Undergrad vs. Grad School

Many students begin graduate school believing that it’s basically an overgrown version of their undergraduate education.

However, there are some big differences between college and graduate school. Being aware of the changes you’ll be expected to make can help the transition to graduate school feel less daunting. Here are seven of the biggest differences between life as a college student and life as a grad student.

1. In Grad school, you’ll spend (a lot) more time on each individual course

It’s not uncommon for undergraduate students to take 5 or 6 classes a semester in college. In graduate school, five classes would be nigh impossible. A full course load is generally 3 courses – and for good reason. Each graduate class will require a lot of reading, more than you ever thought possible in college – and more than might actually be possible in a week. You’ll have to learn to prioritize the most important readings and actively skim the rest.

Moreover, the structure of the courses will be different. There are virtually no lecture classes in graduate school; all or nearly all of your classes will be small seminars with 15-20 students or less. Even as few as 2-5 students in a class is not uncommon. You’ll be expected to be prepared for seminars and to speak up and participate in the intellectual conversation. Your professors will be interested in hearing your insights. Higher quality is expected from your papers, presentations, and group projects. You’ll devote much more time to each class than you did in college.

2. You’ll develop a laser focus on your topic of interest

Undergraduate education is primarily about breadth. In graduate school, your education will be focused on developing depth in a particular subject area. Coursework in graduate school is designed to help prepare you for your comprehensive exams and for writing a dissertation. Develop a clear idea of what you want to study before you start graduate school, because you won’t have the same freedom to explore different disciplines as you did in college.

This is good news for anyone who knows exactly what they want to study and is ready to polish their knowledge in that field (which – at least theoretically – should be everyone in grad school). You’ll spend a great deal of time reading deeply within your field and participating in high-level discussions with scholars in your area.

The caveat, of course, is that this is not the time to explore brand-new avenues. While there is some flexibility and plenty of room to grow in grad school, for the most part your job is to specialize and become an expert within a specific field. You’ll want to build upon the knowledge you’ve gained in college.

3. You’re expected to be(come) independent

In college, you were likely shepherded through the process of selecting a major and a class schedule. Graduate programs expect you to be much more independent – both in selecting your classes and in directing your research program.

Your classes themselves will also be more self-directed. While many undergraduate professors provide constant deadlines for big projects (e.g., by asking you to turn in a topic and an outline before turning in a final research paper), most seminar classes in graduate school will simply set a single deadline for the final paper. Moreover, that final paper may be your only ‘official’ assignment for the entire semester.

It’s your job to pace yourself and figure out what internal deadlines you need to set in order to get all your work done without overwhelming yourself into uselessness.

In research, too, you’ll be expected to be more independent. While you will get more guidance toward the beginning of your program, by the end of your first year you will be expected to have some fresh ideas about potential research or scholarly projects with potential to contribute knowledge to your field.

4. You’ll be judged by completely different standards

In college, the most important thing was performance in your classes. If you did well in classes, you received good grades, and you were considered a “good student.” In graduate school, classes are just the beginning – and frankly, one of the least important aspects of your program. Good grades are commonplace and expected. You’ll come to understand the oft-noted phenomenon whereby a “C in grad school is like an F in college.”

You’ll also be expected to get involved in research and/or scholarship early on in your program. The quality of your ideas and your research will be a far bigger part of how your advisor and other professors perceive you within the program than your performance in classes.

5. You’re highly visible

Even at a small college, you might have been one of a hundred other students in your major, while at large universities there are thousands of students in every department. It’s important to remember that unlike in college, you can’t just fade into the background if you want to succeed in graduate school and beyond.

In graduate school, you’re part of a much smaller cohort within your department, and as a result you’ll be much more ‘visible’ to your peers and faculty. The faculty in your department will form opinions about you based on the way you act, think, and speak in classes and at departmental events and meetings.

This is good – and necessary! These same faculty members become part of your network and you’ll want them on your side down the road when a hiring committee calls them for their opinion. You also want to be at the forefront of their mind just in case the perfect job for you crosses their desk or email inbox.

6. You’ll be more involved with your department and less involved with the rest of the university

Many college undergraduates become highly engaged with the life of their campus – joining campus groups, cheering the football team on Saturdays and hanging out at campus hotspots. While some graduate students are more active than others, in general graduate students are less involved in the social life of the campus and more involved in their department as the hub of their experience in graduate school.

