Underprepared?

I walked into a professor’s office to pick up my final paper during finals week my second semester at my second undergraduate college. “You are an excellent writer. I absolutely loved your analysis,” my Semantics professor told me. “You should seriously consider graduate school.”

I beamed at the compliment. “Oh, I already am,” I informed him proudly.

“Good. When you need recommendation letters, don’t hesitate to ask,” he told me.

I was proud of this professor’s comment on my ability. After all, I had worked hard on my assignment. I had never had a professor tell me they thought I was good enough to continue on after undergraduate, though I had a past professor from a different undergraduate university tell me they are proud of me recently. My Semantics professor’s comment helped give me a little more confidence as I moved forward; in fact, it was a comment that echoed in my mind constantly during my application process.

I am now two and a half months in to graduate school, and I am wondering why I decided to torture myself in this way. I love teaching, and I am actually enjoying my courses, but doing both is really hard, perhaps harder than I had anticipated.

There is a ton of reading. My two-and-a-half inch binder already can’t hold anymore paper. Yes, I have my B.A. in English, so I know what it’s like to have a lot of reading to do and a lot of papers to write. But my undergrad never required this much reading in such a short amount of time. No one prepared me for this difference

It is much harder to work and go to school while in graduate school because of this sheer amount of reading. Lucky for me, my work is my GTA, so I get a stipend, but they also pay for my tuition. I’m practically being paid to go to school. My paycheck is not just cash, but also benefits. I have no complaints about that; it’s brilliant. But GTAs are required to keep 9 credits a semester in order to keep their assistantship; 9 credits is considered full time status for graduate school.

But 9 credits in graduate school are nothing like 9 credits in undergraduate. Sure, each class is still 3 credits (all of my English courses in undergrad were 3 credits, and I took 12-14 a semester), but the 9 credits now are much harder. There’s more reading, more writing, more class time per credit. One of my classes is online, one is a hybrid (online/in person) so that one is an hour and a half one day a week, and my other class is two hours one day a week. Next semester, two of my classes will be online and my other class will be an hour two days a week. You may be thinking, “oh that doesn’t sound hard at all, suck it up.” It’s hard when your GTA position, which pays your tuition and gives you a paycheck, your job, is 20 hours a week. That includes two 50 minutes classes you teach, an hour of office hours each day you teach, and grading. It is very hard.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I love my program, I love my assistantship, my other GTAs are great, and so are my professors. I have had a wonderful experience so far. And, sure, it is only two years. But I was not prepared for how difficult and time consuming it would be. I had only my five years of undergraduate to compare it to, and no one told me what graduate school would be like. I only wish someone had.

I wish my college had offered graduate school preparation courses or graduate school advising. I wish they had had more opportunities for students who were interested in graduate school to prepare. Any “information sessions” offered were usually specifically through a specific department, but mainly Biology. So the only sessions I was ever aware of were for dental school, medical school, and the like. That was not, obviously, my interest. I wish the college itself, the president and the dean, had put on some events or information sessions for students interested in continuing their education. Because I feel bad for those students who are like me, who want to go to graduate school but who will be unprepared for what that means.

I wish colleges and universities, big and small, offered graduate school prep courses to better prepare those students who want to continue their education. Because it isn’t fair to have a student accepted, and be excited to go, and then be very anxious and unprepared for what that decision means.

Granted, my current university allows undergraduates to take graduate level courses on the basis that it is permitted by the instructor, the advisor, and other pertinent parties. However, the college I received by B.A. from was a strictly undergraduate college. So, while I enjoyed my experience there and do not regret transferring there, I feel they could have done something to help those who wanted to go further.

What do you think? Would it be beneficial for students to have the chance to take graduate school prep courses if they wish to continue their education? Or would it just be a waste of money for the college or university to provide the courses? What are your thoughts on this?