Throughout undergrad, I always thought that people in grad school must be really smart and be very busy with work, especially since I was so stressed with my workload with two majors at CWRU. Now, almost done with 2 master's programs, I am still shocked at how different the graduate school experience was than I had originally expected. I wish that I would have known more about it before going into it, not that I regret it, but it would have been helpful in preparing myself and for the transition from undergrad to graduate coursework.
1. Class structure can be different
In my experience, classes have been longer and only meet once a week in grad school, but the classes are 2-3 hours instead of shorter periods like 50 minutes or a 1hr and 15 min class two times a week. It can be difficult to adjust to this at first, being in a classroom for such a long period of time but ultimately you get used to it and realize just how short classes were before.
2. It's not just about the coursework
Many graduate programs are also professional degree programs that are training you for a specialized profession upon graduation. This means that unlike in undergrad where you are on campus a lot in class or a lab, you are out in the field, potentially far away from campus, in order to complete and internship or required field hours. It is hard to get used to at first, after being used to only being in the buildings in campus.
3. It's not always academically challenging
Some programs are, but other programs that are more focused on professional training might be more focused on the learning that occurs in the field, rather than what is taught in the classroom. For me, this was the biggest change, as I feel that my undergraduate course load was far more challenging than my graduate one, but I have been told by many others that they experienced the same kind of stuff. The most challenging part at times can feel like all of the busy work and trying to balance a semblance of a social life while also managing self-care.
4. It goes by quickly
I'm not sure if this is because I'm used to school after 6 years straight, but the programs are not always very long, they can be a short as 1 year or be as long as medical school, but either way the time flies by and sooner than you know, you will be graduating and having to face the real world and finding a job.