Most of the people you interact with on a daily basis will be other students and faculty members within your department, to the point where you may find yourself completely unfamiliar with faculty and practices in other departments at the same school.

Graduate student organizations do exist, but typically they meet less frequently and tend to focus on different things than typical undergraduate social clubs. And while some graduate students live on campus, most will live outside the campus ecosystem. In any case, the halls of your department will quickly become your home on campus, for better or worse.

7. In graduate school, everyone wants to be there

Compared to college, the biggest difference in graduate school is that everyone wants to be there. Many graduate students think of their schoolwork as their job (and chances are, it is or will be) and this difference in mindset changes everything.

Your peers will stimulate and challenge you, and they won’t come to class in their pajamas. Faculty within your department will actually be interested in what you have to say. And because of this fundamental dynamic, you’ll learn more and discover that you have more to offer than you might previously have imagined.

This point should also be something that you think hard about before you decide to attend grad school: are you sure it’s what you want to do? If not, there’s no rush: wait until you know exactly what you want to study and make sure you can confidently answer the question, “Why do I want to go to grad school?” If it’s where you want to be, you’ll find yourself in good company.

In the end, graduate school is a completely different animal from undergraduate college. From studying to socializing, you’re entering a new world. But if you choose to go to grad school to study something you’re passionate about, you’ll likely find it much more rewarding than college.

 

Source: http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/blog/posts/161/7-big-differences-college-graduate-school/

 

Important Things to Know Before Starting Grad School

There are always things that students wish they had known before entering a program.

Graduate school is both an incredibly challenging and rewarding time in a person’s life. As with any challenge you take on, it’s wise to be prepared. Oftentimes, some of the best people to help you along the way are the ones who’ve already been through the process.

What is troubling, however, is how little information young adults know about what is involved in earning a graduate degree that can be expensive and a huge time commitment. No one should pursue a graduate degree without a lot of research and soul searching.

Here are some of the things you should know about grad school before you forge ahead:

1. Don’t be in a hurry

There’s rarely a good reason to go to grad school immediately after earning a bachelor’s degree, observes Andrew Roberts, an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University and the author of a fabulous book, The Thinking Student’s Guide to College: 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education. The book is primarily focused on undergrads, but it does contain advice on graduate school issues. Roberts says that it’s hard for students to know if grad school is the best option until they’ve been in the workforce for a while.

2. Don’t make grad school your default move

Students often enter grad schools without knowing much about the eventual careers to which a graduate degree could lead. The worst thing young adults can do is go to graduate school because they aren’t sure what else to do or they can’t find jobs. Grad school, after all, is often an extremely long commitment. A Ph.D., for example, can take six years.

3. Don’t expect to get a job as a professor

Even if you do survive grad school, the job market for Ph.D.’s in academia is lousy. Fabio Rojas, an associate professor of sociology at Indiana University, summed it up in one of the many blog posts that he’s written about graduate school life over the years at orgtheory.net.

Here’s one of Rojas’ observations:

The job search process is harrowing for academics…there is little guarantee that persons completing their terminal degree will land a job teaching and doing research in their area. At a top medical school, the question is if you will get the residency of your choice. At a top graduate program, it’s often doubtful that someone will be offered a job at all.

4. Life in the Ivory Tower can be a grind

Grad programs are hard work and require much more challenging coursework. Roberts notes in his book that “the course material now becomes, to a considerable extent, technical, insider reading—that is, dense, abtruse, jargon-filled works polished in academic journals and by university presses. …You will not be tempted to recommend your reading lists to friends outside your field.”

Fabio warns about “toxic” grad programs where departments provide no support for students and seem happy to pit students against each other. He describes the most common grad program as one guilty of “benign neglect.” A few good students get support from professors, but most don’t.

