Five Ways Starting Grad School is Like Starting High School (And Five Ways It Isn't)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Photo credit: Andrew Neel via Unsplash

Ten years ago I started high school; in a week I begin my graduate studies toward the pursuit of an M.A. in Literature. And as I’m preparing for the next step in my educational path, I’m realizing these two phases – high school and graduate school – are more alike than I’d thought! So I made a list to share with you. :)

Five Ways Starting Grad School is Like Starting High School

I’ll make new friends!

And it will probably be every bit as awkward and challenging as it was in high school. Making the right first impression and finding a place to fit in is a nerve-wracking prospect no matter what we’re starting, and while it may take some time to build community on a new campus, I have faith it’ll happen.

The classes will be more challenging than ever.

In the same way that high school algebra challenged me more than third-grade long division, graduate school courses will expand the limits of my understanding and reasoning capabilities as I delve into more sophisticated academic exploration.

School supply shopping!

I guess you get to do this even if you’re not in grad school; the real world just calls it “office supply shopping.” But they don’t make Target commercials for “office supply shopping,” now, do they? That’s right. School supply shopping is so much more fun.

It will take some time to get familiar with the campus.

Coming out of a 180-person middle school campus and into a school the size of a small college campus and designed for somewhere between 1000 and 1200 teenagers, I felt dwarfed by my new surroundings on the first day of high school (a significant thing to note, because, at barely 5’2’’, I often feel dwarfed anyway). Now I’m entering a campus intended for some 25,000+ students, and I’m sure I’ll get lost at least once or twice. It’s fine.

My sister is there to help me adjust.

My sister works in the College of Business at Colorado State, so I’ll be seeing a lot of her. And she got her undergraduate degree at CSU, so she can definitely show me the ropes like she did in high school… and meet me for lunch a day or two each week. :)

…And Five Ways It Isn’t

Extracurricular activities give way to part-time jobs and professionalization opportunities.

Remember those frantic attempts to crowd our college applications with diverse extracurricular activities, in an effort to show admissions committees how involved we were? In graduate school, the path is much more intentional. During this time, I’ll be seeking internships, mentorship from my professors, and job opportunities with direction, keeping my end goal in mind.

No uniforms!

Praise! I went to a Catholic high school, so of course uniforms were a thing. And the thrill of rebelling by wearing sweatpants or pajamas to class in college has definitely passed. So now I just get to dress in simple, classy, grown-up attire.

Superior on-campus dining options.

This one I may or may not have included just because there’s a Garbanzo’s on the university campus, and I have three words for it: Warm. Pita. Bread. My high school certainly didn’t have that.

Graduate school is an investment in myself.

I probably would have chosen to attend high school even if it weren’t required (I was nerdy like that), but that particular academic tier is more or less compulsory. There’s something empowering about owning my education in a graduate school environment and investing in a particular goal and career path now that I know myself and my dreams well enough.

I only get to study the subject I want to study.

Yay!! None of that math or science-y business I was required to take four years of as a high school student. I know what I love, and I know what I’d like to become. Now, I just get to go be it.  


  1. My husband always talked about how grad school kind of felt like high school all over again, mainly because his was a fairly small program where everybody knew each other and there were definitely "cool kids" and cliques, as strange as it sounds... I hope it goes well!!