Graduate School: Myths Vs. Reality

We all get to that point in life where we feel stuck, and think more schooling might be the magical solution. Before you drop hundreds on application fees, here are some common misconceptions, and what you find out when you actually go through it.
Legally Blonde
Legally Blonde

1. Myth: Schoolwork will be way easier to handle now that you’re an adult. 

Reality: You haven’t done homework since college, and that muscle has atrophied.  It will take weeks to build it back up, and in that time you’ll have two papers due, an in-class test, and a Powerpoint presentation.  Make friends with the red pen now. 

2. Myth: You can totally keep your job and be a full-time student. 

Reality: While it is possible to have a job and go to school, it most likely won’t be the job you had before.  You’re looking at the nearby coffee shop/restaurant/retail store, or worse, the dreaded university job that barely pays, but you can probably get homework done while doing it. 

3. Myth: You had the best time in undergrad, so grad school can’t be much different.

Reality: Grad school is a far cry from what you experienced in undergrad. When you went to college it was likely the first time you were away from home for an extended period of time, and that newfound freedom does amazing things.  Everyone around you is in the same boat, and forced to live on top of each other.  While it may have been scary and annoying at the time, there is no better recipe for awesome moments and amazing friendships.  Now you’ve been out in the real world for a while, and things look very different on the other side.  Your needs have changed.  You don’t have to live on campus anymore, and as a result your desire to forge everlasting bonds in order to survive dorm life won’t be there. 

4. Myth: You will make friends quickly.

Reality: You will make acquaintances quickly and the occasional friend.  People return to school for different reasons, and as a result everyone is on a slightly different page of life. They will be friendly, but their priorities will likely keep them a bit removed rather than eager to connect. 

5. Myth: I loved extra-curricular activities in college, so it’ll be awesome to have the opportunity to do those again!

Reality: Graduate extra-curricular activities are lame.  They try really hard, but again, since everyone’s more separated now, there are just fewer people around to form great a cappella groups and such.  The free lectures and films are usually good though. 

6. Myth: Grad school classes are smaller so you’ll get more hands on attention from teachers. 

Reality:  Most teachers in grad school are also active professionals working regular jobs while simultaneously grading your papers.  So while you may get more attention in class because class sizes are smaller than in undergrad, communication out of class will be tricky to damn near impossible.  This becomes extra fun when you’re writing your thesis and trying to get notes from your advisors. 

7. Myth: It’s a great networking opportunity.

Reality:  This is actually true up to a point.  Your teachers are (or were) most likely big shots in your chosen field, but in order for them to want to help you when it comes down to getting a job, you have to either make a pretty big impression up front, or dog them until they can’t help but remember your name.  Grad school opens the door a crack.  It’s your job to jam your foot in there to keep it open. 

8. Myth: The degree is worth the money and time put towards it.

Reality: Secondary degrees definitely open up the job pool, but as to it being worth the exorbitant cost and years of commitment is debatable.  Again, this is largely dependent on your field and career path, but for anyone pursuing a less concrete area of study like say writing, you will find it’s less about the degree and more about what you produce while in school and the connections you make. 

9. Myth: Student loans are easy to get and don’t take too long to pay off.

Reality: The process of applying for and getting a student loan is an unnecessarily complicated and lengthy road.  And once you get one, the process of paying it off will seem endless.  While there are certainly manageable payment plans, depending on your program, you could be looking at decades until you’ve paid off your loan in full. 

10. Myth: This is the only way to reach that next level in your career. 

Reality: Ok, if you’re trying to be a doctor or a lawyer this is pretty true.  HOWEVER, if you’re not sure what your career end goal is, but you know you want to achieve more than what you have, chances are there’s another, less expensive, less time consuming way to do it.  The number one reason people go back to school is that they feel they’ve hit the proverbial wall in terms of jumping to that next career level.  That, or they want to get on an entirely new path.  Either way, grad school can definitely help open doors, give you more options, and make you more equipped to swim the waters of your chosen field.   But for most it is absolutely not the only option, especially in today’s world where jobs are constantly being redefined.  There is no straight path to success anymore, so embrace the fear, and let it take you somewhere unexpected. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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