Are you thinking about going to graduate school? Do you want to get ready for the experience? You may think it involves engaging in some crazy endeavors. But maybe there’s a more practical way to prepare for this academic challenge.
I can remember playing Dungeons and Dragons as a kid. A magazine (I believe it was called Dragon) tried to explain how our beloved “D&D” game was more fantasy than reality. To illustrate it, they explained how many bowling balls we’d have to lug around to “carry” 1,000 gold pieces, as our characters were likely to do without a second thought. Or we’d have to shower with several cats strapped to our body to simulate losing 25 “hit points” in combat.
I also remember a viral Internet email that made the rounds while my wife was pregnant, telling expectant mothers and fathers how to prep for the little tyke in advance. I don’t remember all of the details, but I remember it would involve handing over all of my cash to the grocery store, and giving blank checks to pharmacies. My wife would have to lug around a heavy sack of sand, and then pour out 10% after nine months.
Well, there’s a similar way to get ready for graduate school. And here it goes.
Of course these are just exaggerations. And graduate school can be one of the most wonderful experiences ever. But it’s not a bed of roses, and you need to prepare yourself for the rocky parts. If you can get through each of these Herculean tasks, nothing in graduate school should touch you…maybe.
But here’s what you should actually do.
Talk to professors and current graduate students before you go about the studies and the experience. Doing this helped me decide which graduate school to go to, and it assisted me in making an excellent choice.
Take one of the practice courses, buy the booklet (new or a recently used copy). Study with a partner. And give yourself time to do the exam, where you have a few weeks or nights to prepare. I didn’t do that the first time, and I was “Just OK.” But the second time I took the GRE, I studied hard, with a booklet, and a friend, who was also taking the exam. She and I were classmates, and we both quizzed each other repeatedly, boosting our scores impressively.
The pay isn’t much, as indicated above, but when combined with the tuition waiver, it’s pretty helpful. The extra work will also give you the experience you need, as a professor or expert in your field.
You’re going to be doing a ton of it in graduate school. And getting smart in your subject will definitely help you on those exams and essays you’ll write. But take a little time for fun reading too, as all work and no play might burn you out.
That’s because you’ll need to buckle up for one of the most challenging, yet likely rewarding events of your life. But when I talk to my colleagues about the experience, nearly all would do it again if given the chance, findings that mirror what surveys say about graduate school in general.
And don’t do those wild tasks I suggested above. Graduate school might be tough, but it’s not as hard as working at Disney.
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John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.