Things to consider before Signing up for Grad School

It might be that grad school has been in your plans for years, or maybe you came to see grad school as a smart move as you worked your way towards your bachelors degree; either way, there are some things you might want to consider before signing up; things you may not have heard before.

The first thing is that grad school takes a lot more of your time than does work for an undergraduate program; this is because the emphasis is on self discovery, rather than rote memorization. You’re likely used to the model where you sit in a class and the instructor shows you how to do something in math, or explains clearly why some Roman general failed, or whatever. This is not how things are in grad school; it’s more like you will be asked to pick some area of history that interests you, or perhaps there is some obscure thermo that has never been solved that needs to explaining as to whether its solution might ever come to pass; or again, whatever. The point here is that you will be expected to find something that interests you, and then to do a serious amount of research on that topic or idea, and then to come up with something new or interesting to say about that topic or idea; which means, learning something about it, or the whole field as you go. This is how grownups are expected to learn things in grad school; the way that mature, thoughtful people learn; on their own through putting in effort. Again, it’s not that this is all particularly difficult, it’s just that it is very different from what you’ve seen in the past, and if it sits well with your image of yourself and how you view your educational progression, than you’re good to go. If not, you might find yourself struggling.

Something else you may not be aware of, is that writing skills are an absolute necessity. You can’t write better than adequate research papers if you don’t know how. Even the technical degree programs have a lot of writing as students are expected to write papers about what they’ve discovered in their lab work, or yes, in their research. Writing is the fabric of grad school work; it’s how students convey what they’ve learned, and the yardstick by which they are measured by their professors. If you aren’t able to write good research papers, than you might want to take some course work first, otherwise, you might find grad school and very unpleasant experience.

And finally, you might also be surprised to discover that the environment in grad school is different as well. Those guys that had beer parties and panty raids when you were an undergrad are all gone, all off working on their careers; as most of those that stay and go to grad school are the serous sort.