5 Things You Should Know Before Starting A Master’s Degree Program
January 18, 2019
Modified on September 16, 2021
Have you been thinking about continuing your education with a Master’s degree but have questions? I’ve made a list of 5 things you should know before starting a Master’s degree program. Hopefully this can give you some insight into what to expect and help answer some questions.
Today is exactly 2 months since I began my Master’s program at Grand Canyon University. There have been ups and downs but I am still happy with the decision I made to continue my education.
When I obtained my Bachelor’s degree April of last year, it helped to give me so much confidence and motivation to keep moving forward.
But even though I had been in school I was still scared about going to graduate school. A lot of fears and doubts filled my mind, as well as a ton of questions. What will be expected of me? What if I’m not smart enough? Is it way more work?
Over the past 2 months I have to say it hasn’t been too bad. Some things have been surprising, while others I expected.
I put together this list of 5 things you should know in hopes that it can help with your questions and maybe help to give you some motivation too.
So let’s start off with number 1.
1. Choosing A Degree
I believe carefully choosing your degree type is essential to being successful in a Master’s program. There is going to be more that is expected of you in terms of quality of work. Therefore, you want to be sure that what you are choosing to study is something that can help keep you motivated.
Of course getting your Master’s can bring some monetary gain, an increase in pay or a higher position. But it helps that you are passionate about the subject too.
When I received my Bachelor’s degree I still wasn’t 100% sure about what I wanted to be doing with my life. My degree is in Applied Management, the focus is in business.
But with my Master’s, I know it will directly help me in the direction that I want to take my work. I am receiving my Master’s in English with an emphasis in education.
You want to have a plan with what you hope to achieve with your degree. I don’t recommend getting a degree just because your work will pay for it. Spend the time to think about what you really want for your future.
Like Marie Kondo says, “Do you see this as being a part of your future?” Sorry I just had to add some organization inspo in there.
But seriously, do some research. Something that also really helped me in choosing my degree was looking at the jobs that you can obtain once you’ve completed your program. For my specific degree, some careers would be professional writing or teaching.
As a blogger and writer, this is right up my alley.
The type of schooling can also make all the difference. I chose to complete my program solely online. I did the same with my Bachelor’s and I loved it. The convenience fits my lifestyle. It can be a great option if you have to work while going to school.
Once you’ve chosen your degree, next would be to take action.
For me it was fairly simple because I’d just graduated. Once I was certain I wanted to continue, I reached out to my school advisor and she helped to connect me with the Master’s program advisor.
It was so helpful to talk to an advisor because she helped to answer some questions I had. As well as explain to me if the program was what I was expecting in terms of a future career.
If you’ve been out of school for a little while I really encourage you to reach out to someone at a school that you are considering. Talking to someone and getting your questions answered can help to alleviate some stress and concerns you may have.
Communication will be important in a Master’s program and that can start by reaching out to an advisor if you’re a little rusty.
After I applied and completed my Financial Aid information, the advisor kept me updated with the start date of my class. They can be different for online classes, some don’t follow regular semesters. This can be a little intimidating too, but personally I like it. My classes are every 8 weeks, I like that I only have to focus on one class at a time.
3. Program Expectations
Program expectations are of course dependent upon your degree type. But in terms of you as a student, I believe universities hold you to a higher standard.
Plagiarism, grammar, and classroom etiquette are the knowledge and understanding you are expected to have.
The same goes for referencing your work. I continuously go back to the resources we’ve been given in my program to ensure I am referencing my sources correctly. Our professors have been adamant about this.
In a Bachelor’s program everyone is still kind of feeling things out. Getting used to college, learning how to manage their time.
So, going into a Master’s program, that time has come and gone. That’s also why I mentioned communication will be important, especially if you choose to take classes online. There has been some group work in my classes so far, and keeping consistent communication helped my team to be successful.
My program required an introductory class that was very helpful. We were able to make mistakes and ask questions, and the professor gave us the tools to utilize going forward. For these reasons, I say do your best to choose a school that feels right for you.
This was the biggest question I had. Will it be more work? Well…the answer is yes and no.
I know, probably not what you wanted to hear but let me explain. In my Bachelor’s program I took way more notes. I read everything and was writing notes all the time. But in my Master’s program, I’ve found that there is just not enough time to be so detailed with my notes.
There is a lot of reading so I’ve had to learn to only write down the information that I feel is necessary to complete my assignments.
The amount of reading I expected, but less notes, that one surprised me for sure.
I believe I’m taking less notes because I am learning that the purpose is to become a Master of something. Which is about becoming an expert in your field. The best way to do that is by applying what you are learning and critically thinking about the knowledge you are gaining.
I have taken less notes, yes, but I feel I am remembering more of what I am learning. This is because our professors have us apply concepts to real life scenarios. It isn’t just about completing assignments, writing papers, or checking things off the reading list. Rather, it’s about absorbing the knowledge, applying it, and being able to teach it to others.
A not so black and white answer to this question but hopefully that gives you an idea of what the work will look like.
5. Put The Fear Aside
Fear, it sure can be a witch (replace the w with a B), am I right??
It holds us back from so much and it’s frustrating because it is within ourselves that fear is created, most of the time.
Before I went back to school to obtain my Bachelor’s, I was settling in life. I was settling because I was afraid to fail. I wasn’t sure if I was good enough or smart enough, and I was afraid to find out.
But thankfully, with an amazing support system and my faith, I was able to push past the fear and just go for the things I want in life.
There’s this quote that I love from the Princess Diaries that says, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather, the judgement that something else is more important than fear.”
The photo above is from when I graduated last April. And I can’t wait for graduation the second time around.
So if you’ve been thinking about continuing with your education I hope this helps to calm a little bit of your fears and answer some burning questions you’ve had.
It’s ok to be afraid. I was extremely excited to start my program, but the day before class began all of a sudden I was filled with all this anxiety. I began to question if I was going to be the dumbest one in class asking all these unimportant questions. Is my grammar good enough? Will others judge me?
Wow it was bad, but I pushed through it! And here we are 2 months in.
Even if you are thinking about going back to school for your Bachelor’s, still, put your fear aside and go for it!
If you have any questions about anything don’t be afraid to drop me a line, or comment that’ll work too. I’d be more than happy to help or share more with you.
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