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Are anyone else's classes much harder than they thought they would be?


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So I've been in school for about 5-6 weeks. I feel like I am never ever caught up and that I never will be. It's really discouraging. To top it off, I just had an exam and missed one of the questions worth a lot of points because my mind when completely blank when I tried to do the problem. Ugh. I'm so glad to be in a school but sometimes I just want to scream from frustration! Anyone else feeling like they are drowning?

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As far as difficulty-level goes, I haven't really had any problems. To my surprise, some of my classes have even been "easier" than I was initially expecting. For undergrad, I went to a private college where expectations were high. I am used to having to put a lot of effort into things and to hand in "professional-quality" work. I now attend a large state university and it feels like the expectations there are not quite as high (although it depends on the class). This doesn't mean that I haven't had difficulty with my grad-level classes. I have shared on here before that I SO do not fit in with the majority of students. Our ways of thinking about the world are very different. It is good to exposed to different ways of thinking and points of view, but it can feel very overwhelming at times. Suddenly, I find myself reading stuff that I wouldn't normally read to prepare myself for class discussions. It can be very frustrating! So I think everyone probably has feelings that grad school is not the way they were expecting at times. It can come in different forms though.

Edited by robot_hamster
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I found my classes during my first year to be a good bit harder, but also a good bit less time consuming, if that makes any sense.

The material was several degrees more challenging in most of my classes than the corresponding courses I'd had before, but we were all expected to be focusing primarily on our research, so the time requirements (readings, problem sets, homework) were all less. There was also a tendency towards fewer tests- midterm/final or a single test with other presentations throughout the semester. It was also more common for the classes to be more general, with presentations/papers etc. allowing us to choose areas that were most relevant to our research- so there were less readings that were not relevant to the rest of what we were doing.

It was also a lot more common for a 50/100 to be a "good" score on the exams than in undergrad, however- and it also wasn't uncommon for some classes to have 4+ hour exams to really give you enough time to work through things.

Edited by Eigen
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So far it is manageable. I just finished my first assignment (worth 15% of my final grade!) and all the concepts were fairly simple to deal with. I anticipate getting a high mark on the assignment, but we'll see. I'm only taking two classes, and I don't think they're that much more difficult or time consuming, although the expectations aren't totally clear to me yet.

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So far, my classes really haven't been too bad. The work load is a lot higher and its definitely more time consuming, but I don't think it's much more difficult than my upper level courses I took as an undergrad, just a lot more readings and discussion and the expectations are a lot higher. I don't actually have any exams for any of my classes, so it's been a little weird to adjust to putting all of my efforts into discussion, presentations, and papers that are worth a massive chunk of my grade.

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Like another poster here, my classes are easier than expected. I came from a very fast-paced philosophy program to a religious studies program. In fact I am thinking of switching back to a philosophy angle for PhD to get back in with my people. :P

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I don't find my classes much more difficult content-wise, but I have been struggling with the different expectations. Meaning, I'm not really used to doing so much independent work with so few guidelines. Lots of self-initiative required, which I always had, but now it's actually necessary and sometimes actually tough to deal with. Fortunately though, two of my classes are cross-listed with undergrads so it has served as a nice transition. But we'll see how next semester goes!

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I'll chime in to say that my classes are definitely taking more of my time than I had anticipated. A lot more homework problems are assigned, collected, and graded than I remember being the case as an undergraduate. It takes me anywhere from 12 to 20 hours per week to finish the homework for one class in particular, and normally there are one or two problems that I still don't have figured out. I'm taking three classes altogether, and I'd say I spend somewhere around 30-35 hours studying and doing homework for those classes. On top of that I'm working 20 hours a week in industry. I'm liking the challenge, but it is definitely easy to feel overwhelmed at times (or much of the time).

Part of the reason I take so much time is because this is my first semester back to school since finishing my master's degree about six years ago. I spend a fair amount of time reviewing things that are probably more fresh in other students' minds, and it's been a while since I've had to really read and understand highly mathematical texts. I'm also adjusting to a new school that I think is a bit more rigorous than where I studied previously.

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I'd have to say that my cornerstone class is really heavy on the reading, as in a book a week, that's tough and I'm always behind, but I've been doing well on the weekly assignments and participating in class. It's a good class and I look forward to it so I want to do as much as I can. Luckily we have a take-home midterm that's basically one giant essay tying all of the books we've read together, then a research paper for the end of the semester so it's not like I have to have details of books memorized. But I'm also taking a required economics class that I find to be nothing but a chore and I'm not doing as well as I should be. Oh well, I'll have to work it out, I'm not the only one in the program that sees it this way though and I think a few of us just accepted the fact that this will be the one "bad" grade. I'm not going to beat myself up over it. The third class that I'm taking is a very familiar in subject matter but we have no guidelines for the 25 page research paper that's the bulk of our grade so it's literally like "do a 25 page paper and hand it in at the end of the semester" uh...ok. This is definitely the adjustment semester but I do love being a grad student and it has already opened up doors to professional opportunities that I otherwise never would have had. I secured an internship already for the school year and I'll find out in December about a summer part-time position that could turn into something permanent after I graduate. And being that I'm in a professional program this is almost as important as the degree itself.

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Technically, I have four classes this semester, though one is a mere one credit class we're required to take for the dept (and should have been taken my first semester, but wasn't offered at the time).

