Graduate School Workshop
Life After Undergrad Years
Date: Wednesday, November 5, 2008
UPE gathered a panel of graduate students, professors, and advisors in order to give undergraduates a better understanding of the graduate school experience, as well as answer any lingering questions students had. The first part of the talk was spent explaining the differences between graduate and undergraduate programs in order to lay a foundation of what to expect. This led to a discussion of the differences between the Masters program and the PhD program. A major difference compared to undergraduate courses is that classes focus more on abstract topics, rather than low-level coding skills, in order to build off of what students learn in their undergraduate educations. Also, PhD programs are more focused on research, while the Masters program is more of a middle ground between undergraduate and PhD programs, culminating in either a thesis or project.
The next major topic covered was the financial aid available when pursuing a graduate degree. It was generally agreed that financial aid is less centralized than in undergraduate programs, which generally use FAFSA as a major application. Financial aid for graduate students comes in the form of fellowships and payment for teaching assistant positions. Teaching assistant positions are competitively pursued, with PhD students generally being given priority.
Finally, the panel discussed the choice between going straight to work after finishing an undergraduate degree and pursuing a graduate degree first. An advantage of working and then later pursuing a graduate degree is that the purpose of the knowledge will be much clearer, since students will have a better idea of what kinds of problems they will face in a work setting. Conversely, a major practical disadvantage of going to work first is that, in general, students become accustomed to getting paid and not having homework, and therefore have a hard time finding the motivation to go back to school. With these considerations in mind, the panel sent students off to plan out their futures.