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Am I Ready To Go to Graduate School?

While there are many opportunities involved with pursuing a graduate education, it also takes a great deal of commitment and many students start graduate studies without taking stock of what is entailed.  Therefore, you may want to ask yourself some of the following questions;

  • Do I have a solid grounding in the field to do well in graduate school?

The critical difference between undergraduate education and graduate work is the transition of someone being a "consumer" of research produced by others and becoming a trained professional ready to do your own work and research.  Graduate classes assume that students have had the basics and are ready to build on that.  Instructors assume that students will be familiar with the basics of topics covered in 100-level courses such as U.S. History, World History, and/or Western Civilization.  If you have not had those courses recently, you will do yourself a great favor by taking them or retaking them prior to coming into graduate studies.

  • What do I want to do with my degree?

Graduate school is an expensive and often inappropriate place to "find yourself."  Those who come in with vague goals tend to have trouble getting through.  Knowing what to do with that graduate degree, whether it is toward a Ph.D. program, entry into the work world, an enhanced certification in one's current job, or for personal enrichment, will help you shape and develop your graduate career.  If you are not sure what to do, talk to the department's graduate coordinator.  

  • Is my everyday life ready for the demands of graduate school?

Are you already working 40+ hours? Are you caring for young children--or aging parents? Do you have a full schedule already packed with civic or social activities and obligations? Are you anticipating a major life change? While some people have successfully balanced career, family, and graduate school, it is a lot harder than most realize. Each student needs to assess the amount of time they can realistically devote to graduate studies.

Contrary to the ads we see on television, quality graduate education demands more than just the occasional class on evenings or weekends. It requires a reallocation of priorities and is not something that can just be added to an already full schedule. Other activities and obligations do and should take a back seat for a while--usually for 2 years or more.  If personal issues are pressing, it may be better to hold off on graduate studies until you have the time and energy to give all of your goals the attention they deserve. 

This department believes that in-class time with the instructor and fellow students is the best way to learn the material.  In addition, graduate classes assume a student will spend at least 3 hours a week outside of class per hour of graduate class.  A 3 credit hour class assumes at least 9 hours of work outside of class.   Therefore, each class one takes is like adding 12 hours to the work week. Students are expected to meet the requirements of the class, regardless of other family or work obligations. Moreover, graduate education is about developing ties with other professionals. Graduate students are expected to attend conferences, present papers at these conferences, attend workshops, and be part of department, college, and university activities.

We want our students to succeed and do well.  We want them to have an experience that is fulfilling and challenging. Toward that goal, we want to make sure that students are prepared so that they can make the most of their graduate experience at WSU.