Making the Grade: Transitioning to Graduate School

By Sabrina Bong — We all go through a number of transitions in our lives. From kindergarten, with coloring books and dress-up time, to first grade, where we got actual homework. From junior high to high school, high school to college, and (for me) college to grad school. But this transition was a little more daunting. Not because I was scared of the school, or scared of the program. Nope, I was scared of the grading system.

A few weeks before applying to grad school, my friend and I overheard a conversation between two other students. One of them said he was going to apply to graduate school. His friend then said, “I heard if you get below a B in grad school, you fail the class.” Suffice to say, my friend and I exited the elevator, both of us a deathly shade of green.

So during my first few weeks of class, I sent myself into a slight panic.

I was skimming my syllabi and looking at all the reading I had to do, and I was panicking. How in the world could I do all this reading, write these papers, learn how to be a good counselor, and pass everything with a B or higher? Not that I was a bad undergraduate student, but I had been reassured that no matter what grade I got, there was always something lower. I had a cushion. Now, if I got a B, I would need to be tearing my hair out.

However, I quickly found out that all my panic was unnecessary. The Graduate Student Organization (GSO) provided me with the opportunity to have a School Counseling mentee, whom I met with during my first week of class. She immediately calmed me down, telling me that it was okay. Walking into graduate school and getting those first few assignments was going to be scary and overwhelming and challenging, she said. But as long as I tried hard and did my best to absorb the material, I would be fine. She also told me that there was going to be a lot of facts and terms thrown at me, but that if I didn’t understand everything the first time around, don’t panic. Many of the concepts would be repeated in other classes, and there was a good chance I would understand things better after I heard them two or three more times from different professors.

The older grad students have been a really great resource and comfort to all of us first years. They have been providing us with excellent study tips, thoughtful time management advice, and remind us that we need to take care of ourselves as well. They also are really taking the time to get to know us and answer any questions we may have. Hearing their experiences and listening to their advice has made this transition much easier and not quite as overwhelming. Now, I’m not as worried about this first year.

And as for grades … well, we’ll just have to see.

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