1. In college, you may be able to get by without reading once in a while. In grad school, your ability to pull this off is limited. And sure, you are given so much reading material in grad school that it is near impossible to get through it all. But in an environment where you are expected to take responsibility for your learning, it becomes pertinent to your experience to well, take responsibility for your learning.
2. In college, one of the things that seems to be encouraged by the de facto ways in which students engage, is to always reach some consensus of sorts. Whereas in grad school, being able to perceive things differently from the consensus and support an argument, is not only valued, but encouraged.
3. Procrastination in college is something that you can do with relatively little risk to your end result. (Depending on who you are of course.) In grad school, procrastination is a metaphorical death sentence waiting to happen. Whether it’s because you’ve got classes to teach or are in research or have a full-time job, procrastinating doing your class assignments causes you way more stress than necessary in the long-run.
4. In college, many of the relationships that are fulfilling will come from being around people who experience the world in similar ways. In grad school, not only do you realize the importance of seeking our relationships that are vastly different from yours, you become really attached to being fulfilled my people who challenge your perspectives in meaningful and intelligent ways. (Emphasis on meaningful and intelligent.)
5. In college, critical thinking is only valued in certain disciplines and even then it often is not at levels that encourages people to consider things outside of their fundamental values. In grad school, not only are multiple perspectives necessary in how you evaluate anything, they are expected.
6. Critical thinking overall manifests itself differently in college and grad school. In college, due to constraints of subject matter and general concepts, students mostly only engage with the material in superficial ways. In grad school, you have to be able to substantially engage with various concepts in a subject matter with limited time.
7. In college, it is enough to show justifications for the positions you take on particular issues. In grad school, not only do you have to justify particular positions, you also have to explicitly explain why you didn’t specifically adopt certain ideas when you justify your positions.
8. The ways in which you view dissent in college and grad school are different. In college, disagreements may occur simply for the sake of it. In grad school, you are almost always taught to be cognizant of the dissenting positions that others may take, you are taught to value and show how “good” dissent is different from “poor” dissent, and how to argue from an opposing point of view from your own.
9. In terms of the importance of knowledge, in the college classroom what you know is considered the most important tool others can use in opposing your viewpoints. In grad school, the most important piece of knowledge is what you don’t know. Because even if your opposing classmate may not know either, it depicts loopholes in any arguments made.
10. Knowledge and how much of it you can consume and store is one of the most important aspects of the classroom learning experience in college. Whereas in grad school, the production of knowledge and the ability to think of things differently from those around you is more valuable than the consumption of knowledge.
11. In college, it often seems that it’s enough to have an opinion, and whether that opinion is agreeable or disagreeable, it may not be challenged. In grad school, your opinions are not only challenged on a regular basis, they have to be proven in that the arguments made have to reflect scientific and/or social reality.
12. In college you are taught that all opinions are equally valuable. In grad school, you are taught that all opinions can and should be heard, but they are not all of equal importance. That the importance of an opinion should not be dependent on the speaker or their resumé or their perceived intellectualism. But rather valuable opinions are so because of their level of reasoning, analysis, ability to decipher through opposing viewpoints, and still be left in standing.
13. Finally, the major difference between college and grad school and I can wholeheartedly say it is one of the most significant things I did learn in grad school: How to ask good questions. In college, having a question about correlations and causation and baseline appearances of subjects matter is adequate. In grad school, the ability to ask good questions will guide you through argument, research, and imaginative thinking. And it is certainly one skill from that you can take anywhere you go.