Life of a JMU Grad Student

I never thought I’d say it, but I am an aspiring Double Duke. Yes, I may have graduated back in 2010 but after a year away from JMU, I realized that I simply could not live without it and decided to come back to pursue a degree in College Student Personnel Administration. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “wow, she gets to live a dream life and can enjoy 6 full years of the JMU experience!” Wrong. Let me be clear, being back at JMU is fantastic, but it’s just not the same the second time around.


First of all, let’s look at what my average schedule looks like:

6:30am: Wake up (Painful)

8:00am: Arrive at my graduate assistantship job

8:am – 12:00pm: Meetings with supervisors, meetings with students, meetings with colleagues, meetings across campus, meetings with group members, meetings with the big bosses, PLUS e-mails, e-mails, e-mails, e-mails, and more e-mails

12:00pm: Graduate student style lunch, a.k.a. buttered noodles or ramen or soup or a bologna sandwich [Bon Appétit]

12:00pm – 3pm: More meetings and more e-mails

3:00pm – 6:00pm: 3 hours of torture class

6:00pm – 9:00pm: Assistantship related work, meetings, student group meetings

9:00pm – whenever (usually 3am): Graduate school homework …

Now, I realize that this schedule is somewhat specific to my graduate experience, and that other disciplines might have some different things mixed in there, but this is still a good picture of what it’s like to be a graduate student.
Are you scared yet?  Don’t run away so fast though, because the good far outweighs the bad of being a graduate student.
Graduate school is a whole new level of education, literally and figuratively. Literally, it’s a much higher level of academic challenge, but it’s more manageable than you might think. Many people often worry that they aren’t prepared for the workload, but coming from a non-dean’s list graduate, I promise you that you’re capable. The beauty of graduate school is that it’s what you always wanted – you take only the classes you are really interested in, all the time. General education is valuable, but it’s hard to beat the feeling of loving every single class you’re in.
On a figurative level, graduate school opens up so many opportunities to grow emotionally, academically, and in so many other ways. You build your network with professionals in your field through the research you do, the conferences you attend, the professors you have, and the assistantships you hold.  You have new challenges, like building intense research projects, teaching college courses, building student development, and much more. The best part is a sense of credibility that comes with being a graduate student, because with this credibility it’s so easy for you to seek out the experiences you want to have and almost be guaranteed them. For example, if you want to see what it’s like to work for a certain office on campus, often times you can use your connections in the graduate school and call them up and create a practicum experience for yourself to get what you wanted out of it. I often run into grads across campus who are doing research projects in offices or volunteering on special projects, just to add to their already robust curriculum and make a very unique graduate experience.
Graduate school at JMU has opened up a lot of doors for me to create my own learning experience through the assistantships, conferences, research projects, and much more. If you were to ask me in undergrad if I ever thought I’d be a graduate student, I would without a doubt say “No Way Jose,” which should only show you that even when you least expect it, graduate school could fall in your lap, and it will change your life.
Want to learn more about JMU’s Graduate Programs? See here:


-Candace Avalos, Graduate Assistant 

2 thoughts on “Life of a JMU Grad Student

  1. Hi! I have been invited for an interview for the CSPA program next week. I was wondering, how long does it generally take for you to find out the department’s decision for you and the assistantships? Thank you!

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