I Thought I Was Ready -- By Linda Hansen

graduate school stress

Graduating with a bachelor's degree and an excellent grade point average, I thought that I was ready for a Master's program. My first class was an introduction of what would be required for the next three years. As the professor talked, I wondered what "comps" were and why was I asked in the first class when I planned on graduating.

I soon found that the Master's program is to support you in your chosen individualized field of study. No one holds your hand and your are changed from focusing on completing classes and gaining credits to really studying and learning what you yourself want to know. I liked this about graduate school. It was a little scary at first but it was nice that the faculty had confidence in me. Evidentally, they had experienced this before!

The application process is a little confusing unless you read everything carefully. I had to apply for the university and also for the graduate school. They did not even share transcripts and I had to order a set for each department. Do not wait for the last minute to meet a deadline! Your crisis is not their responsibility. You are entering the adult world of education and are expected to be self-motivated.

Being a teacher's assistant (TA) gave me marvelous opportunities to see the class from a teacher's point of view. I had the opportunity to make all the powerpoint presentations from the textbook, prepare the quizzes, take attendance, grade quizzes, edit and grade papers, and write the final. It made me learn the material well. Being a research assistant (RA) taught me the details of good research and how to use the internet well. Time and focus become extremely important because there is so much material available, one needs to learn to focus well.

Consider your ability to write. If this is a problem area for you, take some classes on writing first. Know how to do research, at least in a rudimentary fashion.

Graduate school was much more difficult than undergraduate work because your responsiblity to learn rests on your shoulders.The faculty are there to support and to encourage you. The worst part is the lack of time. There are so many things to learn and so little time to learn them. One learns to be very selective and to refine ideas and goals. The best part of course, is the knowledge that you gain and how you can use it to better the lives of other people. The hardest part is the final exam. To put into writing three years of knowledge in the space of six hours without notes is a daunting task.

One mentally reviews and remembers all the things that could have been said or stated in a better fashion. The easiest part is walking across the stage and receiving the diploma.

Writing the application essay is not difficult if one makes an outline. Organize your thoughts in a logical manner, making sure that you have answered all questions asked. Write in complete sentences but avoid run-on sentences. Use correct grammar and punctuation. Avoid wordiness and words for which you really do not know the meaning.

Give credit where it is due. If you quote directly or indirectly, quote the source.

The graduate school experience is well worth the time, effort, and money. One learns that education is a life-long experience. As you learn more, you find that there is more to learn. It is an exciting time of your life. Don't miss it!

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