How Graduate School Differs from Undergrad
When talking to undergraduate students or even those in the workforce considering going back to school for their master’s, I am always asked, “How is it different?” It is very different, and in a good way.
I waited close to three years between my bachelor’s and master’s. I chose to graduate with a double major in business administration and marketing, continue working full time and make a dent in my student loans. When I was ready to start the process of applying to graduate school, I found out my employer would not pay for courses in marketing because I was working in a technical department within the telecom industry (with the hopes of a marketing department transfer). Instead of being deterred, I went ahead and switched jobs, and made my preparations for grad school. Looking back, this was a great thing. Not only did I get my master’s, I avoided massive layoffs, seeing my company investigated by the SEC and the collapse of one of the largest telecom companies in the United States. Gotta love the ‘90s!
The biggest concern I had about graduate school was the GMAT. I felt I never tested well. Once the test was taken, the results printed, I was on my way to two years of fun. Truly, I loved every minute of it. And here is why:
Level of Maturity
I was 25 and mature enough. By 25, you usually have your personality developed, aspirations in mind, goals set out and a picture for the future — what better time to devote about two years to bettering yourself? I had some professional experience under my belt, which would prove to be useful in my course work, and had a clear idea of what I wanted from my graduate program.
Career in Progress
I was not as concerned about hurrying and finishing my degree so I could get a “better job,” as I was during my undergrad years. I worked part time my freshman and sophomore years, and full time during my junior and senior years. I was so determined to graduate and get a better-paying job that I overloaded each term by taking 21 to 24 semester hours. This time around, I was making better money and was able to pay for each class as I took it. Not to mention, while in school, I could defer my previous student loans.
Probably the main reason I loved my master’s program so much was that each course was directly related to my area of interest: marketing. What’s not to love about consumer behavior, global marketing, marketing managements and promotions? Graduate courses are focused on topics you may have experience with or will have experience with as you develop your desired career. These courses also make readings, case studies and projects more relevant and applicable. In contrast, my undergraduate courses varied and typically were dealt with subjects I had little interest in until I reached my junior and senior years.
In my graduate career, I had some great instructors who took an active interest in me. The classes were smaller, and we were able to get to know one another better. Many of these instructors kept in touch after graduation, and ultimately it was one of my grad-school instructors who hired me for my first adjunct teaching assignment. These instructors see what you are capable of doing and can be a great source of information and guidance — they can also write killer letters of reference! Similarly, I was able to create friendships with my peers that transcended into valuable professional contacts. Now withsocial media, it is even easier to stay connected to instructors and peers, and explore networking beyond graduation.
Have you ever felt out of place with friends? Most of my friends had very little interest in business in the depth I did. Most had careers in different sectors or were married with children. In grad school, I was surrounded by like-minded folks who shared my respect for education, valued hard work and had the potential to be thought leaders in my field.
I am not saying obtaining a master’s or an MBA is a piece of cake and one big social party. It is hard work, but when the end result is one you desire and the topic of study is one you love, it really can be enjoyable. And don’t forget: There are plenty of organizations that value an MBA. Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from pursuing something so awesome!
Jessica Rogers is a Dallas-based adjunct marketing instructor at Texas A&M University- Commerce and Southern New Hampshire University. She is currently working on her PhD in business with an emphasis on marketing. Her dissertation research focuses on social media. Jessica teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in marketing, including social media, and gained 16 years of field experience in business and marketing before starting her teaching career in 2009. Jessica holds a BS in business administration and an MS in marketing. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.