In history, we have a LOT of work, mostly reading, papers and sometimes exams. Since I'm interested in cultural history, I'm also taking an art history class and an english class dealing with topics in my research field. In addition, I have a history colloquium. I've had packed schedules before, but this semester is pretty harried. And because I had to take out loans, I'm required to keep 9 credits to receive the full amount. Ugh.

My history classes are always incredibly difficult. The concepts and analysis required of us is sometimes overwhelming, as well as understanding the jargon and issues of the field. I'm hoping one day this will come easier to me, but I'm constantly pushing myself to think differently and on a more advanced level. I have big papers to write for three classes and though we've already submitted topics and bibliographies, I know it will be frantic these last two months.

I don't think the classes get more difficult as you go through graduate school, I think you just learn how to read, study, analysis, and prioritize the work. It's a process.

I often get discouraged, but I continue to push through and think about my thesis and my PhD goals and try to reignite the excitement level.

I'd say be grateful they are harder than you thought. It means you will be challenged and work harder. Also, the work load may fluctuate semester to semester.

Hang in there :-)

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I just came out of a midterm and I know I did very poorly. I honestly am not sure if I will be here next semester. Will schools kick students out or will they give me a chance? I am first year phd and I am funded.

Eisenmann--

Do not freak out!

When you get the exam back, find some place quiet, and read through the comments a few times. Understand why your performance was not what you'd have liked. Develop a plan to do better. Then, if you can, go and talk to the professor.

FWIW, I crashed and burned more times than I care to imagine. By treating those events as learning experiences and not worrying so much about the grades, most of the time my professors and I sought to turn the occasions into "teachable moments" so while there may have been a lot of frustration, exasperation, and anger, there was never any fear of probation/loss of funding, or of expulsion.

HTH.

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Eisenmann--

Do not freak out!

When you get the exam back, find some place quiet, and read through the comments a few times. Understand why your performance was not what you'd have liked. Develop a plan to do better. Then, if you can, go and talk to the professor.

FWIW, I crashed and burned more times than I care to imagine. By treating those events as learning experiences and not worrying so much about the grades, most of the time my professors and I sought to turn the occasions into "teachable moments" so while there may have been a lot of frustration, exasperation, and anger, there was never any fear of probation/loss of funding, or of expulsion.

HTH.

I just got a test back that was pretty rough, so your advice was good to hear!

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Sigaba...that's great advice and provides a new and mature perspective on what grad school is supposed to be. I get the impression that many of us here were the kind of undergrads that would freak out about getting a 98 on a test instead of a 100...I just don't have that in me anymore...well, at least not to that same degree. Some us are finishing up our first grad level midterms so this is going to be the first defining "are we really cut out for this" moment. I'm nervous about how I did on my economics midterm, the class in general hasn't be going well for me but I did as much studying as I could in the time I had and it really was less terrible that I thought it would be, but still, I keep seeing flashes of a big red D- on the test or something. But thank god this is the only quantitative course I have to take so I'm just going to really have to work at getting a grade that doesn't make me look like an idiot, then I can move on and not have to worry about classes that are totally outside of my comfort zone. But I'm not going to beat myself up over it, if I did badly on the midterm that will be disappointing but not too surprising. It will be a guide as to what I need to do to improve during the second half of the course.

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I'm taking two classes this quarter (first grad quarter), and it feels like I'm having my butt handed to me. Getting sick sure didn't help right around the time of the first midterms...I dropped a class over that.

You're not the only one. My solution so far has been to make friends as far away from campus as possible just to get a mental break and a reality check a couple times a week.

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I'm taking two classes this quarter (first grad quarter), and it feels like I'm having my butt handed to me. Getting sick sure didn't help right around the time of the first midterms...I dropped a class over that.

You're not the only one. My solution so far has been to make friends as far away from campus as possible just to get a mental break and a reality check a couple times a week.

I'm definitely similar in respect to your latter point.

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I just got another test back. Every time I do, I have to re-examine why I thought grad school was my answer. I have yet to fail but I am consistently getting below the mean and near the bottom of the standard deviation. All I have to do for my program is avoid a C, but I still find myself asking why in the world I would get an undergrad degree in music and then decide to go into science without taking more than introductory science classes. CRAZY.

Oh well, I like my research very much, but I just don't have much of a desire to study for classes. It's like going into a classroom where they are speaking a different language. It's hard to pay attention and, when you realize you have so much catching up to do, hard to find the initiative.

Suck it up, MoJingly. GET ER DONE.

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As a reminder to everyone on this board, a test is just a test- it's not the end of the world. I completely bombed my midterm, but meh. We had a suicide this weekend at Columbia.

Yea...if grad school doesn't work out, I already have a BS degree and can very quickly get a high paying engineering job locally, so...yea. Suicide is the coward's way out.

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My classes are overall easier than I expected, and they're not very time consuming, either. I study about 3-5 hours a week, but I'm involved with two research projects and I TA for a class, so most of my time goes to those. I am taking a "research methods" class which is basically a review of undergrad stats, a cognitive science course which is a general survey of the field, and a seminar which is pass/fail based on attendance. So yeah...pretty easy so far.

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My classes are starting to get more and more time consuming, so much so that I'm having a hard time balancing it with research. The most time consuming class is the most important for the building blocks of what I'm supposed to know, however.

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Yea...if grad school doesn't work out, I already have a BS degree and can very quickly get a high paying engineering job locally, so...yea. Suicide is the coward's way out.

On the plus side, if I get kicked out, I get to go home and play with my e92. :D I also have an engineering BS so I could find a decent job.

Edited by Eisenmann
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