In general, master’s degree programs are more difficult than undergraduate programs as they build on previously learned concepts and skills. Moreover, when you’re going for your bachelor’s degree, you spend your time reviewing what other people have discovered. But as a graduate student, you spend your time making discoveries of your own.
More Studying and Greater Intensity
For starters, it’s more common for graduate students to labor year-round at their academics. Indeed, they frequently conduct research or serve as teaching assistants during the summer rather than taking off significant lengths of time (http://www.psychologyinaction.org/2015/01/22/the-top-5-differences-between-undergraduate-and-graduate-school/).
Furthermore, in many undergraduate courses, students can just show up, listen to lectures, take notes, submit papers, and take quizzes and exams. The average graduate class, on the other hand, has fewer students, and it’s often the case that everyone is expected to vigorously engage in course discussions (https://www.brockport.edu/career/graduateschool/How_is_graduate_school_is_different_from_college.pdf).
On top of that, postgraduate educators rarely offer lifelines to their students. That is, professors will often grant undergraduates paper deadline extensions, and they routinely remind their classes of upcoming test dates (http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/graduate-school-road-map/2013/06/07/3-key-ways-college-graduate-school-differ). Those courtesies are highly uncommon at the master’s degree level.
Researching Like a Pro
Undergraduates are often tasked with completing research tasks, but professors usually guide them through the process, going over ethics and strategies along the way. By contrast, graduate students are charged with designing sophisticated and detailed research projects on their own (http://www.undergradresearch.gatech.edu/sites/default/files/documents/DifferencesBetweenUndergradandGradstudents.pdf).
Research at the graduate level must be original. In fact, in many instances, students are required to supply new knowledge to their fields of study. Plus, as a postgraduate, you’ll probably need to present the results of your research to a group of faculty members and other professionals and answer all of their questions thoroughly. Their subsequent assessments could determine whether or not you ultimately receive your master’s degree. In addition, you might end up publishing your research.
Not Quite as Social
Graduate students often need time to get acclimated to their new social situation at school. Of course, undergraduates live, eat, and study with people their own age, and they’re able to attend many parties and other functions. Those events help to decrease stress, and friends can support one another during challenging times.
However, many post-grads live off campus, have academic schedules and jobs that keep them extremely busy, and devote much of their weekly routine to studying in the library (http://www.idealist.org/info/GradEducation/Resources/Preparing/WhatChanges). Also, their classmates are often people of varying ages, and they don’t have resident assistants and others to organize activities for them. As a result of those factors, some graduate students find that their social lives are curtailed, and that scenario can be emotionally taxing at times.
As a final note, try not to be discouraged by any of the above points. Sure, graduate school has its challenges, but many students find it to be intellectually thrilling. Master’s degree candidates frequently develop warm and lasting relationships with their professors and classmates. Not to mention, graduate school is often the only gateway to certain lucrative and rewarding careers.