Many people have the desire to relive their carefree college experience – the first taste of freedom paired with a lack of adult responsibilities. So when you make the decision to “go back to school” to pursue a graduate degree, it can be hard to imagine a university experience different from your undergraduate one. But being a graduate student is quite different; this is not Old School. Aside from the lack of Hollywood stereotypes which focus strictly on the non-academic aspect of college, there are some very real differences between the undergraduate and graduate experience.
Most people go to graduate school with a plan, whether it is to become an expert in a certain field or broaden career opportunities. This makes the overall dynamics of the experience quite different. In the classroom, the level of engagement is high. Students are active learners and are expected to participate. At Warner, classes cap at 25, which means attendance is important not only to your grade, but to the classroom experience. When students are missing, it is felt.
Learning takes place both in and outside of the classroom. Students have a larger responsibility to learn the material outside of class and must be prepared to discuss it in class. This actually makes class time more efficient and enjoyable because it can be spent on digging into nuances and learning from each-other. This larger responsibility for learning outside of the classroom requires good time management skills, especially because a lot of graduate students also work and have families.
Even though many graduate programs at Warner have cohorts and do promote a camaraderie among students, it can vary in intensity from program to program. Because a lot of students are not full-time and don’t live on campus, the graduate student community is a bit more disjointed. While this can be difficult at times, Warner has created opportunities for graduate students to feel at home. Faculty and staff are really accessible and the building promotes a friendly and studious environment for students to do their work.
Graduate school is decidedly more academic focused and less embedded in the traditional undergraduate culture of extracurriculars and campus community. Maybe the fun factor is dialed down a bit, but the learning and engagement factor is dialed way up!