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How do graduate students differ from undergraduate students?


Demographics

1 Age

AgeAccording to National Graduates Survey (2015), the median age of graduation for students in Canada at the undergraduate level is 23, while it is 28 and 32 for the master’s and doctoral levels, respectively. Furthermore, at the doctoral level, no graduates were under age 25.[1]Statistics Canada. Table 37-10-0030-01 National Graduates Survey (NGS), postsecondary graduates, by province of study and level of study

Age2 Debt and finances

The same survey indicates the average debt owed upon graduation is $15,300 at the undergraduate level and $28,000 and $33,000 at the master’s and doctoral levels, respectively.[2]Statistics Canada. Table 37-10-0036-01 National Graduates Survey (NGS), student debt from all sources, by province of study and level of study

3 Marital status

AgeOther aspects in which graduate students might differ from undergraduate students are in terms of marital status and/or families. According to a report from McGill University, very few undergraduate students (three per cent) reported being legally married (and not separated) or living with a common- law partner (six per cent). Not surprisingly, these proportions increase at the master’s level (16 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively) and the doctoral level (30 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively).[3]Statistics Canada. Table 37-10-0036-01 National Graduates Survey (NGS), student debt from all sources, by province of study and level of study

4 Citizenship

AgeThere is a high level of variation that exists among different post- secondary institutions in terms of international student demographics. Much of this can be seen as a result of the types of programs offered by the college or university. To take the example of two large universities situated in close proximity to one another, Ryerson University reports 5.9 per cent international students enrolled at the undergraduate level [4]Ryerson University Planning Office Undergraduate Student Enrolments 2018-2019. Retrieved from here., and 15.9 per cent at the graduate level.[5]Ryerson University Planning Office Graduate Student Enrolments 2018-2019. Retrieved from here. However, international students make up 22.5 per cent of the undergraduate population and 16.8 per cent of the graduate population at the University of Toronto.[6]University of Toronto Enrolment report 2017-2018. Retrieved from here.

Staff or student?

Unlike a majority of undergraduate students, graduate students are likely to also be employees of their institutions in the form of teaching assistants, graduate assistants or research assistants. As a result, graduate students may find themselves straddling the boundary between staff and student on campus. Some may find themselves in the unique position of socializing with undergraduate peers while struggling to maintain professional boundaries as campus staff. Furthermore, some graduate students have expressed concerns over being seen by the students they are teaching while waiting in or entering counselling offices on campus.19 During the review and consultation process for this toolkit, students mentioned being treated as though they are legitimate members of the faculty helps foster a sense of commitment, community and responsibility to maintain the standards displayed by the advisers and professionals within the organization to whom they aspire to be like. Students advocated for being treated as “staff-in-training” rather than students who are employees.

References   [ + ]

1. Statistics Canada. Table 37-10-0030-01 National Graduates Survey (NGS), postsecondary graduates, by province of study and level of study
2, 3. Statistics Canada. Table 37-10-0036-01 National Graduates Survey (NGS), student debt from all sources, by province of study and level of study
4. Ryerson University Planning Office Undergraduate Student Enrolments 2018-2019. Retrieved from here.
5. Ryerson University Planning Office Graduate Student Enrolments 2018-2019. Retrieved from here.
6. University of Toronto Enrolment report 2017-2018. Retrieved from here.
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