Metamorphosis from Undergraduate to Graduate

Looking back to when you were in high school and they told you that you would have to work a lot harder to succeed in college. Well most of us would really agree with that statement! Actual studying is required outside of your class… go figure! Especially in working with our first year students we have to work to help them understand the differences and help them identify ways to smoothen the transition. Well, there is also a transition into graduate school. Here are a few highlights I can identify as differences from undergraduate to graduate:

Reading! I know a lot of students that got away without reading (not even buying books) for your classes in undergraduate. Well in your master’s program, your classes will be a lot smaller and the professor will direct conversations in the classroom expecting a response. If you haven’t done your reading, it will be very obvious! Also, you’ll want to be an active reader. Go deeper into actually understanding what you’ve read. Don’t just accept what you’ve read, but think about it and question it! Then the crazy part comes when you start reading something that stimulates you to want to know more and do your own research and readings! Another great thing is that at the end, you will have this AMAZING library of your very own to reference too when you go off and get your grown up job in Student Affairs! …he he and then you get really excited when you go to a conference and find out the writer of your book will be there… and you get them to sign it!! :-)

Writing! There is a significant increase in the amount of writing expected from you. In addition, the level of writing will increase. There will likely to have a paper due each week and that the grading will involve more attention to analytical thinking and application, grammar and formatting than in your undergraduate. That is, unless you were in a program that was based on writing… in which case you will probably find it a little annoying to learn that most student affairs programs will be in APA formatting rather than MLA. I would highly recommend getting an APA book and utilizing your university’s writing center until you grasp it… and maybe even after.

Involvement! So seeing as how you are getting into Student Affairs… you were probably tooooooo involved in a number of organizations and events campus wide. Am I right? Well so was I! When I got into my graduate program, I wondered how that would change. Well I stayed (where I did my undergraduate) at Texas State for my masters and I still had access to my organizations. You will find that your classes and work load will require a lot more of your time and you will probably try to start to actually balance out work and life. The great thing is that you will build relationships with your classmates and co-workers that will provide you with the “involved” feeling you may be looking for. If not, you can still try to join organizations. In my case, I am a fulltime member to my Graduate Student Affairs Council organization. However, I have found that being a full time member of other organizations is a little challenging. Instead I have been able to fulfill my longing to be involved by supporting my previous organizations through volunteering and acting as a mentor for the members. It has surely helped!

Growth! When I graduated from my undergraduate, I thought I was pretty grown up… but I knew I had a way to go. I found it interesting that my fellow classmates were about to go out and start their fulltime jobs, while I was staying in school for two more years. Well, in the process of going through your grad program you learn A LOT!! It’s crazy at first when you start getting all kinds of details about student affairs that you had no idea about before (history, theories, risk management, budgeting, assessment, etc.) thrown at you in your first semester… and then the next… and then untill you graduate! Then you also have experience lessons you gain during your graduate assistantship and perhaps an internship or two! Then all of a sudden, it’s interview time and you’re able to respond to questions without thinking… realizing that you ACTUALLY learned everything in class… and even better, you were able to apply it! It’s rather incredible!

Professors! You will truly get to know your professors beyond the classroom. This is not only because the classes will be smaller, but also because they truly want to help you. They will likely recognize potential in you and “challenge and support” you as they push you a bit further than you may be comfortable with… and you will love it! Make sure you take time to meet them in their office individually! Your professors are incredible resources and, especially in Student Affairs, are highly willing to help you develop more than whatever they are covering in class. Plus, they will be great references when you do graduate and are job searching!

While there are many different Student Affairs programs that will vary in their own way, I’m pretty positive that: Your reading and writing will be more intense, they will provide you with incredible opportunities for involvement even if you are not in an “organization,” you will grow personally, intellectually, and professionally from them, and you will get to know and respect your professors! These are each things that I LOVE about my master’s program and I’m sure you will too!
Jenni with an i

Student Affairs - the First Years

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