Because of growing alternative class formats, a good rapport with professors is essential for success as a graduate student, said English academic adviser Charles Hicks.
Distance education and Hybrid Class Formats
Distance-education primarily consists of online courses to offer flexibility to graduate students. Hybrid class includes a course that may meet once online and once in the classroom, Hicks said. These class formats have grown popular among students who have obligations they must manage with school because it allows them complete assignments and learning objectives outside the classroom.
“You have to be ready for a heavy course load,” said Karolyn Field, Urban and Public Affairs graduate adviser. “It’s important to have a very good rapport with your professors, keep emailing, especially with your online professors.”
Younger students are geared toward online courses, have become accustomed to online coursework and may have a different advantage from older students, Fields said. Nevertheless, UTA also offers on-campus night courses for graduate students.
“Most of the students that opt for the online courses will have to be sort of tech-savvy,” Field said. “The online courses are mostly BlackBoard-oriented, and it will be necessary to be very familiar with its technology.”
Students must be able to set guidelines for themselves and realize that, while distance education offers flexibility, they need to use it to their advantage, not as a means to be less disciplined, Hick said.
“Just because something is more accessible doesn’t mean it’s easier,” Hicks said. “I have encountered students who think they can now work a 12-hour shift at their job because they are now taking online courses, and, trust me, that does not work out for them.”
Relationships Have Always Mattered
Prospective students must remember that building a relationship with professors allows for collaboration, Hicks said. They are no longer just a number on their professor’s roster.
“Being a cohort facilitates camaraderie amongst other students as well as with your professors,” said Anthony Valdez, Urban and Public Affairs graduate adviser.
As a former graduate student around other like-minded and smart people, Hicks said the pitfalls of college are the same across the board.
“Building relationships is how you get places,” Hicks said. “Many graduate students will begin teaching assistance and they are occasionally intimidated by having to teach a class, but this is what facilitates those discussions and relationships.”
If a student just graduated, they may be in the large population of graduate teaching assistants at UTA. Hicks said he would encourage students to look for programs with funding.
“This can possibly be limiting because you may find a wonderful graduate studies program, but it may not have funding,” Hicks said. “UTA is extremely competitive in their graduate studies programs, have offered full-tuition reimbursements and can possibly enhance how much money you can receive.”
It is helpful for students to know ahead of time what classes they will be taking to map out financial aid course offerings and vacation time, Field said.
“If planning to apply for financial aid, you must take two courses per semester, so be very aware of the course offerings to fall within your range of financial aid,” Fields said.
The work is never done
A graduates’ studies are never finished, Hicks said.
“We have a saying amongst other graduate students and it’s that ‘You’re never truly finished,’ ” Hicks said. “There is always something more you can do in graduate studies, whether it’s working on your dissertation, adjusting your lesson plan, or consulting with your research colleagues. The work is never done.”