From Undergrad to Grad Student: Why I’m Glad I Didn’t Wait
By Hannah Hendricks
I was a junior in college, and by this point I had realized exactly what I did not want to do. I did not want to be a journalist. The deadlines, the interviews, the pressure and competition were not my forte. I did not want to get a master’s degree in English. I loved reading and writing and analysis, enough to make it my major. I did not love, however, the literary know-it-alls and the need to find some new angle with which to analyze, well, everything. Couldn’t I just appreciate the written literature for what it was?
Instead I started to focus on what I did love. I loved being involved. I loved leading my peers. I loved creating new ways to get the student body involved. I loved new students and orientation. I loved my sorority and leading my institution’s Greek community. I loved what college was and is, but more importantly, I loved who I became in college.
So, I started talking to those who were influential to my college experience. You know, the advisors, the professors, the deans, and directors. “Think about student affairs” was the ultimate reply. So, I did.
I decided to go to graduate school for Higher Education Administration, and I decided to go to The University of Texas at Austin. While all of the professionals I knew working in higher education were thrilled for me, I was surprised that a great deal of people (more than I could have expected) were curious and cautionary about my decision to go straight from undergraduate to graduate school.
Don’t you want to gain some real world experience? How do you know this is what you really want? Are you sure you want to move to Texas? You’re a little young aren’t you? Are you just trying to avoid the job market? The questions and cautions were relentless. Okay, maybe not relentless, but it sure did seem that way at times. It was enough to make going straight through my number one concern about starting graduate school. Was I ready? Would I know enough?
Well, my friends, I learned a few things by making the leap, going with my gut, and doing what I believed was right for me.
- I became ready. I’ll be honest. I wasn’t ready for the matureness that you might need in graduate school. I had grown quite comfortable in my little, cozy, cocoon known as undergrad, but I became ready. I’m thankful for this development. I learned how to confidently speak my opinion, how to present successfully and persuasively, how to hold my own in a work meeting. I also learned that I could. I could do things and more. I could put myself out there. I could make myself ready for anything and everything that just might come my way.
- I needed to make new friends. No, not because my college friends are awful. They are actually still the most amazing people I know, but I needed to be exposed to life outside of my undergraduate bubble. I needed to invest in a new community. Sure, I miss my college friends all the time, but I also love the community I have developed here for its own reasons. It’s special in a different way.
- I learned to be passionate academically. As mentioned previously, I was an English major in college (don’t judge my grammar skills!). Even though I could argue my love for William Carlos Williams or the importance of Young Adult Fiction pretty convincingly, I knew I wasn’t ready for some of the career options having a degree in English would lead to. Being a graduate student has made me realize that my heart is passionate for something, and it is an amazing feeling. I have stances and opinions, and I truly care about the field I’m entering.
- I charged towards the uncomfortable. It’s not all the time that every single day holds something out of your comfort zone. I think it was so beneficial to put myself into an environment where this was the case. Where I had to learn a new city, make new friends, study new things, etc. It was also just as beneficial to realize I could succeed, and I would be okay. Sure, I might have not left my apartment without GPS for months, but hey, now I’m doing just fine!
- I learned to be okay alone. I don’t think I ever did anything by myself as an undergraduate. I went to church with friends. I grocery shopped with friends. I did everything with someone else. That togetherness is lovely, but sometimes you need to learn how to be alone. You need to learn how to go to church alone or how to go to a dance class by yourself or even how to walk into a party where you only know one person. You just do, okay.