It is tough. Well, it’s tough but it’s tough in the best possible way. Remember how in college you took a lot of survey courses, how sometimes you had 50 classmates, how you only took multiple choice exams, and you only had a few classes a year that you were genuinely interested in? Well, grad school is exponentially better.
First, the course of study is one that you want to focus on. Every class will be at least in the general vein of what you love to learn. As a poet, I was only ever underwhelmed by fiction classes or literature courses that I was required to take, and even they were engaging enough to add to my understanding of my own area. It’s a pretty sweet deal when even the off-topic types of classes have something to offer you as a student.
Then, you only have a few classes a semester. In my program, I basically had to take three classes worth of credit hours a semester, and by the end of my time there I was fulfilling most of those credits with thesis and internship hours. My last semester I had a single workshop and was otherwise working on my own. Sweet, right?
The people are amazing. You will more or less be surrounded by people whose interests are the same as yours. In the pool of introverts and weirdos you’d find in a fine arts program like mine, there are a lot of good times to be had and life long friendships to be made. Also, your professors will fantastic. As a graduate student they will show you a level of respect and friendliness that you might not have gotten as an undergrad. You are reaffirming what they love most in the world by being willing to work hard at learning it yourself. Again, likeminded people in one place tend to have positive experiences, and graduate school is the perfect example.
Okay, time to get real. The work is difficult. You will have to read, write, revise, and present more and better than you ever have. Like my Grandpa used to say though, If it’s worth doing it’s worth doing well. And grad school is a place where it is definitely worth doing well. Standard rules of showing up to class on time, paying attention, turning in work on time, and doing well on exams/final projects still hold. It’s just that now you will be doing more of it, much more of it. For example, apart from books I checked out and bought for class, I ordered a little over 100 books in my last year and a half—and it was worth it.
Graduate school is no cake walk, but it can be if you really are interested in your subject and want to do something important with it. If you’re in it for the money or because it is something that is expected of you, it will be a hit or miss experience. But if you are sincere in your desire to learn and share in that learning, you will do really well. And it is worth it. There are so many experiences to have as a grad student and as a result of being a grad student, that it is hard for me to say doing it another way would end any better. For me, being around smart people who are passionate about something I love is about all I need to live a good life. If you’re considering grad school, don’t doubt it. Just go with it. Look into schools and programs and see what’s out there. In the near future I’ll be posting about looking for the program, how to prepare for grad school, and some other related topics, so stay tuned!
And remember, study hard!