5. Ask intelligent questions

If none of this dissuades you, here are some questions that William Pannapacker, an associate English professor at Hope College, in a column in The Chronicle of Higher Education, suggested would-be graduate students ask before selecting a program:

  1. What kind of financial support can a student expect to receive during the entire course of the program?
  2. How much educational debt do graduates leave with?
  3. How many discussion sections and courses are graduate students required to teach in order to receive a stipend each year?
  4. What is the average annual teaching load for graduate students?
  5. How many years does it typically take to graduate?
  6. How long are graduates on the academic job market?
  7. Where is every graduate employed in academe and in what positions: tenure track, visiting, adjunct?
  8. Where are graduates working, if not in academia?
  9. Does the program lead to appealing career paths outside of academe?
  10. What percentage of students earn doctorates?
  11. How many earn master’s degrees?
  12. What reason do students drop out?

 

Source: https://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/the-college-solution/2011/06/28/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-graduate-school

Traveling During Grad School

If you’re a grad student, it’s easy to come up with reasons not to travel.

It costs a lot (and you’re low on funds). It takes time (and you have a thesis to write). If you’re a teaching or research assistant, it requires time off from work (and your supervisor might not approve). But in spite of these obstacles, there are distinct benefits to traveling while you’re still in graduate school. Here’s why you should make the effort.

You’ll make useful connections

When you’re getting an advanced degree, it can feel like you’ll be in school forever. But believe it or not, the day will come when you’re sprung from the warm embrace of academia and will need to find a place for yourself in the thrilling world of work. And when that happens, it is really, really helpful to have a wide-flung network of people who are willing to help you make connections and set you up with relevant opportunities. How to build this network? Go on wide-flung adventures and build a network of like-minded people all over the world. Just don’t forget to follow up with them on LinkedIn or other social media networks in order to maintain those connections after arriving back home.

You’ll learn valuable skills

In today’s globalized economy, employers are looking for workers who are capable of making cross-cultural connections and keeping the big picture in mind at all times. Traveling is a great way to expand these abilities while building on other employable skills such as creative thinking, adaptability and problem solving, the ability to work independently, a willingness to embrace risks, and/or speaking a foreign language. Traveling while in school has also been shown to improve learning outcomes overall.

You’ll gain real-world perspective

Time spent in the field—either as part of a formal education experience or independent travel—can expose you to different research methodologies, help you uncover new interests that may inform your personal and professional goals moving forward, and provide you with real-world context for your chosen field of study. It’s one thing to study the impact of European colonialism in Quito, Ecuador or apartheid in Johannesburg, South Africa; it’s quite another to witness the long-term ramifications with your own two eyes.

You’ll master the art of self-presentation

Remember those connections we referenced above? Making them provides an awesome opportunity to get comfortable telling other people what you do and what you’re all about. Traveling to academic or industry conferences is a particularly great way to practice these professional conversations. Not only can you try out your elevator speech, but you can do so with colleagues and experts in your chosen field. (Do it politely enough, and they might even be willing to give you a few pointers.) By the time you get to your first job interview, talking about your professional achievements will feel like a piece of cake.

You’ll relieve stress

The life of a grad student is packed with all kinds of stressors, from worrying about grades and dissertation reviews to fretting over your employment prospects come graduation. Traveling presents a great way to escape from these stresses and gain some much-needed rejuvenation so that you’re able to avoid burnout and finish your degree with your health—and future prospects—still fully intact. Whether you’re traveling to Miami or Moscow, try to build in time for some quality R&R.

In addition to the benefits listed above, there’s some evidence that traveling as a student is so beneficial it may even predict higher grades in school and higher incomes later in life. Regardless of whether you ever uncover a direct correlation between your adventures and your pay grade, it’s clear that traveling is a great way to promote your long-term personal and professional success.

 

Source: https://www.hipmunk.com/tailwind/why-you-should-still-be-traveling-in-grad-school/

Finding Housing in Cookeville

If you’re from out of town, it’s important to explore all of your housing options before deciding on a place to live.

Luckily, Cookeville is a really cheap place to find housing. According to this site, Cookeville’s cost of living is decently lower than the U.S. average. In addition, Cookeville’s housing costs are even lower, with an average of $526 rent for a 1-bedroom apartment. But it’s important to know what will suit you best.

On-Campus Housing

Some students choose to stay on-campus due to the convenience of location, safety, and low-maintenance upkeep. Alcohol and smoking are prohibited, and students who choose to stay over semester breaks can make special housing arrangements with an additional daily charge.

