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Graduate School vs. Undergrad: What to Know

Graduate school is a whole different arena than undergraduate studies - make sure you know what you're signing up for.

Kizzy Preston

March 25, 2014

Graduate School vs. Undergrad: What to Know
You finished four years of college and feel that you have finally accomplished your goal. Now you will be able to go out and get hired, on the spot, for the job you have always wanted. Or will you? Obtaining the job you want right out of college isn’t always a reality. Many college graduates end up working jobs just to pay the bills, often in industries unrelated to their chosen majors. As a result students who thought they were done with school at the bachelor level, choose to go back to school for an advanced degree in hopes of securing a better job and earning more money.
There are some differences between graduate and undergraduate school. The following is a list of some of the changes you can expect.

1. No Housing

Unlike undergraduate colleges and universities that provide housing such as dorms or apartments for their students, graduate schools often do not.
When choosing a graduate degree program it is important to know where you will live. If you have to have an off campus apartment, then you may have to also maintain a full or part-time job while in school.

2. More focus

While at the undergraduate level students must take a lot of general education courses they may not care for, graduate degrees usually require courses that all relate to the student’s major. This will help a student to be more focused and enthusiastic about their course work. 3. Assistantships/Fellowships Many graduate programs offer students the opportunity to apply for assistantships and fellowships. If a student earns one of these, they work for the school and usually the entire tuition is paid for. The student also earns a stipend each semester. The student may work as an assistant in a department, or they may even teach undergraduate courses. Applying for an assistantship and/or fellowship is a great way to offset the price of going back to school.


There will be exams that you need to take to enter some graduate programs. Not all schools require these exams, but a lot do. It is a good idea to find out which exam you will need to take to enter the graduate level degree program of your choice and begin to study for it. Make sure to visit the website for the specific test you must take to learn about deadlines and fees. Because tests are only given on certain dates, and there is a wait time for the scores to be sent to your school of choice, it is best to get a head start on the process.

5. Program length

Unlike bachelor degrees which usually take four years to complete, graduate level degrees can take anywhere from one year up to many years to complete, depending on your program. It is best to be informed on the length of a program and credit hours required for graduation before beginning. Ask yourself: How much do you really like the subject matter? How will earning the degree change your career trajectory? There are many differences between being an undergraduate student and a graduate student. It is important to be as informed as possible, as early as possible. Even if you don’t want to go directly into a graduate program, having a clear understanding of what to expect when you do decide to take the leap will put you ahead of the game.

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