Today’s post is from the wonderful blogger Karalee Shotola. You can find her on Twitter @KaraleeCupcake and on Instagram @KaraleeCupcake and make sure to check out her blog Tales of Belle. I hope you enjoy her post on the differences between undergrad and grad school!
I am currently a master’s student in Child Studies at Linköping University in Sweden, which is mainly taught by distance. For my undergrad, I attend in person the University of Texas at Austin, and I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and I wanted to share the 5 ways graduate school is different than undergrad.
1. Only One Subject
During my undergrad, my major was psychology, but I had to take core classes including history, literature, and a foreign language that were not relevant to the field of psychology. However, for my master’s program, I am studying child studies and all of the classes I take are relevant to child studies. Also, all of my professors and teachers are in the Department of Child Studies. If you decide to attend graduate school, ensure that the subject is something you are interested in since graduate school only focuses on a single subject.
2. Less Classes, More Work
While I was getting my bachelor’s degree, I took 4-5 classes each semester for a total of 15-16 hours a week. With my master’s program for each of the two years, I take 4 classes the first semester, then 2 classes plus a thesis course the next semester. I take each class one at a time, but it may depend on your master’s program if you take the classes simultaneously. Even though I am taking fewer classes each semester, I am expected to put in 40 hours a week, and most of that time is spent reading the material and working on assignments outside of the lectures. During my undergrad, I did not have a thesis course, but for my master’s I will be completing two 10 week theses which is where I conduct my own research and then present it in front of a committee. If you think graduate school is for you, make sure you understand the time commitment required. Even though I currently do not have a job, other students in my program are able to manage a full-time job and the master’s program, but it is extremely difficult.
3. No Multiple Choice Exams
For my exams, all of them are written based with the exception of exams during the on-campus weeks which consist of presentations and participation in seminars. Most of my classes have an exam that is pass/fail while the final exam will be graded A-F. In my undergrad, most classes had multiple choice exams with a few short answer questions. Only a few classes had 100% written exams like the literature class I had to take. When I took the exams, I would complete them during a single class period, but with my master’s program I have around a week to write the final exam before I submit it. Just like how master’s programs require a larger time commitment, they also require more work with the exams.
4. No More Procrastination
During my undergrad I could get away with writing a paper last minute or studying the night before an exam, but with my master’s program I cannot procrastinate. Since my program is by distance, I need to manage my time wisely or else I will be behind and unprepared for the upcoming assignment. Like I mentioned in the previous points, I spend most of my time reading and working on the assignments. The readings take longer than in undergrad to go through due to the increased difficulty of the material. If you have a habit of procrastinating, I highly recommend you to think about changing your procrastinating ways before applying to a graduate program.
5. Diverse Classmates
In all my classes for my undergrad, everyone was around 18 years old to early 20s, and there were only a few older adults. However, in my master’s program, we range from 20 year olds to 60 year olds with the average being in the 30s. My classmates are married, have children, and some work full-time. Since my program is mainly by distance, my classmates are from England, Ireland, Germany, The Netherlands, Cyprus, Australia, New Zealand, and India. Even though we are a diverse group, we get along well during the on-campus weeks and in our Facebook group. Also, for my program there are around 30 students, which is a large amount for most graduate programs, but I did not even know how many students were in my psychology bachelor’s program since there were so many of us. If you want to attend graduate school, know that the programs are much smaller and therefore more competitive to get into than undergrad, but the connections you make with your classmates and professors are worth it.
Even though graduate school requires more time and work, I recommend applying to a graduate school if you want to further your education in a single subject and enhance your career opportunities.
Thank you so much Karalee for the great post! Make sure to check out her blog Tales of Belle.
I’m also UT-Austin student currently working on my undergrad in Mechanical Engineering! It’s awesome to see that what starts here really does change the world 🙂 Thank you for such an insightful post, and best of luck with your master’s degree!