Graduate School Survival

Our economy is placing an increasing amount of importance on the knowledge base in order to maintain a competitive edge in any business. In our global economy, the rate of knowledge turnover is high, learning and forgetting are intense, the diffusion of knowledge is fast and a substantial part of total knowledge stock is changed every year. Therefore, it is becoming ever so important to continue acquiring new knowledge and skills to be able to change with the times. Changing with the times requires becoming a lifelong learner.

Graduate school is an experience like no other, and is really not for everybody. It is mainly for the intellectually curious. The courses that you will take are more intense than you can even imagine. There is a significant amount of study time required for you to be able to pass this course since you must achieve a “C” or better in order to pass. There are no “D’s” in graduate school. The grading scale is “A, B, C, or F.”

Do Not Memorize!
As for the tests, you can forget about multiple choice tests. They are extremly limited in graduate school. If you do find a professor that utilizes multiple choice tests in a graduate course, he is either very lenient, lazy, or is not qualified to teach at the graduate level. Multiple choice tests only allow the student to regurgitate what you have read.

Learning is not about memorizing facts, figures, and definitions. It is about understanding the concepts. You do that by explaining in your own words a particular concept or how a model works. Notice the keyword is explain. With that said, there a lot of essay exams since these types of exams let the student freely write down their thoughts. It gives the professors an avenue to see if they are understanding the concepts. Many professors will turn essay exams into take home exams. These professors will usually give you two weeks to complete it, and it ends up being another research written in APA style format.

If you are high school graduate entering college for the first time, and have aspirations of getting your Master’s degree, then use these same techniques that I have just described in your undergraduate studies.

Set up and maintain a blog
Many graduate school professors will require you to keep a journal. Each of them have different names, such as Leadership Development Project: Personal Portfolio. The personal portfolio is a compilation of individual thought (reflection) papers that you would write outside of class during the semester. The idea is for you to reflect on your experience and the subject matter involved and the meaning you give it. The purpose is to provide the professor with a window into your learning throughout the course that is more systemic and deeper.

Here is another twist to setting up a blog. Let’s say that you are taking a course in Organizational Behavior. You have the syllabus. The syllabus is divided into topics that are covered each week. Examples of such topics each week include motivation, group dynamics and teamwork, and decision making in organizations.

Take each of those topics that are in your syllabus and use them as your categories for your blog. For example, if motivation is a topic one week, then make that a category in your blog. If you have 14 topics that are being covered in the course that you are taking, then you will have 14 categories.

In the beginning of each chapter of your textbook there are objectives of what the reader is expected to learn. After attending the lecture for the week and doing your reading assignments, take the time to write in your own words the answers to those objectives. If one objective is to explain Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory, then explain it in your own words while drawing on your experiences. Many professors will formulate their exam questions from these objectives, so this will be an excellent test prep. By explaining what you have just heard in your lecture or read about in your readings, will help you in learning the concepts of the material. Memorization is not learning.

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