Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Differences Between Graduate School and Undergrad

If you are thinking about going to law school or grad school, this post is for you.

Just about everyone I know that is graduating this year from undergrad is thinking about going to graduate school. Whether it be because they have always wanted to or because the pandemic has them worried about the job search, I am here to tell you that undergrad and graduate school are completely different in some ways, and in other ways, they are the same.


I just finished my first semester of law school at Hofstra University.

Below is a list of 10 similarities and differences between undergrad and graduate school.

1.     Office hours. Like undergrad all professors hold office hours. The only difference between the professors in undergrad and law school are that professors at law school don’t have to have teaching degrees. All they have to have are JDs. One professor this semester was probably the best professor I have had in my entire school career, even though he didn’t have a teaching degree. Some of the other professors were not my favorite.

2.     Organization of classes. Every class has a syllabus just like undergrad. Nothing is new here.

3.     Tests. There are no tests or assignments throughout the semester. Your final test determines your whole grade for the semester. This was completely new to me because I always had assignments throughout the semester, so this was a bit of an adjustment.

4.     Snoozers. I didn’t even have people that snoozed in class in undergrad. Maybe I did in high school. But I had kids in my class that would fall asleep regularly in class. This was baffling to me. Here’s proof that even in law school, a school you have to study hard to get into, has people that don’t want to be there.

5.     Ages of Students. I went to undergrad with only kids my age. Law school and graduate school is a bit different. Most people don’t go straight from one school to the next. A handful of my friends took time off and worked and then decided to go to law school. In my section, I would say the majority of students are my age, right out of undergrad, or within a year or two older than me. We do have some students that are parents with little kids though. Graduate schools are for all walks of life!

6.     Participation. Just like undergrad you get a participation grade, which if you remember, always boosts your GPA in that class. Law school is the same with helping to boost your grade but in law school we have the Socratic Method. In simple terms, this is cold calling. Not all professors do this. Two of my four professors did this. I had one professor that had a seating chart and knew exactly who to call on which day, and he had a pattern. And my other professor that cold called had no method, she just called on whomever she felt like. Moral of the story: you always have to be prepared for class! You also have to review your notes before class that day.

7.     Study groups. I never had study groups in undergrad. I would do homework with my friends or I would meet a group to work on a project, but I never would sit down once a week with friends and go over our notes and study for a test. In law school, study groups are a big thing, even during the pandemic. I was lucky that the girls sitting around me became my friends really quickly and we formed a study group. We met about once or twice a week all semester after class and would eat some kind of meal and go over our outlines. We did this for all of our classes. As Trish said, “You are only as smart or prepared as your classmates in your study group.” I completely agree. We would go chapter by chapter and compare notes. My friends became my “tutors” and would help explain things to me that I didn’t understand and vice versa. So, pick your study group wisely!

8.     Law school is cliquey. I say this in the nicest way possible. The way my law school is set up, we are grouped into sections of 44 students. For the first year you take all of your classes with these people. You see these people every day for class and those people become your friends. So, my group of friends, is my study group and we have a big group chat and hang out outside of studying and class. It’s a group of 7 of us. Obviously, we’re nice to everyone else in our class, but this is our group and that’s it. There is also some high school drama in law school. Story time! So, there is this guy in our class who messaged my friend and asked her out on a date, she politely declined and then a week later he was dating someone else in my class! That is very high school.

9.     Socialization. Clubs and social gatherings aren’t really a thing in graduate school. You go to school to work and that’s it. It is not social like undergrad was, in the sense that you have clubs and go to parties and have lunch with your friends. You have class and then you go to the library or back home and work until dinner and then after dinner. I’m lucky that whenever my friends and I study we also make it a social event and bring in food or watch the bachelor together, so we have more than just studying. 

10.  You only have time for school. I had time for school, my blog and working out for a half hour every day, and my study group. That’s it. Graduate school is a full-time job. It’s a lot of work. I thought the work was very similar in difficulty to undergrad, but that is dependent on where you went to undergrad. So, remember it is going to be a lot of hard work, but very rewarding. 

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