The Grad Student Conundrum | UVA Student Council

I think this GIF pretty much sums up the difference between undergrad and grad school: #whatshouldwecallme – Grad School v. Undergrad

I came right from undergrad at Wake Forest University to UVa to get my PhD in Clinical and School Psychology.  I had all that residual energy, passion, and excitement that comes from being an over-involved student at a university I loved.  As an RA at Wake, I had the unique ability to feel deeply connected to my school not only as an individual student, but through the experiences of my residents.  I sucked the marrow out of undergrad and felt a bond with the people, places, and things in the university community.

Me and my now husband before I realised how much work grad school was going to be. Note the lack of dark circles below my eyes.

Fast forward to grad school and a whole different world.  If you’re ever in a pinch and need to distinguish quickly, here’s a quick tip for parsing out whether someone is a grad student: ask them where pretty much anything is on Grounds. Go on, give it a try.  The result is pretty hilarious.  Luckily we can identify the major things (most of the time), but I’d give $100.00 to a grad student who can name two residence halls or correctly direct someone towards Nau Hall.

I think this represents a deeper issue. Where in undergrad, the second you walk through the door, folks are lined up to help you feel attached, connected, and affiliated with your institutions – grad students are the perpetual after thought.  We stay locked in our clinics, labs, and single academic building with a few half-hearted mixers or picnics in an effort to help us bond.  I don’t know a graduate student (who didn’t attend UVa) who knows the Good Ol’ Song or has had much opportunity to sing it (we’re far too busy appeasing our advisors,  trying to stay afloat, and desperately seeking funding).

Graduate Student Barbie and hilariously true post by Karen Zgoda

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think graduate school should mimic undergrad.  We are typically in a totally different development stage. We are honing our expertise rather than searching to find our passions. We are much more likely to stay in editing a manuscript for publication with a glass (or two) of wine rather than drinking out of solo cups as we did in our undergrad days. Rather, I think institutions should make a more concentrated effort to incorporate and integrate graduate students into the center of their universities – promoting and facilitating work between undergrads and graduate students.

Working with wonderful programs such as the Jefferson Public Citizens Program, the Young Women Leaders Program, and Housing and Residence Life has highlighted for me this simple fact: undergrads are amazing and we as grad students have so much that we can learn from y’all.  And we also have so much that we can share with you.  I love the fact that we grad students are that odd middle ground where (hopefully) we have some real knowledge and experience, but are still approachable and available in ways that some professors just aren’t.

All of this is to say, as the new StudCo rep for Graduate Curry, I am looking forward to diving  right into the center of things.  I hope to represent the needs of my constituents (who I can almost guarantee don’t know this blog or my position exists yet – but they will!) and hopefully build some bridges that help grad students feel connect to this wonderful university.

Let me know if you have any questions or if there’s anything I can do for ya,

Janelle S. Peifer | Curry Graduate School of Education Rep