Residence Halls

Tennessee Tech has on-campus residence halls  with semester rates ranging from $2,525 for a 1 person room in a traditional hall to $4,795 for a double room as a single room buyout in the new halls.

Tech Village Apartments

Students can also choose to live in a Tech Village Apartment, which is designed to feel more like an apartment and less like a dorm room. The rates are also a bit cheaper than the residence halls, ranging from $1,370 for a two-bedroom split between 4 people to $5,480 for a two-bedroom for one person.

Finding Housing Off-Campus

Many students choose to live in apartments or houses off-campus due to the high availability of affordable options. It’s important to figure out what kind of place you’re looking for by determining your preferences:

  • Price range
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Proximity to campus
  • Pets/no pets
  • Smoking/non-smoking
  • Utilities included/not included in rent
  • Washer/Dryer hookups or laundry service availability
  • Roommates/no roommates
  • Furnished/unfurnished
  • Wi-fi/internet availability
  • Other preferences

The following are some resources available for Cookeville housing:

http://www.homes.com/rentals/cookeville-tn/

https://cookeville.craigslist.org/search/apa

https://www.trulia.com/for_rent/Cookeville,TN/

http://www.rentalguide.net/Rentals/TN/City/Cookeville/Listings.html

https://hotpads.com/cookeville-tn/houses-for-rent

https://www.apartments.com/cookeville-tn/

http://www.homesandland.com/For-Rent/Cookeville,TN/

https://www.rentjungle.com/cookeville-tn-apartments-and-houses-for-rent/

 

Fall 2017 – Spring 2018 Calendar

Fall 2017 – Spring 2018 Calendar PDF

Fall 2017  

Last Day for International Applicants to Apply for Fall 2017 Admissions April 1, 12am CDT
Last Day for US Applicants to Apply for Fall 2017 Admissions July 1
New Graduate Student Orientation (TJ Farr room 205) 
  
August 22, 
  2pm-5:00pm 
Advisement and Registration August 24-25
Classes Begin August 28
Late Registration Begins ($100 late fee) August 28
Last Day to Register/Add a Class September 3
Last Day to Drop without a Grade September 10
Last Day to Apply for Fall Graduation September 11
GRE Test Info. Workshop (Johnson Hall Auditorium Room 103) September 14

3pm-4:30pm

Thesis/Dissertation Workshop (Johnson Hall Auditorium Room 103) September 28

3pm-4:30pm

FALL BREAK October 16-17
College of Graduate Studies Info Session (for all undergrad & graduate students, 
RUC Tech Pride Room 101)
October 24, 11am-12pm
College of Graduate Studies Info Session (for all TTU employees, RUC Tech Pride Room 101) October 24, 12pm-1pm
College of Graduate Studies Info Session (for all undergrad & graduate students) October 26,

morning 11am-12pm

afternoon 3pm-4pm

Last Day to Report Results of Comprehensive Exam & Thesis/Dissertation Defense November 10
Advisement for Spring November 6-10
Last Day to Drop a Class and Receive a Grade of “W” November 10
Last Day to submit Exception Request to Walk in Commencement November 10
Last Day to Submit Final Thesis/Dissertation November 17
Last Day to Submit signed Thesis/Dissertation Certificate of Approval November 17
Preregistration for Spring Begins November 13
HOLIDAY – Thanksgiving – No Classes, Offices Closed (Nov 23-24) November 22-24
Last Day to Submit any other Forms/Memos required for Graduation December 1
Last Day to Remove “Incomplete” grades if Graduating in December December 1
Last Day to Submit Survey of Earned Doctorate (Ph.D. Students) December 1
Last Day of Classes December 8
Final Exam Week December 11-14
Graduation Rehearsal, 4:00 p.m. at Hooper Eblen Center December 14
Graduation

9:30 a.m. – College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, College of Interdisciplinary 
Studies, Whitson-Hester School of Nursing 
2:00 p.m. – College of Agriculture and Human Ecology, College of Business and College 
of Education

December 16
Early Course Selection for State Employees Using Fee Waiver or PC 191 
and Disabled/Elderly Program Participants – SPRING
December 21

 

