Unexpected Highs and Lows of Graduate School

Written by Tabitha Brown-MSW Graduate Assistant and current student
January 29, 2021

The idea of attending graduate school can be an exciting, yet daunting, prospective journey. As a first-generation college student, it felt like an impossible dream. So, gathering as much information about graduate programs and schools became an obvious next step. Program information likely doesn’t include information about individual experiences within graduate school. Here are some of the parts of graduate school that came as a surprise to myself and my cohort members:

A cohort of support

At first, I didn’t think much about the cohort model and didn’t factor it into my decision when it came to graduate programs— now I can’t imagine doing grad school without one. This cohort provides a level of support and understanding that anyone outside of the program couldn’t really fulfill. We have created our own little community where we share ideas, vent, chat, and support each other. We are always asking questions about assignments and remind each other of upcoming due dates.  

Practicum woes

Practicum placements are great because students get real hands-on experience in the field. The trade-off though, is that a majority of students are not getting paid for this work. Practicum in addition to classes and homework leave very little time or room for part-time work. This can lead to financial stress unless you have outside support and apply for financial aid. 

Opportunities galore

There are so many opportunities to be involved on campus! You can sign up to be a mentor for undergraduate students, serve on the graduate student council, apply as a research assistant, or participate in fun events like graduate student socials. Between on-campus opportunities and your cohort, you’ll surely feel a sense of community around you.  

Reading, reading, and more reading

When I asked my cohort what the most surprising thing about graduate school was for them, a majority answered with this. The amount of reading for each of your classes is sure to be overwhelming at first, so congrats to the avid readers out there! As for those who don’t read often, time to get prepared!