The end of this month marks the completion of my first year of grad school. Looking back, it was both everything and nothing that I expected it would be.
If you’re thinking about applying to grad school or are starting this fall, here are some words of advice I wish I had gotten before I started:
- Your program’s webpage is like a menu from a bad restaurant. Sometimes the courses mentioned on the website are no longer offered or haven’t been for many years. They pretty just keep them listed because the courses sound cool or make the program seem more comprehensive than it is.
- Your classmates are just as valuable as your advisors. You’re all in this together, and they will tell you things as they are. Thanks to a certain classmate, I realized that I had to take more classes. Without her advice, I wouldn’t be able to graduate when I expected! They will also give you advice/warning about classes and professors you have to take in the future.
- It sucks if you’re working at the same time. If you work and take classes, you’ve got a lot on your plate. One surprising thing about graduate school is that not all graduate classes are held in the evening. There are some held early in the morning which is weird considering that graduate students are more likely than undergraduates to be employed. If you need to take a required class that’s around the same time as your shift, you are stuck.
- You need to pay the bills somehow. There’s a lot of risk involved paying tuition. Grad school is very expensive, and unlike in undergrad, there is next to no financial aid for graduate students. Whatever aid (scholarships, grants, state aid) is available will mostly likely only cover a small amount of your tuition bill. There are no guarantees that you will get a job well enough to pay back a private loan quickly.
- It will mess with your emotions. Grad school is very stressful (no, d’oy!), and you will have moments when you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. You may have spent all night doing a project on photoshop and have it crash before you had a chance to save it (tip:always keep saving). Weird things will happen that will make your brain cry and you more emotionally vulnerable than you ever were in regular life. Don’t even get me started about final exams.
Despite all the craziness, grad school is worth it. You gain skills, experiences, networks, and friends that make you a more well-rounded person and a more appealing job candidate (than you were before graduate school).
What advice do you wish you were told before going to graduate school?