As a 22-year-old graduate student coming straight from an undergraduate program, Jennifer Robinson assumed she would fit the traditional student profile when she entered graduate school. But when she started interviewing with several psychology graduate programs, she found she wasn't so typical after all.
"Just about everybody was older than me, had a fiancé, kids or a spouse," says Robinson, who has none of the three. "It was quite a rude awakening. I was under the impression that everyone went from undergrad to graduate school and very few took a year off or went out to the work force and came back. I was definitely in the minority."
Robinson says she felt at a disadvantage entering the program with no work experience when interviewing with graduate programs, since most other students tended to come with prior experience. "It's kind of a gamble when you come straight from college," Robinson says.
Robinson is the youngest in her program at Case Western Reserve University. She graduated with her bachelor's in psychology and biochemistry in May 2002 from Case Western Reserve and then began graduate school in experimental psychology this fall. While Robinson had planned to attend medical school, she found in her undergraduate program that she had a passion for psychophysiology.
Robinson says she has no regrets about entering graduate school straight from her undergraduate program. Taking time off would have made it difficult to return once she was accustomed to receiving a paycheck, she explains. Plus, "I don't have as many obligations to fulfill," says Robinson, adding that it's truly inspirational to watch some of her classmates balance families and marriage while going through the program. "I can't even imagine taking on grad school with that many obligations and with so many priorities so high on the list. I have a sense of admiration for those who attempt it."
Robinson says she's thankful for the diversity in the program and the advantage of being able to learn from her classmates. "It always fascinates me how so many different people at different points in their lives can achieve the same goal," Robinson says. "No two people's priorities are quite the same, nor are their obligations."
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