Spring 2018

Last Day for International Applicants to Apply for Spring 2018 Admissions October 1
Last Day for US Applicants to Apply for Spring 2018 Admissions November 1
Advisement and Registration January 11-12
New Graduate Student Orientation – 1:30pm-5:00pm January  11
Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday – No Classes January 15
Classes Begin January 16
Late Registration Begins ($100 late fee) January 16 
Last Day to Register/Add a Class January 22
Last Day to Drop Without a Grade January 29
Last Day to Apply for Spring Graduation (No Applications after this date) February 5
SPRING BREAK March 5-9
Advisement for Summer and Fall 2018  March 26-30   
Last Day to Drop a Class and Receive a Grade of “W” March 30  
Last Day to submit Exception Request to Walk in Commencement March 30
Preregistration for Summer & Fall Begins April 2 
Last Day to Report Results of Comprehensive Exam & Thesis/Dissertation Defense April 9
Last Day to Submit Final Thesis/Dissertation April 16
Last Day to Submit signed Thesis/Dissertation Certificate of Approval April 16
Last Day to Submit any other Forms/Memos required for Graduation April 23
Last Day to Submit Survey of Earned Doctorate (Ph.D. Students) April 23
Last Day to Remove “Incomplete” grades if Graduating in August April 27
Last Day of Classes April 27  
Final Exam Week April 30 – May 3  
Graduation Rehearsal, 4:00 p.m. at Hooper Eblen Center May 3
Graduation 
9:30 a.m. – College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, College of Interdisciplinary 
Studies, Whitson-Hester School of Nursing 
2:00 p.m. – College of Agriculture and Human Ecology, College of Business and College 
of Education
May 5

 

Coming to Cookeville

 

What Makes Cookeville Great?

Many students find that after graduating from Tennessee Tech University, they want to stay in the area. But while it’s understandable to anyone who has lived here, an outsider may not understand what makes Cookeville such a great place to live. Below are just a few of the reasons.

A Variety of Landscapes

Cookeville Tennessee area is known as the Highland Rim area and Hub of the Cumberlands.  Anyone with a car can drive about fifteen to twenty minutes up the Plateau to Monterey, TN and Crossville, TN. Here there are bountiful Hardwood trees, bluff views, waterfalls, etc. If a more rolling landscape is preferable, a 10 minute drive south of Cookeville leads to Sparta, TN, which contains some of the most breathtaking rolling farmland along the way. Going North of Cookeville leads to Overton County, a place with bountiful rolling hills and mountain backdrops.

Conveniently Located

There are seven counties all within a 15 minute drive of Cookeville. In addition, it is only one hour east of Nashville, TN, two hours west of Knoxville, TN, and one and a half hours from Chattanooga, TN.  At a population of approximately 40,000 in the Cookeville or Putnam County area, residents get the ease of country living while excitement is close by.

Beautiful Lakes

Cookeville, TN is surrounded by three huge man-made lakes operating hydro-power by the Corp of Engineers, and provide breathtaking views, boating, fishing, camping, tournaments, and etc.  These lakes are Cordell Hull located in Smith County just outside of Nashville, TN and encompasses approximately 250+ acres. Next, Dale Hollow Lake is located near Celina, TN which borders Kentucky and is approximately 600 miles of shoreline. Dale Hollow is known for its bass tournaments and great fishing, camping and boating as well.  Center Hill Lake is located near Smithville, TN and south of Cookeville, TN.  Center Hill Lake has approximately 400 miles of shoreline and provides generous beaches, marinas, and lake fun! All of these lakes are nearby.

Affordable Cost of Living

With no state income tax, Low property taxes, and no personal property taxes, Cookeville residents find that their money goes further.  Home prices are very reasonable compared to other areas as well. Around campus, there are several options for affordable apartments or houses for student living.

Opportunities

While Cookeville is smaller, its central location between Knoxville and Nashville allows it to have a good amount of job opportunities. Some of the more technical jobs may require commuting to Oak Ridge or Nashville, but Cookeville’s affordability allows for flexibility during the job hunting season. In addition, Cookeville has an amazing medical center with an outstanding medical staff which regularly hires students within the medical field. Due to its growth, Cookeville will have more technical jobs that open up with the construction of new facilities, including a Solar Power Plant coming in 2018.

