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Going to Undergrad to Graduate School: What I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

During my final year as an undergraduate student, I decided that going to graduate school would be the best next step to take me closer to my career plans. 

While I worked on building a CV, asked multiple professors to write several recommendation letters, and filled out graduate school applications, I thought about how difficult the classes would be once I began diving deep into the material. 

Now that I am in my third month as a graduate student, I have learned several lessons and wish I had someone who would have told me more about graduate programs before I began. 

The amount of reading you will do for each of your graduate level classes skyrockets compared to the reading completed in undergrad. Although the amount of reading will vary based on the professor and graduate program, it is necessary to keep track of the pages that need to be read before going to class. 

When it comes to reading for these higher-level classes, annotating, note taking, and outside research are necessary. Since you are required to read so much, note taking and annotations are important in helping remember the main points of what you read. By the end of a reading, the pages should be riddled with notes in the margins and highlights. 

One major difference between undergrad and graduate school is the extreme increase of expectations that professors have for you. Yes, in undergraduate classes, professors expect you to put in the work for their class and turn in the best work you possibly can. 

In my few months of graduate school, I have found that the depth of understanding of the reading materials is heightened to a completely different level. Professors expect you to do outside research on the required reading, and then share your findings during class. 

Additionally, if a professor gives you an opportunity to conference with them but says that it is “optional”, schedule an appointment with them anyways. They expect you to take advantage of all the free time they have allotted for you in their schedule. This shows them that you are serious about your education and that you are doing the best you can in the program. 

The most important thing that I wished someone would have told me about graduate school is the crazy amount of support I would receive constantly from my friends and professors. In my case, I work as a graduate assistant in the university writing center. Luckily for me, my classmates also work in the writing center. 

The graduate program gently forces us to become friends by placing us in the same classes and in the same work environment. These three graduate students have quickly become my favorite people inside and outside of the classroom. 

The support from my professors has also been shocking to me. We all believe that professors are these mean and daunting people, but really, they want to help us succeed and get to the place we want in our careers. 

In the end, graduate school is a lot of work, and you must learn new time management skills fast. However, you meet the best people, students, and professors, within your program who push you to be the best scholar you possibly can while also sending you memes in the middle of the night (because they know you’re up doing work and it will make you happy). 

My advice for those who are planning to attend graduate school, make sure you find a small group of people within your program. Academia can feel lonely sometimes and having a small cohort of people who have the same goals as you can be your saving grace. 

Sam Hyatt

Winthrop '23

Hi! My name is Sam and I am a graduate student at Winthrop University. I am currently in the MA in English program, and I am working towards one day being an English professor. I love reading and writing. Right now, my favorite book is Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides and Later by Stephen King. When it comes to writing, I love journaling for myself, but also writing about difficult topics that may be controversial. However, I believe that there are certain subjects that need to be talked about and I do not mind stepping into that uncomfortable space. I'm excited to be writing for Her Campus and making new friends and connections with other student writers! "When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." – Audre Lorde
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