Receiving an acceptance letter into a graduate school program is one of the most rewarding feelings. Regardless of what the program is - Masters, PhD, Law School, Med School, or anything that is post-grad. You worked hard in undergrad and you are assured that all the hard work finally paid off, giving you an immense confidence boost.
However, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, and that confidence booster wears off after your first week of your program. I was clueless on what to expect during grad school and struggled (and am still struggling) with some aspects of It all.
I have laughed, cried, drank a lot of wine, thought about dropping out, and thought about pursuing more graduate school. With that being said, there are still a couple of things that I wish I would have known before embarking on my post-grad journey.
1.You’ll always feel like you’re not good enough to be there.
I bet you were probably in the top of your class in undergrad (and probably even I high school if we want to go way back). Welcome to grad school where you will instantly drop to the bottom of the class. Have you guys ever heard of imposter syndrome? Thinking you don’t belong somewhere, when you really do. Well that syndrome is real and it takes FOREVER to go away in grad school and presumably even after!
You will listen to others talk and think to yourself “What the heck are they even saying?” and contemplate your entire intelligence, imagining they made a mistake letting you in. On top of that, you’ll start thinking you sound like a blabbering idiot when you speak, and that’s okay because sometimes you will be a blabbering idiot, but for good cause.
2. Making friends is hard.
Friends are crucial, and we need friendship to endure life. Sure, you’ll have your school friends who are great, and you would not trade most of them for anything! A limited number may even become friends outside of your program; but again, limited.
Also, hanging out with people that you already spend all of your time with on campus can be a little much. Trying to make friends outside of your program is oddly difficult though ... I’m not even sure the proper way to make friends anymore. If I can’t ask you what your research interest is, then we probably have an awkward relationship or have been friends before the past two years.
I am also certain my friends think I am odd and social awkward now, but it’s fineeee. A pro-tip for making friends in grad school: get a dog and/or befriend your neighbors (unless your neighbors are creepy, then abort the mission).
3. It's vastly different from undergrad.
I know what you’re thinking, this one is a g. However, for some reason I wasn’t prepared for this, call it what you will. I had just turned 21 before I graduated undergrad, so I was in line for my bender year ... grad school is not the place for a bender year, nope.
You do not party like an undergrad in grad school. Instead you drink wine, discuss politics and class, and cry. Some things are similar still; never having money and you know, procrastinating. You just get better at managing the two.
4. There are a million other things you should be doing.
You’re in grad school so you’re doing the most, right? Wrong. You will be told you should be working on networking, getting published, presenting at conferences, and a million other things. One would assume this would be common to expect going into a grad program, and It is!
However, when the tasks that you’ve never done are presented to you, they seem so foreign and you don’t know where to even start. But everyone else seems to think is normal. There you go, questioning your intelligence and abilities again ... it never ends!
5.You’re kind of an adult, but not really.
We all struggle with adulting, but in grad school it’s just different. While you will still feel so much older and more mature than undergrads on campus, you’re still confused on what level of adulting you’re able to qualify for. You still go to events for free food, but you also see undergrads as children – despite only having a few years difference in age.
On the other hand, all your friends are getting married and starting real jobs, and you’re still trying to figure out how to pay for a coffee at a hipster coffee shop in the gentrified district of town. You’re somewhere in the middle, and honestly, it’s quite a struggle.
6. You don't really know what you're doing until you do it.
Maybe this one is just me, but it’s accurate. You know how you think procrastination is horrible in undergrad? Grad school is like that but times 10. Now, this isn’t true for everyone, just the selected few of us who only do well under pressure. I will write papers on things that I have no solid foundation on and suddenly start to wonder “What the heck am I even writing about?” knowing the professor is going to question my intelligence when they’re reading this discombobulated mess.
Your friends will start talking about the paper in a different context than you remember writing it, and even though you weren’t 100 percent sure what you were saying in that paper, you suddenly understand the topic and are reassured your paper made sense. Anxiety, man.
7. People are going to think you're extremely intelligent when you're really just average.
Tell anyone in your family or anybody who hasn’t been there that you’re in graduate school and the first response you’ll get is “Oh, you must be really smart." While it is a flattering gesture and should be taken as a compliment, it’s also quite annoying. Especially when you battle over if you belong there or not.But after all of these endeavors, you realize you’re glad to be where you are. Despite all the struggles you face(d), you’ve had absolutely amazing times, grown so much, and wouldn’t trade your grad school experience thus far for anything … maybe a boyfriend or something.