College Preparation Part Six: Grad School versus Undergraduate Programs College Life

Hi Everyone:

I have been asked to discuss the differences between undergraduate programs and graduate ones and how to make the transition.  Here goes.

Simply put, graduate programs are undergraduate programs on steroids. Where you might have been pretty coddled in your four-year program, you absolutely need to take responsibility for your own education in graduate school. Do not even think about coming to class without having read the assignment. My Ph.D. program’s summer residency asked that we read all of the required books (there were 11 textbooks in one of my classes) before coming to campus for the one week of face-to-face classes – they met from 9 to 5 so you didn’t have time after you got there. That was good advice.

Make sure that you print out the syllabus and all course requirements well before the first day of class. Whereas some undergraduate programs were geared to folks skipping the first day or two of class, don’t even dream about it here! Order in the books and begin reading them immediately. This is not a “wait and see” approach to education. You are expected to be, as Elle Woods’ professor said at her first class on the first day of law school at Harvard, “well versed in…..” whatever the topic of the day is.

Take copious notes; find equally-serious fellow students to form a study group with and meet with them on a regular basis. Keep in mind that most graduate programs begin fast and continue at break-neck speed. This is not for the faint of heart, but you can do this, if you never get behind.

Take the calendar and all the other equipment I talked about in earlier blogs and use them here, as well. You were practicing how to use them in earlier years, now you will be lost without them. If possible, take a speed reading course. (My Ph.D. program brought in a speed reading teacher the very first day of class and told us, “If you can’t read at least 500 words a minute, you will never make it.” There is simply too much reading.)

I hope this hasn’t scared you, but I figure you want the unvarnished truth. (BTW, the study group that we formed back in 2012 still meets, even though we have all graduated. We have become very close, and we all made it through!).

If you have any questions, feel free to post them as a comment and I would be happy to answer your concerns.


Dr. Sheri


Sheri Dean Parmelee has a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Regent University. She writes books on practical tips for people who become unexpectedly unmarried and is working on her second novel in a series of contemporary romance/suspense novels. She teaches at three colleges, working with students from freshmen to graduate students. Her hobbies include running 8 miles a day and reading biographies and fiction.


  1. Joy Marsiglia Says: May 14, 2017 at 11:15 am

    Thank you so much for this blog Dr. Parmelee.

    Grad school is looming on the horizon, but I am ready to accept the challenge. Ordering my grad books this summer, and I am going to get a big head start on the reading. This was some great advice!



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