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Pursing an Advanced Degree Part 1: It’s Not a Game

24 Dec
 

       

 

   

Courtney Herring

Courtney Herring, Research Fellow, The Pennsylvania State University

  

 By Courtney Herring, Guest Contributor               

I recently earned my Bachelors’ degrees in English Literature and Communication and am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Media Studies. Although I have only completed my first semester, I have learned a LOT, and I’m sure the learning will not end any time soon. I have a rudimentary vision of my future career goals and wanted to continue my education in the meantime before pursuing a professional career.competitive in a market that is not designed for the faint of heart. Maybe some of you are contemplating the journey or return to academia, and maybe some of you are already there. At any rate, I thought it necessary to relay some survival tips for getting through graduate school.     remain in order toI recently earned my Bachelors’ degrees in English Literature and Communication and am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Media Studies. Although I have only completed my first semester, I have learned a LOT, and I’m sure the learning will not end any time soon. I have a rudimentary vision of my future career goals and wanted to continue my education in the meantime before pursuing a professional career. The state of the current economy also scared me into going back to school.
  

      

 
 

   

  • Know why you are pursuing an advanced degree. That should be an obvious one, but you would be surprised to know that there are quite a few people that don’t know why they are in graduate school. Some are fresh out of undergrad, while some are going back to school because it seems like “the way to go.” The uncertainty seems quite counter-intuitive to the application process, but it really does happen to people once they get their acceptance letters. In order to get into a graduate program, you have to convince the faculty that you know why you want to be there, but the most important piece of advice I offer is that you have to first convince yourself of why you are there (or want to be there). I’m not saying that you have to have a rock-solid plan of study and thesis proposal once you hit the door, but it does help to have a flexible vision and some foresight. Most importantly, it’s necessary to know what you want to accomplish with the degree after you obtain it. Having a vision not only keeps you from wandering aimlessly, it also keeps you sane throughout some tough times when you seemingly want to give up and throw in the towel.
  • Be prepared to work. This piece of advice seems common-sensical, right? But, once you enter graduate school, work takes on a totally different meaning. I mean, REALLY. Graduate school is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Three to four hour classes, massive amounts of reading, hours of sometimes boring discussion/lecture, and seemingly impossible exams for each course seems doable when you first start, but after a couple of weeks it can be draining. Having prepared a vision of what you want out of the experience before hand helps combat procrastination and plain old laziness.
  • The above tip brings me to my next one…Be realistic about the course load you can handle. This is especially true for those of you who want to pursue or are pursuing an advanced degree in addition to other responsibilities, like work and family. Though classes usually meet once a week for three hours, one must still take into account the homework, group projects and exams that could accompany each class. While it’s great to want to finish up a degree in as less time as possible (and, perhaps with less debt), you must be realistic. Now, if you’re like me and happen to have a fellowship or an assistantship, depending on your program you may not have the option to be a part time student because you may be getting paid to be one. For those of you in my shoes, I still recommend that you choose your classes wisely. Most programs require a thesis or dissertation in order to fully complete the degree. So, not only do you have to choose classes that will inform the research that you are planning to conduct, you must also be strategic about choosing a schedule of courses.

      

 Of course these aren’t the only things I have learned, so stay tuned. I have more tips up my sleeve! I would love to hear about your experiences, fears, and accomplishments in graduate school. Feel free to leave a comment or connect with me on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/courtneyherring      

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5 Comments

Posted by on December 24, 2009 in education

 

Tags: , , ,

5 responses to “Pursing an Advanced Degree Part 1: It’s Not a Game

  1. Lisa

    December 25, 2009 at 7:46 am

    Hey Ms. Courtney!

    Can I get you to take this knowledge on the road. Keep writing and lets see if we cannot provide you a link to this wisdom for students to have greater access. It wold save me a lot of breath and the students from hearing my mouth. You may want to include the piece about that graduate school is doable. That is the part that doesn’t get mentioned as much. I know that you will get it done in fine fashion!!! On to the PhD!

     
  2. Theresa Daniel

    December 24, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Wow Court that is so true. There are so many people that have dropped out of law school already. I think that it is essential to know why you are going to school otherwise grad/law school will weed you out.

     
    • Erika Pryor

      December 25, 2009 at 5:16 am

      Thanks Theresa for your response. From my experience, graduate school is a place that can eat you up and spit you out rather quickly. I’m so glad you understand and recognize these challengs. I’m sure the insights you share with everyone about life in law school will resonate as well. Take care and thanks again for responding.

       
    • Courtney

      December 25, 2009 at 5:24 pm

      Thanks, T. I agree. If I didn’t know what I was there for, I would be gone! LOL…

       
  3. Erika Pryor

    December 24, 2009 at 6:00 am

    Courtney,Thank you so much for offering your thoughts and experiences in graduate school so far. From this this starting point, it looks like “Pursuing an Advanced Degree” is going to be a great series to keep an eye out for. I’m looking forward to learning how semester two progresses…Thanks and happy holidays.

     

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