This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Do You Measure Up? A mixed-methodological study of graduate student academic comparison, privacy management, and perceived program competition.




McCormick, Melissa

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Communication and Journalism


‘It’s going to feel impossible until you’re through it, but you’ll get through it.’ Obtaining a graduate degree is no small feat and often requires not only mental investment but also emotional investment. Graduate programs entrance requirements tend to be highly competitive, and that sense of competition continues for many throughout their program. Using a mixed methodology, this study examined comparison and competition within cohorts and how those experiences affect graduate student communication with peers. Students completed an online survey (N=356) and then follow-up interviews (N=22) were conducted. Results suggest that graduate students are engaging in academic comparison and competition and that program competitiveness and individual self-efficacy play a role in how much each student is affected. These findings contribute to our understanding of what graduate students experience as they pursue their degree. Notably, students that feel supported and understood by their faculty and cohort members felt happier and more capable in their programs. Prior research has not addressed this aspect of graduate school, leaving a gap in our understanding of competition and privacy within graduate school cohorts. With this new understanding of how students are competing, professors and students alike can look to these findings for ways to negate this type of unhealthy competition.