Don’t over-do it with your grad school course load

Don't over-do it with your grad school course load.

Getting accepted into a graduate school program can feel like a huge step in the right direction. You’ve narrowed down what kind of work you will hopefully devote your life to and you’re attending a program that will help you easily jump into a niche facet of the industry you’re passionate about. But remember, graduate school is not the same as your undergraduate program. You need to make the most of it, and be conscious of your course load so as to not overextend yourself.

How to manage your graduate school course load


“I think for the most part, for undergraduates, it’s study first and everything else later,” explains John Rodzvilla, the graduate program director of Emerson College’s Writing and Publishing program. He adds, “in graduate school that sort of flips. Many graduate students are working part-time or full-time. They’re adults and they have so many things going on besides school.”

After four years of treating your undergraduate program like an academic utopia where you can float by on working a small campus job in between studying and partying, reality sets in once you get to graduate school. Since dorm life is not really a big aspect of your life, chances are you’ll be juggling your time at grad school either in class, studying and working on homework … or, most likely, trying to pay your rent.

This is exactly why Rodzvilla believes students should not over-do it when it comes to their course loads each semester. “At Emerson when we talk to our graduates coming in we limit them to two classes for their first semester,” he says.  “They can take up to three, but we try to limit them to one or two until they get familiar with the program or adjust to what graduate school is like. It’s not the same as undergraduate. We have a four-hour class and they should expect an additional six to eight hours outside of class to do readings, homework and other work outside of the classroom.”

After spending nearly twenty years of your life IN a classroom, you should view graduate school as being weaned away from that academic environment. You’re almost free! “Almost” being the key word. Now you really need to focus on the brief, albeit demanding, workload you’ve got ahead of you before you earn that next degree.

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