Graduate School

Brian has some good advice for surviving graduate school.

Most people go through periods of wondering if they’re smart enough to be in graduate school. My friend Jordan discovered that most people at her grad school wondered if they had been admitted by mistake. I’ve found the same thing here at UW. The reality is this: Getting into graduate school in most fields is highly competitive. If you got in, you belong there.

[…]People have a lot of stereotypes about graduate students, one of the most common being that they are simply too lazy to enter the workforce. That is so wrong it’s almost funny. When people who take a few years off before graduate school talk about their adjustment problems, they are not talking about the fact they might get to sleep an hour later in the morning. If you’re the typical American worker, you go into a job for 40 hours a week, then you leave and watch TV, spend time with friends/family, or do whatever else you want. In graduate school, you revert back to full work mode, where having an hour or so at the end of the day is considered a thing of rare beauty, and Sunday afternoon is the perfect time to head to the library and get started on that research project.

I want to add an important caveat here, though, and that is this: Everybody takes time off now and then. Thus, despite the rhetoric about continual work, grad students should not experience “relaxation guilt” when they decide to simply sit down and watch TV for awhile. Everyone will find their own level of this. […]Most people tend to be a lot more random, working feverishly in huge bursts and then crashing for an entire day. Whatever works for you, let it work, as long as you handle your classes.

[…]When the going gets tough, remember why you’re here. It’s not to fill out fellowship applications or navigate bureaucracy, it’s to become a great researcher or teacher or archivist or whatever. Sometimes it won’t seem worth it, but remember that the grass is always greener on the other side. I pay attention to web sites like Invisible Adjunct, but also consider the fact that if I don’t land a tenure-track job somewhere, I’m probably not worse off than most of the workforce.

[…]One thing you should definitely prioritize is getting to know people in your new school.

I would add one thing: enjoy yourself. Enjoy the work and enjoy the breaks. It’ll be tough at times but it’s one of the most important factors in surviving as a grad student.

Author: Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer

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