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Graduate School: What to Expect

Research in Graduate School

As a graduate student, the bulk of your time will be spent learning how to conduct different types of research; as a professor or researcher, you will be required to conduct intensive research as part of your professional obligations. If you enjoy conducting research, then the pursuit of a graduate degree is probably for you. If not, then you should seriously reconsider your motivation for attending graduate school.

Graduate Student Life

The pursuit of a graduate degree also requires a significant commitment of time on your part. You will be in school for a number of years - a master's degree typically takes 2 years to complete, and a doctorate can take anywhere from 5 to 8 years. During this time, your social life will most likely revolve around other people in your graduate program, you may have very little free time, and you will have very little extra money. Most of your energies and life decisions will be structured by your role as a graduate student. Thus, you need to ask yourself:

  • Do you need an advanced degree to attain your career goals?
  • Do you need an advanced degree now? Can you afford to go to graduate school full time?
  • Have you met the academic prerequisites to pursue your desired course of study?
  • If you have answered these questions in the affirmative, then you have probably made the correct decision to pursue a graduate degree.

Here are a few terms with which you should familiarize yourself before applying to a graduate program:

  • Thesis: A document that presents the author's research and research findings. Submitted in support of candidacy for an advanced degree.
  • Dissertation: A document that presents the author's original research and research findings. Submitted in support of candidacy for a terminal degree.
  • Fellowship: Typically awarded to an individual student for the purpose of furthering his or her research; usually provides stipend to cover tuition and living expenses.
  • Scholarship: Typically awarded to an individual student for the purpose of furthering his or her education.
  • Grant: Typically awarded to an individual student in small amounts to fund or partially fund a specific research project.