Graduate School Isn’t For Everyone

Whether you’re thinking about going on with higher education to pursue a Masters or Doctoral degree, there are a lot of things you need to take into consideration before taking the dive. Financing is an obvious issue, as is how you’re going to support yourself in the meantime- you know, eat and stuff.

Beyond those types of things, there are some others which aren’t as apparent; things that don’t happen during undergrad.

Going through the History Masters program here at SUNY Oswego has made one thing painfully obvious to me: There are people who are much, much smarter than me. During undergrad I was a pretty good student. I loved studying history, writing papers, analyzing- all that stuff most of you hate. It made me seem smart because I was invested in the process. However, at the graduate level, I had to step up my game. There aren’t a ton of us in the program, so standing out negatively is easy. Teachers, and frankly your peers, expect more out of you. The days of the kid who doesn’t know what he’s talking about speaking up every class making people look good are over. You’re in the big leagues now. If you didn’t read for that day, stay home. People will eventually figure it out.

This is a good time to bring up my next point: You better love what you’re studying. If you’re pursuing a degree after your Bachelor’s it should be something you don’t mind spending every weekend for a few months…who am I kidding? You’ll probably be spending most days researching, studying, and writing about. You may have to skip out on some nights out with friends or with a significant other, which is never fun. Dedication and perseverance will be key. It’ll get tiring, trust me, but at the end of the day I’m proud of the result and focused on getting my degree. If you feel that maybe it’s not for you, do more research, talk to people already in the program and the professors in the department, and choose your University or College very carefully.

Finally, being in graduate school also brings on this feeling of limbo: Am I a student or a professional? I work 30 hours a week, but I go to class at night. How do I introduce myself in a meeting or to people I meet? I’ve personally had trouble understanding the difference. Many times I’m expected to be professional, going to meetings and creating events, but I need to make sure I’m home in time to finish a paper or study for an exam. It’s a delicate balance that will work itself out. In the mean time, do your best to just concentrate on what you’re doing.

At the end of the day, make sure you take your time with your decision and way all the pros, cons, and everything in between.

- Jon (@jonzella)