February 5, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 70  

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Grad school music to her ears

By Maggie Wrobel
Gazette Staff

For many students, one of the toughest things about graduate school is actually making the decision to go.

The choice of prolonging your education is an important one — after all, it means investing even more money, time and effort into something that’s already taken up a big chunk of your life.

As Campus Life investigates the value and importance of a graduate education, we figured the best place to find out what the graduate student experience is like would be straight from the source.

Enter Amy Shepherd, a graduate student in her second year of a master’s degree in music history.
Amy sat down with The Gazette to answer some questions about her decision to pursue a master’s degree, and the pros and cons of graduate student life.

How did you make the decision to pursue a graduate degree?
AS: I was originally enrolled as a music education student with the intention of going to teacher’s college and teaching music and history at the high school level.

At the end of my third year of undergrad, I had a little summer crisis where I decided I was not so thrilled about being done school and felt that I just had so much more to learn and offer the world. So for my fourth year I picked up some extra courses and graduated with a music history major instead.

I decided that teaching at the university level was much more to my liking and thus, to pursue a PhD. I really enjoy working with undergraduate students through my teaching assistantship and being able to continue learning.
How is the grad workload (especially compared to that of an undergraduate)?

AS: I would imagine that this largely depends on the program. Personally, the actual class time has significantly decreased. I went from around 27 hours a week to 6 hours of class.

However, this is because grad school involves a lot more independent work and time spent on class preparation. Assignments are no longer short, but instead involve a lot of reading and research and a focus on one or two major aspects. This allows for research in a much greater depth and usually in an area of your choosing that is of interest to you personally.

Has the experience been mostly negative or positive thus far? Why?
AS: Negatively, grad school feels at times a little like jumping through hoops just to get to the next stage and a lot of the material is so abstract that it often leaves one wondering how what is being taught will ever be applicable to “real life.”

Grad school is less structured than undergrad, leading many of us to call it the “do it yourself degree.” This has its positive and negative points depending on how much you like structure. Thus, it requires a lot of self-motivation.

Most of us were running around panicking when we first began our master’s because we had no idea what was going on, how to sign up for courses, what courses were even offered, etc. Until we realized that this isn’t like undergrad, and if you want to try out all of the courses and don’t actually choose one for the first month, that’s OK.

Positively, it is a great experience to be treated as an equal by professors. It is a very intellectually stimulating environment.



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