The Difference between Undergrad and Graduate School

Virtually everyone knows that graduate school comes after undergraduate education, but a lot of people view both under the lumped heading of “college.” In reality, however, there are a lot of differences between the two types of schooling. For one, the motivations and study methods for each type of school are different. In undergrad, a lot of the class preparation involves memorizing information and answering study questions in order to do well on exams. The goal at the end of your undergrad career is to have a cursory knowledge of a lot of different subjects with one slightly specialized field. If you’re not a history major, for example, you don’t really need to understand all the nitty gritty details and connections from different areas of history. You will probably take a history class or two and retain enough information to appear halfway intelligent should a relevant discussion arise at a later date. The goal in grad school is a little different. Since you’ve already passed undergrad by this point, the idea is to take your major and develop it further. Rather than practice rote memorization many times over, professors instead encourage students to absorb information to enhance knowledge. If you’ve decided to go to medical school, for instance, you’re past the point where you need to memorize the bones in the body or practice lab dissections – all that was taken care of in your undergraduate anatomy and biology classes. Instead, medical school will teach students how to think like doctors and take them through many practical situations in residencies and internships. To best apply this different thinking model, classes will look a lot different in graduate school also. You most likely had at least one undergraduate class that was a large lecture hall with 300 students or more. In these classes it is hard to get on one on attention with the professor unless you utilize office hours. You could go through the entire semester without raising your hand and asking a question. No one would know if you didn’t do the homework (until test time) and the professor may never learn your name. This set up isn’t conducive to the more specialized learning and critical thinking development that occurs at the graduate level. Necessarily classes must be smaller. Overall graduate schools are much more selective than undergraduate schools and accept far fewer students. These schools must be so picky in order to ensure that class sizes stay small and all students have the opportunity to be challenged and pushed into further learning. The types of classes you’ll take will also be different. In undergraduate school you most likely had to fulfill a certain percentage of your credits with general education requirements before you could take classes in your major. This mean that business majors still had to take a fine arts class and engineers couldn’t skip English. In graduate school, however, there’s no such thing as a general education requirement. All the classes you take will be in your specific major or concentration. This is necessary to ensure that students graduate with an enhanced knowledge in their specific discipline that will make them more knowledgeable in their area than people without master’s degrees.

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