College is an essential part of everyone’s life. Many consider it as a rite of passage where students can say that they have officially entered adulthood while still enjoying perks of being a teen. College is also the place which prepares one for the job market, it is the jumping off point from where students go on to forge own paths. But, to get to the jumping off point, there is a journey to complete. This is called the undergraduate program and the graduate program. They are really different in their purposes and uses to students. How? Let’s find out:
Also known as a bachelor’s degree or first degree, this is awarded to someone who has completed their undergraduate program. It typically takes around three or four years to complete (depending on the course) and is offered at higher educational institutions like a university or college. The degrees achieved in this can be classified as basic degrees and are the first step in getting into the next course. But to get in an undergraduate program one needs to have the required grade points in high school. The higher the marks, the better the institution they can get in; although many colleges do require the student to sit for an admission test or require them to submit essays on which their academic merits are judged and further selection takes place.
These academic degrees are sometimes termed as master’s or doctoral degrees and can be generally obtained in a grad school or university. There is a general requirement that the student should have completed the required undergraduate course with a designated grade point before being considered for enrollment. These graduate programs offer a lot of specialized professional courses in a variety of fields; which include nursing, medicine, business, sciences and much more. But in a graduate course, the student will also have to submit original research. This component is much more prevalent in the literature, history, philosophy and similar courses in the humanities; whereas for the sciences, it is commonly required in the subjects of biology, zoology, chemistry etc. Students will have to present and defend their research in a thesis or dissertation.
• Type of Courses: Undergraduate courses are considered in nature to be more specialized than the graduate courses. This is due to the type of subjects and the corresponding syllabus attributed to them, especially the fact that some of the courses offered in undergraduate programs aren’t followed up in graduate ones and on the opposite, some of the subjects are considered so demanding that they are not offered in bachelor’s courses.
• Individualization: It is an easily observable fact that undergraduate course classes are much larger and as a result, less individualized. On the contrary, graduate courses trim down the number of seats which allows more of a personalized interaction. In further higher forms of education like Ph.D., there is a highly interactive and individualized one-on-one interaction between the student and the professor under whom the student is carrying out the research.
• Research oriented: Along the end year thesis, which graduate students have to submit and defend, the program, in general, is more interaction and research oriented. The students are also encouraged to be more hands-on and innovative with the projects and exams being taken. Apart from this, the examination modes also involve a lot of presentations, field trips as well as other such similar modes. In contrast, undergraduate programs are comparatively much more traditional pen-and-paper exam oriented.
• Changing streams: It is relatively easy to change courses or schools in the undergraduate courses since the syllabus is much broader and generalized. But graduate courses are more specialized with various universities having their unique syllabus and method of teaching it.
• Involvement: Students who are in the undergraduate level don’t get significantly involved with the faculty at large and whatever interaction there is, it is brought on by initiation from the side of the students. But in graduate programs, there is extensive, direct and a great involvement with the faculty at large.
• Guidance: The undergraduate level is when teachers guide students on how to think critically, how to scrutinize the material presented and how one can reach the truth. In the undergraduate program, the world is basically an oyster for the student. In the graduate programs, teachers tend to not be that involved and the students are expected to bring in their own research with the help of the tools learned about during the undergraduate course.
• The knowledge contribution: In the bachelor’s courses, a student learns about all that is already known in the world. But in the graduate programs, they are expected to contribute to the existing knowledge fields.
• Group work: In the undergraduate courses, students tend to be grouped together more often in class projects. But in graduate courses, students work on their own and follow their particular line of thinking, ideas and more.
• Career Opportunities: While campus placement opportunities do come for both, but undergraduate students get lesser opportunities and a lower pay package than those which are offered to graduate degree holders. Graduate students also have a whole lot more career opportunities in general as well and they are free to forge their own path since their transition into the adult world is officially complete (at least according to the common diktats of society)
Overall, a student can only get into a graduate course after successfully completing an undergraduate course. Graduate courses are more demanding but they are also encouraging students to improve their thinking and analyzing abilities which will help prepare them for the real world. The two courses are two steps of a staircase and are not in direct contrast or opposition to each other. They are both stepping stones towards reaching the desired destination.