The First Year Graduate Student Experience at Florida State University

By Leigh Eskin

Going to Graduate School


“Tell me, Leigh, what will be the difference between being an undergraduate student and a graduate student?”


Dr. Janet Lenz, Program Director and co-author of the Cognitive Information Processing Theory, was interviewing me for the Career Counseling Master of Science and Specialist in Education degrees at Florida State University. For a moment I was stumped. What was graduate school going to be like? I had to sit back and mull it over.


At the time, I was in my senior year at Ohio State University. I knew that being a graduate student was going to be more difficult and more time consuming; however, I could get individualized attention and learn from the best in the field while developing a specialty. I believed that, as a graduate student, I would finally have the chance to put my knowledge gained from my undergraduate education to applicable use through hands-on career training and research.


In July of 2011, I began the Career Counseling program at Florida State University, and started my month of training to become a Career Advisor.


Career Counseling


The question that my family and friends often asked me was, “Why career counseling?” I had majored in psychology and had been indecisive for a long time about what I wanted to do after college. However, when I stumbled upon Florida State’s website, I looked at the program, its classes and job outcomes and thought: I can see myself here. I realized I liked the idea of sharing information with people and having a tangible goal in the counseling session. Additionally, I am fascinated by careers, and I find it enjoyable to research and learn more about various options in the world of work. My interests led me to the perfect career solution: career counseling!


My family was concerned that I was going into career counseling without having had a career of my own. I decided to do some research and I spoke to career counseling students and professionals. After gathering a good amount of feedback, I became more confident in my ability to provide career counseling and grew more excited for what lay ahead.


Beginning the Program


The only way I can describe the process of graduate school is that it is a whirlwind. Between applying, interviewing, preparing, and attending school, there is an influx of knowledge and a realization that there is so much I still do not know. What I do know is that, after only eight months of being in the program, I feel that I have changed tremendously.


I entered graduate school right out of my undergraduate program. On the first day of training, I could tell that there was a very collaborative atmosphere at FSU, and we all worked together to master the techniques and skills we were learning.


Some of the things I learned early on were:

  • Cognitive Information Processing Theory

  • Active listening skills

  • Resume critique strategies

  • Writing Individual Learning Plans for students

  • Navigating the career library and locating paper resources

  • Utilizing the many resources in the career center to assist students with a range of career concerns.


After a month of hands-on training, I was amazed that I felt ready to counsel students. I truly felt like a young professional, and what was more, I was confident in my ability to help undergraduate students make their important career decisions.


Now in the Program


I was correct in my initial assessment of graduate school: it is quite a bit of work. However, I believe that you get out of it what you put in. There are some amazing opportunities to be had in graduate school such as getting involved with employee relations, organizing job fairs, research, and much more.


Currently in the program I am:

  • Providing career counseling to students on a drop-in basis

  • Teaching the Introduction to Career Development SDS 3340 career course

  • Conducting digitally recorded mock interviews

  • Delivering workshop presentations

  • Assisting at job fairs and tabling events

  • Collecting my own research to present at the NCDA Global Career Development Conference

  • Creating, collecting and analyzing an employer survey about resume information

  • Mentoring and assisting an intern from Switzerland


I am only in my first year of graduate study and still have practicum, internship, and many other exciting opportunities ahead. These have been amazing experiences thus far, and in addition to everything I discussed above I also have the opportunity to interact with and learn from top professionals in the field. I currently have Dr. Janet Lenz as my supervisor this semester; I co-taught the SDS 3340 Introduction to Career Development class with Dr. Robert Reardon; I took a course under Dr. Debra Osborn; and have had the opportunity to dine and converse with Dr. Gary Peterson and Dr. James Sampson.




For graduate students and new professionals, I suggest that you:


  • Ask questions – Show interest, clear up confusion, and discover opportunities

  • Follow your passion – Do what you love, reach out to opportunities that interest you, and do things based on intrinsic motivation

  • Branch out – Network, meet new people, work with clients outside of your comfort zone, expand your horizons, and join professional associations like NCDA!


You need to be prepared to juggle many different tasks and duties as a graduate student. It can be difficult switching from the student to professional role, but being in graduate school is a very exciting and stimulating experience; it is a chance for a new start, new possibilities and new discoveries.






Leigh EskinLeigh Eskin, a student at Florida State University, is working towards an M.S./Ed.S. in Counseling and Human Systems with a concentration in Career Counseling. She is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a B.A. in Psychology, and currently serves as a career advisor, mock interview mentor, and co-instructor for a career development course. Upon graduation, she seeks to work in the career counseling and human resources fields. Leigh can be reached at: lme11@admin.fsu.edu


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Melissa S.    on Tuesday 06/05/2012 at 03:40 PM

Great column, Leigh! I am a few years out of graduate school, but could definitely identify with many parts of your experience. Thanks for sharing!

Merril Simon   on Wednesday 06/05/2013 at 09:39 AM

Leigh, now that another year has passed, you likely have completed your coursework, completed practicum, and perhaps internship as well.

It would be wonderful if you could provide an update from this first year about your second year in the M.S./Ed.S. program at FSU.

As a counselor educator in a department with one of the few other CACREP Career Counseling emphases, I am often looking for other models to look to for insight about their experience. In fact, our Career Counseling students have few student peers in the country, though their experiences are unique in many ways from our other counseling student options.

Hopefully someone will see this and alert you to my request as this e-mail for you is unlikely to reach you a year later.


Melanie Reinersman   on Friday 01/03/2014 at 11:05 AM

Be sure to read Leigh's latest article published in Career Convergence: "First Jobs: Graduate Student to Young Professional"
Melanie Reinersman
NCDA Website & Web Magazine Editor

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.