I spent my entire summer trying to ignore the fact that I would be headed to grad school in September. Despite my best efforts, I was thwarted by each encounter with acquaintances, friends, and family. Everyone wanted to know when I would be leaving, when I would be doing my research, or where I would be living. The questions were endless, and everyone asked the exact same questions their predecessor had, each one as innocent and unknowing as the last. I would calmly answer their question while screaming inwardly.
Now that I am four weeks in the question has shifted. I am now asked by everyone I know, how is school going? I don’t mind answering this, at week four there are far fewer uncertainties than there were over the summer. So, what is grad school like?
It is a lot like your undergrad, with a few major exceptions. You get to take fewer classes. This is great as you are left with plenty of free time. This is also a cruel joke. Between those two classes you have just as many readings to as you did with five undergraduate classes. Your “free time” is now reduced. Then there is your research proposal, which requires its own extensive research and reading. Your “free time” is further reduced. Then there are the additional ethics courses you may be required to take as a grad student. What do these entail? Could it be reading? Why yes, yes it could. What initially appears to be a whole lot of free time is drastically reduced and you get to spend all your “free time” reading. While this may seem like the end of the world it is not.
If this is starting to sound like your undergrad then yes, in that regard they are similar. You don’t have much in the way free time. However, there is one huge difference. You get to read and research something that you are passionate about. It is all about your research, you don’t have to take courses just to fulfill your humanities requirements. Instead you are working towards something bigger, much bigger. I’m only a month in so far, but it is refreshing to be surrounded by students who share your ambitions and drive. Everyone wants to be there and it is that positive attitude from each of my classmates that makes the difference. The funding doesn’t hurt either.