When I graduated from my undergraduate program, I felt ready to conquer graduate school. I finished my four-year program in three years, in part because I knew that I wanted to continue my education but did not want to be in school forever. But three years later in a two-year program, I am still a graduate student. And it’s really tough.
I know that graduate school is set up differently based on your school and program. My history M.A. program requires 30 credits, three of which come from writing a thesis. When I registered this seemed like a simple undertaking. I had taken 15 credit course loads each semester as an undergraduate, so spreading 30 over four semesters seemed completely doable. I had written an undergraduate senior thesis, but I knew that my graduate writing would need to be longer and more complex.
I took 12 credits in my first, second and third semesters, but only 27 of my credits counted toward my degree. (I was also studying Arabic and French, and these courses did not count toward my history degree) Now, these classes weren’t like the courses I took as an undergraduate. I basically read a new book each week for each class. This ultimately overloading my bookshelf, backpack and brain. I was fine with it because I usually loved what I was learning.
But this is only one part of graduate school. The other part is my work life. I didn’t work full-time like many other people in the program. Instead I worked part-time jobs and internships. One semester, I was working two-part time jobs and one internship. I was basically working a full-time schedule of about 40 hours a week, but with more obscene hours, locations and paychecks. This, by far, has been the hardest part of my graduate career. The struggle between work, school and a social life is competitive, often resulting in some disappointment.
I’m currently writing my thesis, which is taking much longer than intended. It’s like running a marathon, but I had initially expected it to be a 5K. I’m still struggling to finish it and there is no foreseeable end in sight. But at the same time, it’s a struggle that I’ve trained for. I’m using the information I learned in my classes. I’m using the languages I have studied. It’s daunting and grueling, but I’m ready to conquer.
So for any and everyone looking to go into graduate school, recognize that it is not easy. Of course, your classes will be more difficult than those in your undergraduate program. But there’s also so much more than just the academics. You need to worry more actively about jobs, internships, student loans and your future career.You may want to rush through the program (like me), but just know that this is incredibly difficult and, frankly, at times impossible. Your program is not a sprint or a 5K. It is a full-blown marathon. But that also means you’ll feel so much better when you cross the finish line.