down even the days that I have to do work. Grad school work is nothing like undergrad; YOU CANNOT LEAVE IT FOR THE LAST MINUTE. It’s impossible, to say the least.
Last but certainly not least, you have to change your attitude towards school if you want to pass grad-level classes. Specifically, at my school, I have to keep at least a 3.0 GPA (in other words, a B) in order to graduate. My GPA right now is a 3.3, which honestly can change with just a simple bad grade in one course. The pressure that comes with exceeding in grad school literally wears you out, and if you don’t have tough skin to handle the ups and downs of grad school, then grad school isn’t the place for you.
It’s the honest truth.
Of course, grad school isn’t just this horrible place of negativity and anxiety. If anything, grad school has made me into a better writer and has been teaching me the reality of what it takes to be respected in academia. In the near future, I’ll be writing a post about the writing/rhetoric composition side of writing I learn in grad school that I never knew even existed; but that’s beside the point. As a grad student, you are granted this freedom that you don’t get as an undergrad. In grad school, you are allowed to have your own ideas and explore all these different things without having your professors tell you you’re off-topic or some shit (of course, some professors are just naturally one-sided). As a grad student, there is this certain respect you get from your peers that you don’t necessarily get from undergrad because the classes are just overly crowded on the undergrad level. You also get to connect with professors better when you’re on the grad-level (honestly, Professor Carlo has been such an inspiration for me while on this grad school journey, so thank you for making me a better writer).
All in all, grad school is a risk that you should take if you believe that you can do it. It’s okay if you know deep down inside you can’t handle it; it’s not for everyone. I didn’t know that it was essentially for me, and I’m still trying to cope with the new surroundings and identity being a grad student. Yes, at times I feel like the stress and anxiety do take over me, but personally, I feel like grad school has made me grow into myself and to perfect my craft as a writer.
So, if you’re thinking about grad school, I say go for it. There’s nothing wrong furthering your education. If you’re not thinking about grad school, don’t sweat it. Don’t do it because you have to, do it because you want to.