Senior year of college the question that most students dread to be asked is “so, what are you doing next year?” This question is asked by well-meaning teachers, friends of parents, strangers on the bus, and worst of all: peers who already have a job. For me, the thought of leaving the comfortable “Hopkins bubble” was terrifying. As an Economics major, I recognized the uninspiring (although becoming less so) job scene and decided that I needed another year of growing up before entering the working world. I applied to graduate school and decided to get my masters degree in International Management at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, hoping for a few more years of college. At first, I was disheartened by the differences, I even missed MSE. After a few months I started to appreciate the dissimilarities and find my place. Hopefully these tips will help you during the transition time by accurately preparing you for the graduate school experience.
5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Graduate School
1) Recognize that it is not college.
3) Find a routine.
4) Stay connected.
5) Capitalize on what you know.
1) The sooner you stop comparing everything to college, the sooner you can enjoy the graduate school experience. Although you take classes, have classmates, and take part in social activities, graduate school has a different feel than college. People don’t go out every night with their friends (at least the ones who remain in the program), and sometimes you have to go to the library alone to study. Teachers expect a lot more outside reading and discovery to support class activities. It’s a different pace than college and fun and exciting in a different way, but trying to live the college lifestyle will just leave you disappointed.
2) In graduate school, everyone comes with different life experiences and backgrounds. In my experience, other students and lecturers are your greatest resource. You might find that lecturers or guest lecturers will give out business cards at the end of a class. They are not doing this to be polite or because they have extra business cards, they are trying to network with you. Follow up! I got my first job out of college by emailing a guest lecturer (the CEO of a local bank) with my ideas, and now I am a strategy specialist at his bank. One of my classmates knows the brand ambassador for Jameson and will be traveling next year speaking to bar tenders about the brand. If you’re brave enough, make the first move and give your contact details to people you find interesting, the worst that can happen is they won’t contact you.
3) Although sleeping until 1 pm everyday might sound like a dream come true, it is easy to do the bare minimum in graduate school and miss out on some great experiences. When I arrived in Dublin, I had no friends and no job. I had class from 2pm until 8pm everyday and slept much of the rest of the time. After a few weeks I realized that as much as I missed college, I also missed all of the things I did in college. To supplement my school schedule, I joined some clubs, found a gym, signed up for extracurricular activities like sailing and self-defense, and took advantage of the seminars at my University. Living alone and out of a dorm in graduate school, it is easy to become introverted. I have found that establishing a schedule of fun activities has allowed me to naturally make friends with whom I share interests as well as giving me more confidence in school.
4) Just because you have moved on from Hopkins, doesn’t mean that you need to remove yourself completely. Chances are you are one of or have at least a few of the following type of friends: (1) The engineer who is always working on secret government projects yet somehow is allowed to use Facebook at work. (2) The friend who moved to a foreign country to teach something and periodically posts pictures of them holding children on Facebook. (3) The friend who went to some kind of graduate school at Hopkins and makes you jealous by “checking in” at PBR downtown. (4) The friend who moved to DC and is going to law school, becoming a politician, or both and writes political Facebook messages. What do all of these friends have in common? They all have access to social media. Facebook has allowed our generation to stay in touch with all of our friends, no matter where they are, and that’s awesome. Use it! Moving on doesn’t have to mean forgetting.
5) The most important thing I have learned in graduate school is to capitalize on what you know and don’t sell yourself short. The things you learned in Hopkins can become your secret weapon. The Integrated Marketing Communications course taught me how to use social media to generate brand awareness, so this year I created a social media strategy at work. The Blogging, Editing and Copywriting course taught me about SEO, SEM, Google adwords and other tools that I use everyday at work and in school. Graduate school focuses on sharing knowledge and expanding your skill set. People will be impressed with anything you know, and you’d be amazed how handy it can be to know the history of personal hygiene from a class in Museums Studies, when you are trying to write a history of branding for toothpaste. Other language skills are also very useful in impressing employers.
If you get nothing more from this blog entry remember this: It’s scary to leave Hopkins behind and go into the world, but graduate school is a great experience if you are willing to commit to it.
–Alexandra Clionsky ’12