If you are intimidated by grad school, you are not alone. It’s easy to fall into the trap of worrying that you are not good enough, smart enough, or prepared enough. Whether you’re just starting to research schools or have recently been accepted, it’s normal to be anxious. However, as a current grad student, I am here to tell you that you shouldn’t be afraid of graduate school. Here are four reasons to set your fears aside and start submitting your grad school applications:
1. It’s not that different from undergrad.
In high school, I remember my teachers warning us about how strict our undergraduate professors would be. For the most part, I was pleasantly surprised at how chill my undergraduate experience was and how relaxed most of my professors were. In many ways, my college experience has been easier than the one I had in high school!
I assumed that when I started grad school, it would be intense. Instead, I was once again pleasantly surprised at how chill my grad school experience has been so far. If anything, you have more freedom to take control of your coursework than in undergrad. Of course, there is still some stress, such as during midterms and finals, but all it takes to thrive is good time management. All in all, I am convinced that if you survived high school, you will be fine.
2. You don’t have to be an expert on your first day.
If you were an expert, then you wouldn’t be taking classes. Part of learning means that sometimes you won’t know something. You will get pushed out of your comfort zone. School gives you a safety net to make mistakes and learn from them or admit when you don’t know something.
Keep in mind that your peers come from different walks of life. My classmates have included students continuing from undergrad, mothers who haven’t been in school for decades, professionals trying to become more educated, and even a former NBA player! The point of your initial classes will be to get everyone on the same page and set your cohort up for success as they move through the program, no matter your age or previous experience.
3. Professors are people too.
Instead of feeling intimidated by your professors, try to remember that they’re people too. The key to creating a good relationship with your professor is to communicate. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — this shows you are thinking and learning. If something comes up and you miss a class or need to turn in an assignment late, give your professor as much notice as possible. In my experience, my professors have been more than willing to work with my friends and me when we needed extensions or extra help as long as we communicated that as early as possible. I’ve had friends fall behind because of catching COVID-19, and they still passed the class with an A because they talked to their instructor. Professors tend to be very open and understanding, as long as you are too.
4. You can pick the least intimidating platform for you.
Thanks to modern technology, you may have the option to pick between pursuing your graduate degree in person, online, or in a hybrid model that includes both. For my program, I chose to pursue my degree online and picked a program that is designed to accommodate people who work full time. While this helps me balance work and school, attending classes on Zoom instead of in-person also gives me more confidence. I’m not particularly shy, but I do suffer from some social anxiety when meeting new people. I’ve noticed that I don’t feel as nervous when attending virtual classes, and I participate more than I would if I were there in person. You know yourself best, and you can pick the program type where you will be most comfortable.
Ultimately, attending grad school will give you the confidence and skills you need to achieve your future goals. Depending on your career plans, grad school may be a required stepping stone. You will also learn skills that will prevent you from feeling intimidated when you discover future opportunities. Every time you overcome something that may seem scary, you grow stronger and more confident.