Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Being in Grad School!

One of the best things about doing an undergraduate degree in engineering is that it’s really easy to do a master’s degree too! Penn Engineering has a special program called submatriculation that enables you to easily enter a master’s program. One simple application during your junior year lets you submatriculate. This is really great for a host of reasons.

  1.  You don’t have to take the GRE’s or go through the lengthy admissions process all over again.
  2.   You can double count three courses from your undergrad degree so you only need to take 7 additional courses for the masters (which isn’t a lot considering you need to complete about 40 undergraduate courses) 
  3.  Because of reason number 2, you can easily finish your master’s in only one extra year or even just one extra semester (as opposed to a year and a half or two years which is how long it takes most people to do a master’s degree)
  4. You don’t have to do a master’s thesis (unless you want to of course).
  5. In some cases, you can do your masters while receiving your undergraduate financial aid.

Coming into Penn, I did not even know submatriculation was an option. During my first few years, I met several upperclassmen who had submatriculated, but I still wasn’t seriously considering it. However, I decided to apply during my junior year because I thought, “Why not?” The application took about 20 minutes, and I had nothing to lose by applying.

Fast forward to now: I was accepted to submatriculate, and I’m in my fifth year at Penn working towards my masters. Transitioning to being a master’s student has been an interesting experience. For one thing, there are far fewer women in the master’s program than in the undergraduate program. One day I looked around and realized there were no longer nearly as many women in my classes as there used to be.  And, as expected, the classes are also harder than the undergraduate ones, but nothing a Penn engineering undergraduate degree hasn’t prepared me for. I think there’s a perception that grad school is really hard. Here’s a secret: it’s not. Especially if you’ve just tackled an undergrad in engineering. Especially when you’re taking classes from the same professors with whom you already know.

So far, I’m really happy with my decision. I have more time to think about what I want to do in my career, and I feel less rushed about entering the job market. I can study topics I’m interested in like renewable energy at more depth. And when I do finish my degree, I’ll be able to command a higher salary. If you told me five years ago, that I would have my master’s degree when I was 23, I wouldn’t have believed you. But I will, and so can you! 

Do you have questions for Annie?  Contact her at

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