What Grad School is Really Like

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

Undergrad. The excitement of walking into your first college class. The bliss of taking “blow-off” courses to fulfill elective requirements. The relief of knowing you probably won’t be called on in a lecture hall of 300 students.

Grad school. Reading. Reading. Small classes. Did I mention reading?

Earlier this year, I was one of eight students accepted into the first cohort of the Accelerated Bachelor’s to Master’s (ABM) Program for the Department of Communication and Journalism at Texas A&M University. From the day of my application, I anxiously anticipated what the reality of grad school would be like.

Fast forward a few months to the first day of my last year as an undergrad student and my first year as a grad student—the program combined the timeline of both degrees—where I finally got my first taste of grad school.

Now, I know it’s easy to read the initial description of grad school I gave and immediately assume the worst. In fact, I prepared myself for a similar reaction as I walked into my first grad class, just in case it was nothing like I had imagined.

I sat in the swivel chair at the conference table near my fellow ABM classmates and anxiously watched as the first-year master’s (who already earned their bachelor’s degrees) and first-year Ph.D. (some of whom already earned master’s degrees) students joined the table. This wasn’t my first time meeting them all—we had to attend Professionalization Week events together—but I still felt like a child in a room of adults.

Class started promptly at 8:30 a.m., and our professors—there are two of them—introduced themselves and then asked us to do the same. Following the light-hearted introductions, each professor gave a rundown of the important parts of the syllabus and their interpretation of what the course would look like.

After a 10-minute break, we made our way back to the conference room, and our professors walked us through our first assignments and touched on the readings we did prior to meeting in class.

Just like that, the class was over. It was the typical syllabus week class.

So, what’s grad school really like? Well, I’ve gathered a few judgments in my first few encounters:

1. the coursework Primarily consists of academic reading… and a LOT of it.

In the first few weeks, we were assigned roughly 200 pages of readings to complete and write a mini analysis on. But, there’s a perk of having so many readings: there are far few written assignments, and there definitely aren’t pointless Packback discussions every week.

2. Grad classes prioritize a discussion-based learning environment.

This is something I’m looking forward to. With roughly 20 students (on the high end) in a class, it’s clear that we won’t be lectured often if we even are at all. This style encourages people of all backgrounds to share their thoughts and experiences in relation to the reading.

3. Most grad students feel like they have no idea what’s going on, just like undergrad students.

One key point that was harped on was that it’s likely that not everyone understands the huge words that academia loves. On top of that, now is a more important time than ever to ask questions, even if it means temporarily feeling like a fool.

Grad school seems like an opportunity to explore my current or potential passions in the communications field, and that makes me excited. Will I still feel like a child surrounded by people who I see as the most brilliant beings in the world? Probably. The good thing is that I definitely won’t be the only one thinking that.



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