Four Seasons

Cookeville residents get to experience the four seasons of nature.  Spring blooms are breathtaking, summertime fun is generally pleasant without too much heat, autumn showcases the beautiful tree colors and mild temperatures, and winter is cold, but not too much in the way of deep snows or ice.  

Activities

From playing golf, rock climbing, spelunking, fishing, horseback riding, hunting, kayaking, boating, hiking, to shopping, painting, fitness, or community events, we have an abundance of things to do!

Source: http://activerain.com/blogsview/4287693/top-10-reasons-to-live-in-the-cookeville–tn-area-

What to Expect When Entering Graduate School

Image result for grad student

Let’s get this out of the way. Graduate school is different than college.

Getting a master’s degree or Ph.D. is a different experience than earning a certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. Sure, all require you to attend classes taught by experienced professors, but that is the extent to which they are similar. Where undergraduate programs provide you with a basic foundation in your field of interest, a master’s degree or Ph.D. program builds upon that knowledge, allowing you to specialize within that field. Your work is more directed, and you are less supervised by professors who serve more as a guide and mentor than an undergraduate professor.

Because most class sizes are smaller, participation is especially important.

Having prior work experience can help immensely with the transition into life as a graduate student. Undergraduate students may complete an internship before the end of their senior year, if they plan on heading right to graduate school. Some people choose to wait a year or more after graduation to get their master’s degree so they can gain real world experience that will help them with their research.

So what exactly is it like to attend a master’s degree program? Expect to do a lot of reading in your graduate program, maybe more reading than you’ve ever done in your life. Keep up with it as best as you can. Do not expect to go to class and have a professor read an outline to you, detailing all information in the assigned reading. This practice is reserved for undergraduates who are just being introduced to the material for the first time. Rather, master’s degree and Ph.D. professors will conduct discussions on the topic, allowing room for questions, concerns and new ideas.

Higher Standards

Depending on your focus and the undergraduate school attended, your prior research paper assignments may have not been held to the strictest of standards. An acceptable graduate research paper will demonstrate more complex sentence structure and will be more scholarly in nature. Rather than answering a broad question, you will delve deeper to examine a small, but relevant aspect of the topic. With these research papers, you should expect more criticism from your professors and your peers. Learn from this criticism, and you are well on your way to becoming a successful graduate student.

Your research assignments should prepare you for your writing your thesis, or your final research paper required to get your master’s degree. Choosing a thesis topic can be seem overwhelming if you’ve never completed a project of that size. Keep in mind that successful thesis papers are written by organized, planned and dedicated students.

A graduate student is a leader and an independent thinker. Thus they must lead and fully participate in discussions and seminars. If they don’t understand a concept after class, they do not wait for someone to hand them the answer. They remain proactive in their education, trek down to the library and research to answer their question. The speed at which the internet can retrieve information is especially valuable for graduate students. Often students have links bookmarked to help them in their graduate studies. Because most class sizes are smaller, participation is especially important. Sometimes, you will have to support your thoughts and ideas during a discussion or debate.

Graduate School Research

Beyond the classroom, you will be sharing your research with others by presenting it at seminars and by having your papers published. Your research will culminate in writing a thesis or a dissertation. Don’t be modest or humble about your research. You never know who will be interested in it, and more importantly who is willing to partner with you to conduct it. For both research and class work assignments, reading and keeping up to date on the industries practices are important to having the most relevant research.

Networking is especially important at graduate school. It is here that you have the potential to form long lasting friendships and business partnerships. In graduate school, most networking is done at these seminars. Nobody is going to know what you are interested in, or what work you have done unless you present it. Networking is also common at an internship or apprenticeship completed while doing their graduate studies.

Life After Graduate School

Graduate students who already have a career, and were taking the degree program in order to advance in that career have less to worry about after graduation. However, those students in their last year of studies and do not have a job in their prospective field should begin their career search immediately. There’s some good news and some bad news when it comes to the job search. Bad news first: The search process is most likely going to take a while. The good news: If you keep your search diligent and focused, you should expect to land a full-time position.

Because of the still shaky state of the economy, some graduate schools have extended their career services to recent graduates who are having trouble securing a job. For example, in 2009, Cornell University’s S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management assigned career advisers to each student at the beginning of the school year. By the end of the year, 95% were well on their way to starting their careers.

