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Extracurriculars During Graduate School


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Hi guys, 

 

     I was wondering how much time graduate students have outside of lab work/course work to do ECs. Cause lab work is definitely >40 hours a week, do you think I can manage a 2 year masters with productive results, volunteer with 1 organization AND do TAing??

 

Thanks...

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I'm finishing my master's in 1.5 years, did two semesters of TA, tutoring and some volunteer works as well.  It's manageable but brutal.  My volunteer engagements were not very time intensive and I've had to quit some of my more time intensive (>1hr/week) commitments.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

First off good on your for being proactive in reaching your goals. Keep up the good work.

 

You definitely can do it. That said you may have to consider sacrificing weekend time or some weekdays as well, but then again, if you really want it, you'll find that you can take on more than even you thought possible.

 

In short ... YOU GOT THIS :)

 

Good luck.

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I was wondering the same thing but for course-based masters. I was heavily involved during undergrad in a variety of things I enjoy, but I'm worried I won't have any ECs since my masters is course-based with no TA-ing or thesis components. Any suggestions on where to start?

 

Hello there katie91,

 

I did my MPH, which is a course-based masters degree. I can tell you first hand that I actually believe you can do MORE ECs in a course based program than a thesis one since you have less obligations tied to lab work. For me I did my own consulting work when I was still finishing biostatistics (something that got me published and attained more networking opportunities in medicine). I went to volunteer at my students' union. I still TAed graduate classes in my course-based program in my second year. You could choose to do co-op potentially during your program. You could go to other events to help undergraduate students pursue graduate studies. These things and more were all possible when I was in my program. You just have to continue to be proactive in your search. There's so many great things out there if you look around any avenue.

 

Best wishes =D

 

- G

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Hello there katie91,

 

I did my MPH, which is a course-based masters degree. I can tell you first hand that I actually believe you can do MORE ECs in a course based program than a thesis one since you have less obligations tied to lab work. For me I did my own consulting work when I was still finishing biostatistics (something that got me published and attained more networking opportunities in medicine). I went to volunteer at my students' union. I still TAed graduate classes in my course-based program in my second year. You could choose to do co-op potentially during your program. You could go to other events to help undergraduate students pursue graduate studies. These things and more were all possible when I was in my program. You just have to continue to be proactive in your search. There's so many great things out there if you look around any avenue.

 

Best wishes =D

 

- G

I agree. Course based masters usually get summers off (unlike thesis-based masters)

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I agree. Course based masters usually get summers off (unlike thesis-based masters)

 

Beyond that, it's having more flexibility even during the school year. Most thesis-based programs will require you to be in the lab for a majority of the day 9-5 (if not more, which many students do). I could choose to have a longer break to get in some volunteer work, then save my reviews for the evening. I could take a night class and leave the mornings for a job. There's so much potential there.

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I think what this comes down to is your work ethic and the cooperation of your supervisor. If your supervisor has a more hands-off approach and lets you manage your own time, then you should be fine. If they are riding your ass 24/7 and you need to work on their schedule than it becomes more difficult.

 

Personally, I had no problem. During my MSc, I also worked about 3 hrs/week, coached a rep sports team (approx 10 hours per week + some weekends) and still found time to serve on several committees and student groups.

 

It is totally doable as long as you are good at managing your time and you have an understanding supervisor who gives you a little freedom.

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I have to weigh in here... it completely depends on the school/faculty/department/lab. The program I am in is extremely demanding, and it matters more to my PI that I publish than graduate... which is the sentiment of most PIs in my department. As such, most of us take 2.5-3 years to do a research-based masters in my program. Because I have my sights set on med school, I have made the choice to take part in ECs, but that has definitely been at the expense of my research. My supervisor knows my goals and is supportive, although now that I am almost done the MCAT (tomorrow!), I am going to have to bunker down and get some solid research done so that I can graduate with work that not only my PI is proud of, but that I am proud of. 

 

 

I did a research Master's and since you can set your own hours I found it very easy to make time for ECs. Some people in my labs would even not come in one day if they were off doing something else, and come in on the weekend instead or stay late or work form home etc.

 

 

If I didn't come into the lab one day, it would be noticed by my RA, by my PI... and it would not look good. So it completely depends on the lab.

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This is slightly off-topic, but still pertaining to grad school ECs. I'm debating between doing an exchange for the program I was accepted to, versus staying in Canada and completing some long-er term ECs. I already have some long-term and strong ECs from my undergrad, so I'm leaning more towards doing the 4-month exchange. However, I'm scared that this will limit the ECs I can be involved in compared to my undergrad. What do you guys think/Am I overthinking this?

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I agree. Course based masters usually get summers off (unlike thesis-based masters)

 

Not necessarily.  Everyone in my course-based Masters program does internship placements / practica during the summers.  Either paid or unpaid.  You end up not having very much time off, since you need to do 22 weeks of practicum placements during the summer.

 

That said, there is still plenty of time to be involved in ECs, either on or off campus, during the school year and the summer.  I know plenty of people who treat grad school like a job, and work, say 8-5, and then don't do anything related to school outside those hours, except perhaps when large projects are due.

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  • 3 weeks later...

It really depends on what kind of graduate degree you do. I can't speak to the course-based experience, but my experience with a thesis-based degree is such that I have ample time to do things on the side. In fact, I often tell others how much more time I have now than when I was doing my undergraduate degree. If you're TAing, marking and preparation can take a chunk of your time, but if your project ends up anything like mine, you do your work during the day, then go home and have the rest of your day to yourself. Some weeks are shorter than 40 hours, some are longer. Whether or not you can cut your days short if you're done your tasks for the day depends on your supervisor/work environment.

 

Also, be wary: the "2 year master's degree" is somewhat mythical, at least if you're doing a thesis-based project. Depending on the research, it usually takes a little bit longer. In my program, 2 years is the minimum amount of time required to graduate, but the average is more like 2.6 years to completion. It really depends on how smoothly your research goes. Research can be a fickle b*tch at the best of times.

Best advice I can give you is to do vett your prospective supervisors thoroughly. You want a supervisor who clicks with you, and doesn't ride you to stick to a schedule when it doesn't make sense, and gives you time off. Interview with the supervisor, and then interview with the lab personnel on the side to get their personal thoughts on the PI. Going for coffee with other grad students in the lab you're interested in is a great way to get a feel for the work environment before you commit to anything. If you end up in a situation like mine, you'll have plenty of time for ECs!

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