Grad Student How-To: Going Back to School
Not all graduate students go to grad school straight out of undergrad, many enter grad school after working in the "real world" for many years. Some go back to school because they have reached a milestone, many go back to school to upgrade their skills or their knowledge on a particular topic, and sometimes, there are those who reinvent themselves in an entirely different field.
It's an exciting time! Although, being a student again isn't without its challenges: financial, social, personal, and intellectual. Some of these are due to the radical change in environment that grad school presents in comparison to the work world. Depending on how long you have worked in the job market, you may find yourself unaccustomed to the graduate student life.
Do not fret! Here are some observations and tips to help you make the successful adjustment from work life to school life.
4 Things to Consider When Entering Grad School as a Mature Student
1. Know your routines will become more sporadic
Working a 9-5 job often becomes routine. Routine can be nice.
Rise at 8, bagel at 8:30, work 9-5, home at 6, unwind, make dinner or see friends. Rinse and repeat.
In grad school, however, your schedule may end up being much more inconsistent. Depending on your course load and course times, you may have large swatches of free time earlier in the semester, then as the workload increases, you may find you rarely have a free moment. This is in contrast to the standard 9-5, where work time and free time are mixed into every day on a regular interval. Grad school takes this mix to the extreme where you may have days/weeks of free time and days/weeks of non-stop action.
2. Grad school is a place of re-learning and shared learning
Individuals who worked high-level jobs may carry over a sense that graduate school will be a breeze since they've proven themselves already in the "real world." Take note: grad school presents a completely different set of structures than in the work world. For instance, in grad school you might be able to voice your opinion more openly than in the work setting, however, other students can voice their opinion and disagree with you on things that you would not even consider in the work world. Learn from those conversations. To get the best of grad school, understand it's role and the opportunities presented to you to expand your mind. Grad school is a place where you are encouraged to break old habits and think new thoughts. Use your work experience to enhance your overall experience. Remember that less experienced students can definitely use your expertise and career experiences, and similarly, you can learn from them!
3. Student culture has changed
If it's been 5-10 years since you were last in school, you may notice the social norms of student culture has changed quite a bit. What was acceptable and appropriate to say or do when you were last at school may not apply to current times. While there will always be key staples of student life: living on a budget, commiserating with classmates on finals, college bars, love of free lunches, etc. be aware that language and viewpoints considered acceptable and unacceptable has changed.
4. Follow your intellectual bliss
Use the time at grad school to explore whatever theme/concept/field it is you've always wanted to explore.
Make an excuse to do it in the context of your grad work. In the work world, it may be hard to find time to truly delve deeply into a topic you find interesting because there is a lack of motivation. For example: who wants to stay up until 2am to write a paper about block-chain technology unless there is someone who is going to read it? The structure of grad school provides the motivation for this kind of research and through refinement through projects or writing papers. Study what you've always wanted to study!
Thinking about going back to school?
If you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree or taking graduate courses at NYU, reach out to our office! We're here to help you discover the right program for you and how to apply.