When pursuing a master’s degree, there is much to consider before making a commitment. From course loads to time constraints and leisure, UTA graduate students and a graduate adviser share some do’s and don’ts of the ‘Grad Life’.

1. Making a decision

“A lot of people go to college because they feel like they have to,” said Natalie Thomas, political science graduate student. “But I feel like once you go to grad school, that’s a choice that you made to expand your learning.”

Communication graduate student Zach Arnold said it’s important to consider if graduate school is the best choice for one’s career because not every job requires a master’s degree.

If planning to be in a leadership position, then a master’s may be a good choice, he said.

“But if you’re doing it just to do it, it might end up being a waste of your time,” Arnold said.

2. Knowing the differences

Thomas said the classes are smaller compared to undergradate, and part of the learning experience is discussion in which professors talk the least.

Being confident and contributing to the discussion when critiquing others’ work is OK, Thomas said.

Just because someone has a doctorate doesn’t mean agreeing with them is necessary, she said.

Thomas said there’s definitely more reading in graduate school, and it’s not like undergraduate where students often read something, get tested on it and can forget it. Graduate courses demand a deeper understanding of the readings. 

She said students should be prepared to take part in classroom discussions and not let the fear of speaking up in class negatively affect their participation grades. 

3. Understanding the workload

Arnold said it’s important to know the amount of time graduate school is going to take, and it often requires more attention, time outside the classroom, energy and work ethic. 

Graduate classes frequently don’t end until 8:30 or 10 p.m; so if working a full-time job, don’t try to take too many classes, Thomas said. 

Karolyn Field, graduate adviser for the public administration program, said students should know graduate school involves more research.

Field said she suggests her students apply for an internship because it helps with networking when pursuing a career, she said.

She recommends students talk to their professors and establish a rapport with them.

Field said forming study groups on campus to get help and support is a great method of managing the challenges of a graduate-level course load.

4. Having a planner

Thomas said she suggests students keep a color-coded planner like she does and to use it. 

“I have it divided into things to do, and I have errands and people to call, and I also keep track of my finances,” Thomas said.

Arnold said he keeps a color-coded spreadsheet and puts his schedule on it, including work, classes and studying. 

He used to be able to put everything on his phone, but now he has to put everything on a daily planner, Arnold said.

5. Making time for yourself

To avoid being in an endless cycle of work and classes, it’s important to save some time for fun, Thomas said.

“If you feed off of other people’s energy, then make time for other people, put that into your schedule that you’re seeing that person that’s special to you, or you’re hanging out with the group of people you get good energy from,” Arnold said.

Arnold said he would recommend getting out of town every six weeks to hit the reset button.



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