4 Things They Don't Tell You About Graduate School

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This week has been a big week for me! I have just finished my first week of classes as a graduate student. I moved into my new apartment with my boyfriend, who is also a graduate student at Western Carolina, and jumped right into classes on Monday. It's been an overwhelming week, but I am very excited to start this new chapter in my life. In honor of this new beginning, I want to share with you a few things that I've learned in just this first week. A lot of information has been thrown at me about what I should expect to accomplish as a graduate student, but there are definitely some things that others have "forgotten" to tell me that I've kind of starting seeing with my own eyes.

1. It's a full-time commitment. 

While I was a student in my undergrad preparing for graduate, many of my friends told me things like "I wish I was going to graduate school like you. I'm not ready to get a real job. I want to stay in school." Well, sorry to break it to you, but being in graduate school is a real job, or at least feels like it. You wake up at 6 a.m. to go to class for 8 a.m., your courses are 2-3 hours long each, add on time to do your Teaching Assistant/Research Assistant/Graduate Assistant work, and spending your "break" time between and after those things to complete your assignments, case studies, research, assessments, working on your thesis... By 10 p.m. you are ready to hit the bed and start all over again the next day.

2. You're going to feel like a fake. 

Don't let this get to your head. At some point you are going to start having thoughts that you must have been accepted by accident and that all of your peers appear more competent than you. The reality is that you are all feeling this way and it's actually normal to be overwhelmed. It's also okay to answer a question with saying in a fancy way that you don't know; "I'm not sure if I know what you mean. Can you clarify?" or even "I'm don't think I'm familiar with that topic." Ask questions when you don't understand and you will come out feeling like you belonged the whole time.

3. Networking is vital.

Advice. Assistance. Support. Friendship. Opportunity. These are all things you are going to need not only in grad school, but in life. Being in a grad school program is difficult and building relationships with other people is what is going to get your through it. Positive and resourceful people are valuable, especially when you are working on a 50+ page document that will make or break you.

4. Your Master's degree may not be enough.  

I have personally taken the route to be a part of a S.S.P. program (Specialist in School Psychology), which is understood to be a step higher than a Master's in School Psych AND I am a part of a program that upholds the National Association of School Psychologist's (NASP) standards. I decided to take this route because many school psychologists with a Master's degree can't find jobs, or they are being overlooked by others with higher degrees. This goes to show that you really need to closely look at the program you are selecting and deciding which fits your goals the best. You may realize on your way to completing your Master's that you need to look into furthering your education to a doctoral level. Be familiar with the realistic truth that you may not find your dream job without a Ph.D.

Side note:  Let's forgive me for my love of memes and lack of my own photos... mostly because my camera is in my glove box of my car... which has been taken back to campus and I'm at home. This is the joy of sharing a car with someone on a different schedule than me.


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