Source: http://www.campusexplorer.com/college-advice-tips/A2F79A64/What-to-Expect-From-Graduate-School/

 

Being a Tennessee Tech Graduate Student: Amanda Ellis

What’s it like to be a graduate student at Tennessee Tech?  We’re exploring that from the student perspective.  We hope you enjoy this and the forthcoming series of posts on “Being a Tennessee Tech Graduate Student.”

Tell us a little about yourself… Who are you?

amanda-ellis-img_0605_2

My name is Amanda Rae Ellis, and I am a full-time employee at TTU’s iCube and a full-time student in the Exceptional Learning Ph.D. program. I’m a virtual reality producer, writer, gamer, singer, reader, and overall nerd.

What was your process for deciding to apply for graduate school? Talk about any anxiety, issues you had, etc.

I believe there was a plan in place since my junior year of college to get me into graduate school, driven by my mentor Dr. Julie Baker. She planted the original “why don’t you get a graduate degree” seed in my head, and after I graduated and left campus, she was the one to help me get a job back here. When I did start working for Tech, I was worried about starting classes, that it would cut into my free time since I would still be working full time. After a couple of semesters, I applied to the program. I realized I could improve my current job by continuing my education in a related field, so that is what is motivating me to graduate!

To how many schools did you apply?

Tech was the only school I applied to.

How was the GRE? Did you use preparatory services?

Since I hadn’t had math in quite a long while, I was nervous about passing it. I studied with a friend taking it at the same time, which helped because it made me feel like we were in it together. We marked problematic questions and asked another friend to talk us through the problems. It was a team effort, highly supported by friends, and after the exam we both had passing grades to get into our programs. It was a huge relief.

Tell us about the program you selected. Why did you select your program?  What are your career aspirations?

I selected the Ph.D. in Exceptional Learning with a concentration in literacy because I want to use this opportunity to research virtual reality as a new way of communicating, especially as it can be applied to the classroom. At iCube, we’re making simulations mainly for education, and as someone who is involved in most of those projects, I wanted to make sure we were making something usable and effective. In the future, I would love to continue working at iCube as a “virtual reality producer” while potentially teaching a class at Tech for pre-service teachers on how to utilize videogames in the classroom.

What bits of advice would you give to someone thinking about graduate school?

Do it! It’s a little overwhelming at first, but it’s expected. Everyone is overwhelmed, no one really knows 100% what they’re doing at the beginning, but you have peers further along in the program to help you through it and, hopefully, amazing advisors like those in the College of Education. Your mentors want to see you succeed, so don’t let the fear of failing stop you from trying. Every semester you get through gives you an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, and I can only imagine graduating will be one of the highlights of our lives.

What are your classes like? How hard are they really?

My first few classes were potentially a little more difficult than what the average doctorate student experiences because I did not start the program with a Master’s degree. Research, literature reviews, and conflicting opinions were relatively new to me. After a couple of courses I felt more comfortable with the first two, but I still struggle with the third, almost in a good way. It’s exciting to be challenged on what you think, but it’s also slightly terrifying if you’re not used to it. I found it difficult to speak in class sometimes because I was second guessing myself in what I thought and didn’t want to be questioned about what I shared. After a while you realize the freedom in having an opinion and still be respected by your peers, because literally everyone has conflicting thoughts. No two people will believe the exact same thing, meaning that everyone is always “right” and always “wrong” in a way. The faster you figure that out, the easier the courses will be.

One hears a lot about Tennessee Tech’s caring and supportive community. What’s your experience?

I hope every other college on campus has the same support I receive in the College of Education. I would have dropped out a thousand times already (and I’m just now finishing up my first year) if it wasn’t for the encouraging, “you can do it” feedback I received every time I felt overwhelmed. They make sure I have everything I need, make sure I’m signing up for what I need to take, and spend, literally, hours helping me with a problem if I need it. My iCube office is also supportive of my educational pursuits, encouraging me to keep going through the program for my own personal benefit and the future implications it could mean for the office having someone with my background work on our virtual reality projects. I would say I have more caring people in my life than I ever had before joining the program, or at least more actively and outwardly caring people. That’s something they don’t tell you you’ll get, but I don’t see how anyone would make it through grad school if it wasn’t true.