In light of my recent spell of writer’s block, I have decided to make a list of the things I have learned in graduate school. Though this list is not comprehensive, it will provide potential students with some insight of the challenges and opportunities graduate school presents.
- There is never enough time. When procrastination has reached a breaking point and that paper is due in two hours, you’ll wish you had spent less time watching the Jersey Shore.
- Food tastes better the second day. After you have realized your graduate assistant salary equals the gross revenue of a lemonade stand in winter, you will learn to freeze and reheat all food products. Though it may taste bad, you’ll learn to love it.
- Your schedule is always flexible. As if written on an etch-a-sketch, the schedule of a graduate student is anything but regular. Meetings pop up, papers become due, and environmental catastrophe all seem to coalesce and wreak havoc on your carefully planned Outlook calendar.
- Coffee is a food group. This point requires very little explanation.
- Good students are often quiet. Though many professors have participation requirements in class, I believe good intellectual relationships are built on the assumption of intelligence. As Mark Twain once wrote, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”
- Rigor is relative. While graduate school may be the pinnacle of your hard-fought academic career, the rigor of graduate school differs greatly between academic departments and programs. Some students have it easy, while others work in a lab cleaning fish tanks. Therefore, it serves little purpose to compare your work to a biology student. The only people that know exactly what you are going through are the people in your cohort. So, befriend them and seek their support. Trust me, you will need them.
In sum, graduate school presents more challenges than opportunities. However, it is wise to face these challenges with resolve and determination. Only through struggle can we realize our truest potential.