What I Like About Grad School

As the usual end-of-term crunch sets in and forces me inside on perfectly nice spring days, it is important to remember why I am doing this and what I like about it. Basically, it comes down to "no bullshit". The undergrad experience (especially at MIT) often relies on frequent testing in order to filter out the ones who don't belong in the program. Grad school assumes that you want to be there and treats you like an adult.

few textbooks I have had a few professors require expensive textbooks, often of their own books. But most of our reading is in the form of journal articles or other papers. Throw in a few eBooks and I like that few trees had to die for my degree. Most of the books I have purchased so far have been inexpensive business mass-market paperbacks, so that annoying nickeled-and-dimed feeling doesn't set in at the beginning of every semester.

no tests, no finals Grading has so far been based entirely upon papers, presentations, projects, and participation. With no final exams at all, I can relax during exam week and actually get some thesis work done. I'm learning quite a bit on my project work, whereas tests tend to be about demonstrating mastery instead of learning anything new.

educators as equals I can't break the habit of calling my professors "Professor Lastname", even though several have told me that it's ok to be on a first name basis. The honorifics are there because I feel they deserve it. But this time around I see my professors as (more-knowledgeable) peers, rather than unimpeachable wise men. This means that I'm more likely to challenge them, wouldn't feel as awkward having a beer with them, and understand that their role as lecturer/teacher is actually a rather small part of their life.

Education for education's sake My mental model failure as an undergrad was to consider the program as a series of hoops to be jumped through in order to get a degree. This time around, I figure that nobody is going to care about what degree I have. My future prospects are almost entirely a function of what I learn, who I meet, and how I acquit myself in the process. Classes and grades matter, but they are not arbitrary obstacles. (I particularly like that the SDM program director is pretty open to waiving class requirements if you can make a good argument.)

There's more, but final projects call. Let's see if I'm still this chipper in 3 weeks.