11 Things That Helped Me Survive Graduate School

It’s been a hot second since I posted anything, and I am glad to be back! I just graduated with my master’s degree in May, so I figured I’d share a couple things with y’all–in true blog post style, a list. Admittedly, this might be a more helpful list for people in social science programs. These are also intentionally vague. I don’t think there’s anything specific you can do to prepare for graduate school because programs can be so different depending on where they are and what kind of program you’re in. Most of the stuff I learned is about people, so that’s what I’m inclined to write about, but I’m happy to answer other things, too. Feel free to post comments with any questions.

sailboat

Sailboat in St. Pete Beach, FL. Stay afloat! You can do it!

1. If you ever make a request, always bring a bargain to the table. For example:

Leonie: Can I still turn in my paper?

Professor: The semester is over.

Leonie: I’ll clean out your office?

Professor: Done.

2.  Food.

Leonie: Hi students, today we’re going to talk about—

Students: *asleep*

Leonie: I have food.

Students: *wide awake, super engaged*

3. In organizations, there are mountain-movers, and then there’s everybody else. Mountain-movers enter your life at the rate of around 1 in 100. You’ll know them when you meet them.

Leonie: Hello, I am interested in a graduate assistant position.

Everybody else: I give no fucks.

Leonie: Hello, I am interested in a graduate assistant position.

Mountain-mover: Well, it’s great that you visited. Give me a second.

*leaves room*

*comes back in 7 minutes*

Mountain-mover: The office next door would like to give you an interview.

4. The reward for work is more work, so pace yourself accordingly.

5. This is grad school, not activist training camp. Professors will not hold your hand when you’ve experienced something blatantly racist or sexist. So if you’re emotional in class, be prepared for a complete lack of sensitivity to your feelings.

6. Talk to your professors. This is absolutely key. Tell them if the workload is a lot, or if the readings seem irrelevant or if you want to have more input in your classes. If they’re good faculty, they usually respond with some kind of pointers or individual attention. If they don’t, they’re not good faculty.

7. No one is going to give you the recognition you deserve. Keep your besties close.

8. Find your squad fast, if you need one. All grad students are not the same, and some are just cruel.

9. Don’t put too much stock into new friendships. Even the people close to you in grad school might hurt your feelings in the heat of a moment, out of political differences or because you just operate in the world differently. Be prepared to swallow your pride many times. Also be prepared to stand your ground. Hold out, though, because some folks are surprisingly kind.

10. Graduate school is unique (certain programs, anyway) because people of a lot of different age groups come together in an academic setting. Try not to alienate older or younger classmates/colleagues/co-workers. There’s a lot to be gained from a different perspective, something you can’t do when you’re surrounded by people who all have the exact same cell phone. This is a time to exercise your compassion.

11. Graduate school can really break you down. Just remember you’re not a bad person, even if you have made some pretty embarrassing mistakes. Usually, you will perceive things to be much worse than they actually are. It’s par for the course.

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