Preparing to enter graduate school is a lot different than preparing for undergraduate studies. Oftentimes, while taking graduate-level courses, professors assume students have been prepared. You may have gained knowledge from internships or from professional experience, but no one expects you to be 100% prepared for graduate school. In fact, no one can be 100% prepared for what lies ahead.

We compiled a few things to think about as you begin the next phase in your college journey. 

You will be expected to:

Write papers 

One of the most significant learning curves is learning to write critically and analytically. Paper lengths are going to increase, and professors will expect you to write at a graduate student level.  You should be prepared to learn from professors and peer criticisms of your writing. If writing is not one of your strengths, visit your college campus writing center or graduate student services. Graduate papers are not something that you can start the week they are due.

Lead discussions and/or participate in seminars 

Up until now, you may be used to lecture-style classes. However, many graduate classes focus more on group lead or student lead discussion. While the professor may provide a lecture or overview of the readings or assignments that week, you will be expected to be able to talk about the readings and your takeaways. Strive to be a leader and independent critical thinker in your classes. Take good lecture and reading notes – The reading load in graduate school is going to increase not only in difficulty, but in size. Taking detailed and structured notes from your classroom lectures is important, but even more important is learning to take quality notes from your readings. While you may have mastered this in your undergraduate classes, the need to take succinct reading notes will help you organize your thoughts and provide you with talking points during your classes. 


Graduate school can be isolating, and you will spend a great amount of time studying and working. This does not mean that you need to sacrifice spending time with other graduate students. Take part in practicums, internships, research teams, and other activities offered through your program. Do not be afraid to socialize with students outside of your program and at other institutions. Become active in national organizations in your field; this is where you will meet many of your future colleagues, partners, and possible clients as you finish your program and enter your profession. 

Don’t fear engaging in research 

You will potentially play a much larger role in research studies as a graduate and professional student. Engaging in research studies and projects as a student will give you valuable insight that will help you if you conduct a thesis or dissertation project. 

Ask questions and take the initiative to get answers 

Graduate school is difficult; it is okay if you are unsure of certain concepts. There is no shame in asking for help. If you do not understand something, do not be afraid to ask for clarification or be proactive in searching for the answer.