As I have detailed on College Magazine before, I absolutely hated high school. I hated it so much to the point that I wanted to drop out and not attend college. However, senior year made me realize that this was not the best of ideas. In fact, it was foolhardy.
And so, I graduated with a high GPA and enrolled in St. John’s University.
Upon starting college, I still felt terrified. I struggled so much in high school, surely there was no way I could succeed in college, right? Wrong. To my own pleasant surprise, I adapted quite well to college life and had the best time there. I made good friends and kept a great social life, but the best part was school itself. Whereas I despised attending classes and taking notes before, I loved it now.
I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning and learn about history, politics and philosophy. I was introduced to so many fields that I never would have thought I would find interest in, such as sociology, Critical Race Theory and others. In addition to doing all my homework, I would spend extra time researching subjects just because I couldn’t get enough of it. My majored in English and minored in film studies, both subjects I always loved. Most surprisingly, I actually didn’t hate my math and science classes.
Newfound Love for Learning
I performed very well in the vast majority of my classes and graduated with an even higher GPA than in high school. All throughout, my newfound love of learning was obvious to all, and professors, advisors and administrators suggested that I enroll in St. John’s graduate English program and apply for Graduate Assistantships in order to get free tuition.
I thought this was a great idea, not only because it would mean that I’d get a free master’s degree, but because it also meant that I wouldn’t have to leave St. John’s just yet. Why would I want to? I enjoyed the individual freedom that came with the college experience and for the first time ever, I liked school. My undergraduate years were truly the happiest I’d ever been. The fact that COVID affected the end of my junior year and all my senior year made attending grad school at SJU make even more sense. I hadn’t gotten to finish undergrad the way I wanted to, but at least I could finish at St. John’s the way I wanted to.
Or so I thought.
As anyone who has attended grad school knows, it feels nothing like college. I knew going in that it would be different, but I didn’t realize how different. I expected grad school to seem harder, and in some ways it is. Truthfully, it’s a lot less school. Whereas during the previous four years I took five classes a semester and thus had class four-to-five days a week, I now only take three classes a semester and sometimes only need to be on campus as little as twice a week.
Not only do I complete a lot less school, but I now need to work a lot more. In addition to my GA position that pays my tuition, I work another job to pay for food and rent. Due to taxes, I’m never able to make enough money to save much despite working six days a week. I can pay for my school, rent and food while the government takes the rest. I can’t afford to go out and have much of a social life, which is just as well because now I never have time.
Any adult who reads this will surely laugh at the fact that I’m complaining about living in the real world, and that I’m acting as if I’m the only person to have ever gone through this. I know that I’m not, and I know this is normal. That being said, I know now. Before the beginning of my graduate studies, I figured that grad school would basically act as a continuation of my college experience, just slightly different. I knew that there were fewer classes and that I was going to have to work a lot, but I didn’t realize how much of a difference it all makes.
Grad School Reality
While not the university’s fault, my experience so far hasn’t been what I wanted out of it. I was fine with the idea of being a graduate student who had to work on the side in order to pay the bills and have a little extra spending cash. Instead, I feel like a working stiff who struggles to make ends meet and attends night school on the side to give himself more opportunities. That’s not what I wanted. I wanted to continue being a student for the time being. I recognize that I can’t stay in school forever and of course must work for a living just like everybody else. After struggling so much in high school, I really wanted my college experience to last as long as possible; COVID made me want to grasp onto it even tighter. But alas, it still slipped through my fingers, and I will probably never get it back. I wish I had known just how fast the years would go by.