This post, however, was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend of mine who also recently entered Graduate School. As we were talking, we were trying to compare our experiences to our other schooling and the similarities and differences. I thought that this may be helpful in a fun sort of way for anybody in high school, undergraduate, or graduate.
Keep in mind that these are just the opinions on a few different schools that we went to but could vary completely depending on where you go.
For starters, admission into each level of education is much harder than the last. High school was just a matter of saying you live in the area and you are accepted.
College (undergrad), on the other hand, is everything but the kitchen sink. Transcripts, recommendations, essays, scholarship applications, even you parents education levels have to be included. However, although the quantity of stuff may be higher, several of the things provided do not hold as much weight and have a wider range to fall into for you to be accepted. Plus there are a lot more openings and larger programs available at the college level.
Graduate school is a narrower scope but is more audition-like than the rest. It has a lot more outside work that you need you to provide to show how your time was spent over the past four years. Transcripts, essays, and recommendations are still required, but then you have to include some kind of portfolio or test scores to prove that you can excel in this field. Sometimes it includes interviews but other times you can get away with just submitting the paper.
In high school, most of your subjects are very general. You need to reach a specific national standard to graduated which includes math, social studies, English, and sciences. You sometimes get to choose a few electives but they usually end up being either an art class or a phy-ed class. Classes are usually fairly short periods of time but you do have them every day.
College is all you. Although you do still have a number of areas and requirements that you need to fill, there are tons of different classes that allow you to not have to take any one specific class if you don’t want to. Although you are focused on your specific field of interest with your classes, you also get to explore much more than you did in high school. Regular classes, not including labs, vary from an hour to an hour and a half depending on whether you have the class twice or three times a week.
Graduate classes are solely in your interested field. The only decision you get to make with your schedule is day or night student. Otherwise, all of the classes have been decided upon in a sequential order. Usually at least one or two of your classes will involve the name of the subject you are in and then the number of the semester or trimester you are in. Classes can be anywhere from fifty-minutes to three hours long but can be twice or even only once a week.
High school food is probably one of the most questionable kinds of food you will eat. It is better than the slop you see on high school movies and shows but still only resembles that actual food via sight and never taste. Lots of people bring back lunches and you eat in one room at the same table that most likely has a spot you have claimed as yours.
In college, the food improves and there are loads of more options everywhere. There are the main cafeterias that are buffet style and cycle their menu on a pretty regular basis from month to month. They are also much more accommodating to different allergies and diets with the food that they offer. There are also loads of little shops all around campus to get food at when you are on the go. This is not including outside restaurants that are near by. And you eat just about anywhere on campus. You rarely are able to sit in the same place every day even if you try.
Graduate school all depends on whether your program is affiliated with a larger university. If it is, your food experience is much like undergrad. If not, however, you basically revert back to high school. Some smaller schools have a cafeteria with decent options in a pinch. Otherwise, you are bringing your bag lunch or forgoing lunch altogether. Some students do go off campus to get food but most of the time it is not worth the hassle of driving and re parking when you have a very short amount of time to do so.
BOOKS & STUDYING
In high school, books were basically a non-event. You were given a book on the first day of class and expected to return it at the end. This book had probably been used for the past 10-20 years and are rarely updated. Most of the subjects you are tested on comes from outside sources or things that your teachers have told you in class. Occasionally you will get a fact from the book but most of the time that same fact was on a powerpoint.
In college and graduate school, you will have to sacrifice your soul to get all of your books. If bought through your school bookstore, books can cost almost $1000 a semester. But you eventually get smarter and realize that a lot of the books are in your school’s library or can be bought online at a fraction of the cost. Almost all of your books will be used quite frequently for class or homework and most if not all of the exam questions will come from the texts itself or a conversation about the text.
QUIZZES & PAPERS & EXAMS (oh my!)
You may occasionally have a quiz in high school that is usually to ensure you did the reading but most of the time you will have a multiple choice test at the end of each section and then one grand test at the end of the semester that includes everything you have learned. And then you have another at the end of the year that will either be everything or just for half the year if your teachers love your sanity. Teachers in high school also communicate a lot more about when their tests will be so you do not often have two tests in one day or a paper due the same day as a big test.
College is all up in the air. Some professors prefer tests, some prefer papers. Either way, you rarely get a quiz. You can have two to three exams a semester that can be anything from multiple choice to short answer to essays, or all of the above. Professors do not often communicate with each other so you could have a huge exam in one class and a 12-page paper due the same day. Most schools during finals week will allow a student to change their testing schedule slightly if they have more than three tests in 24 hours but other than that you are on your own.
Graduate school is test and quiz central. You can have a quiz every other week, a paper or report due on the off week, and every three to four weeks an exam. Professors seem to have a bit of knowledge about when other tests are and since the programs you are in is a smaller range they are able to adapt it in a way that you do not become too overwhelmed, at least until finals week where all bets are off.
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