Gradvice is a series that discusses the difficult decisions that graduate school applicants must make. Hopefully, our thoughts and experiences will help guide you to the right course!
Human beings like to stay with what they know. I only get the tuna sandwich at Subway. My dad only buys Honda vehicles. My sister only watches romantic comedies. We are confident in these decisions because we know that they will be reliable and enjoyable. The same can be said about graduate school. Once you finally decide on a graduate program to pursue, it’s only natural that the first school you research is the one where you received your bachelor’s degree. After all, you have turned that once foreign place into a cozy home for the last four years. As the search continues, however, you may find that a program located halfway across the country seems like it is the perfect fit. But do you really want to leave everything that you have become familiar with at your undergraduate school? Or do you want to take a chance and experience a totally new place and culture?
My friend, Sarah, earned her bachelor’s degree at Baylor and decided to stay in Waco to pursue her master’s. As we were walking past Fountain Mall, I asked Sarah to share what she thought the advantages and disadvantages of receiving her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the same university were. Personally, as a graduate student who moved to a completely new state to continue my education, I found that her experience was completely opposite to my own and that most of our differences center around one thing: relationships.
Sarah stressed the importance of continuing the relationships that she had started during her four years as an undergrad. During that time, we all had our favorite professors who found us abusing their office hours just to chat about life and to sink into their comfy leather chairs. Since deciding to stay at Baylor, Sarah still has the ability to do that every couple of weeks. She also continues to volunteer at the same places and to further develop current relationships with the same directors that may end up offering her a job in the future because of their strong past. Finally, she can still enjoy hanging out with the friends that she has made who have not yet graduated or who have decided to stay in Waco for grad school.
I can understand all of what she said and try to overcome the fact that I’m at a different school and don’t have those advantages as best as I can. For instance, I still remain in contact with my old professors through the occasional email. I still volunteer, but at new places and with new faces, which helps broaden my list of professional connections. I still spend many nights talking to my old friends and planning when they are going to come to central Texas, while leaving time to enjoy the new friendships that I have made at Baylor. Everyone seems genuinely happy that I made the choice to move on to a different school, as it can give the impression of moving onward and upward rather than staying stagnant.
The decision to stay at the same school for both undergrad and grad school is perfectly understandable and works out fine for a good amount of students, including Sarah. She enjoys the safety net of her old friends while strengthening the relations that she has already started with professors and professionals in her field. While going to a different school does make those relationships harder to continue, it also shows which of them are most important to me and provides an opportunity to increase my list of contacts. These types of decisions are difficult to make when deciding where to go for graduate school. But, if you take the time now to figure them out, then you know your future graduate school won’t clash with what you were expected!
By Matthew Doyen
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