Interns Insider- The Truth About Graduate School

June 27, 2024

 

The Truth About Graduate School

By Alexandra Fisher

Going to graduate school sounds really good in theory, but have you thought about everything that goes into it and what it will be like when you get there? My name is Ally, and I am going into my second year of graduate school working to get my M.Ed. in College Student Affairs; I’m going to tell you a few things no one told me about graduate school. If you’re struggling in grad school or thinking about grad school, I hope reading this blog (post) gives you some guidance, or if you know someone in graduate school, I hope this blog gives you insight on how to better support them.

            My first impression of graduate school was that it was lonely and confusing. I knew it wouldn’t be like undergrad, but I didn’t realize just how different. There is no first-year experience program to guide you, and in me and my roommate’s case, there was no orientation of any kind. We didn’t know what we could get involved in, or how to go about making friends on such an undergraduate-heavy campus. My classmates were very nice, but they all seemed to be friends already having gone to the institution as an undergrad or being hall directors together; I was on the outside. Feeling left out and under-challenged was a recipe for failure. After struggling for over a month I had had enough. I was considering dropping out, but I am not known for quitting. I had to force myself to change my mindset.

I joined Club Volleyball so I could meet new people, stay active, and fill my time. It was the best choice I could have made. As a busybody I always need to be doing something, empty time is time wasted, and practice 2-3 nights a week was perfect for me. I then began setting up interviews with a variety of staff on my campus to hear about what their life working in student affairs was like, maybe I didn’t love all the classes, but if I love the job and need the degree, it would be worth it. After these meetings, I was convinced that I made the right choice. Those meetings even led me to a new assistantship that has challenged me and made me feel like I belong on this campus; that assistantship is also what led me to apply for this very internship at the Garner Institute.

Now my daily life as a graduate student includes classes, an assistantship I love, working on assignments, going to volleyball, and hanging out with friends. After deciding I was tired of being lonely in graduate school, I became good friends with my classmates, and we regularly set up working sessions in the library or local coffee shop to hold each other accountable. The workload picked up in my second semester which has helped challenge me and made me enjoy my classes more. Next year will look a little different as I will be doing my internships in person on a different college campus. But for now, I have no classes, I am working in my institution’s first-year experience office and working here at the Gardner Institute as their graduate student intern. Being able to work this summer in my desired field has made me more confident in my decision to go into student affairs.

To those of you considering going to graduate school or who are struggling in graduate school here is my advice: find something outside of the program that brings you joy. Having a wide support system and something different to do every week can help you feel like you’re more than just a student. When choosing programs make sure you pick the program that is best for you, if that’s the cheapest option perfect, but if the program that best suits you costs more do more research on scholarship opportunities and other funding opportunities before you rule it out. (One place to check for scholarships is if you were a member of a national organization in undergrad many of them have scholarships for members looking to attend graduate school!). My last tip which might sound obvious is to take a tour of your campus! Even just knowing where everything is or what the different buildings are for will make you feel more comfortable (even if you never have to go in them). In graduate school you kind of have to invent your own first-year experience program… writing that down sounds more intimidating than it did in my head. But this is the moment to take control of your life to get what you want out of it. Find a conference to attend and a grant to fund the trip to learn more about your field and network (check with your institution – a lot of graduate programs have funds for this), get a new hobby, find a spot-on campus no one else knows about, apply for summer internships or jobs outside of your university, or don’t. It’s your life, your career. Graduate school will probably be hard, but now that I’ve set goals for myself and found a community here, I am so much happier. Transitions are hard, but this one will make you stronger!

Happy 2nd Blog,

Ally