9 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Grad School

Last week, I was hanging out with some of the other interns in my office discussing what our fall plans would be. I will be heading back to class to finish up my last semester of grad school. But some of the other interns, who are recent college graduates, aren’t so sure what their next move will be. I told them now to worry, that having no idea what to do post graduation is par for the course these days. No one has it figured out right away.
But still, it got me thinking about what I was doing a year ago, as a fresh faced college graduate. When I graduated I had two very different options available to me. I could take the full time job offered to me, or I could stay in school, in an accelerated program, and have my masters in a year and a half. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made, but a year and a half later I’m confident that I made the right choice by getting my masters. It’s something I have always wanted to do, and if I left school, I don’t think I would have ever gone back.
But that doesn’t mean my grad school experience has been easy. Grad school is tough. Really tough, and it’s not at all what I imagined it would be like, even after speaking to other grad students. There are so many things I wish they would have told me to help me prepare (mentally anyway). So I thought I would share some of those things with those of you headed off to grad school in the fall.

1. It doesn’t come with a built in social life. Everyone in your classes has a life outside of school. Jobs, families, relationships, and responsibilities that they’ve committed to. And after class, they go back to them, not back to the dorms.
2. You’re going to question whether or not you’ve made the right choice. When you’re in the library, bogged down with books and assignments you can’t figure out the point of, you’ll wonder if it was really worth it to get your masters.
3. You’re probably going to cry at some point. The other night I went out to dinner with two of my friends who also happen to be in grad school. Over a few glasses of white wine we all casually admitted that we had cried once or twice throughout the semester.
4. There are a lot more group projects. And while they prepare you for life and all, they’re also super time consuming and hard to organize.
5. You’ll simultaneously envy and feel bad for your friends who have started working. You’ll sit in your 6-9pm classes thinking about how you would be at happy hour if you were a working woman. Then you’ll meet up with your friends and find out they’re too tired to make it to the store to buy supplies for dinner, never mind happy hour.
6. You’ll constantly be waiting for your real life to begin. Because your current life feels a lot like college, without all the fun stuff.
7. Suddenly every internship you look at will be asking for undergrads. What exactly is with the bias against grad students? I mean we’re more educated and more experienced than college students. Shouldn’t that be a plus?
8. You’ll never really feel settled. My masters program is only a year and a half. I’ve spent the past year looking forward, trying to figure out what was going to come next. I’m starting my last semester. I still don’t feel ready for what comes next, despite the fact that I’ve spent the past year anticipating it.
9. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
Are there any other grad students out there reading this? What do you wish you knew about grad school? Let’s commiserate share.
Jenn is a communications grad student and a social media fanatic who spends her free time reading, writing, watching too much tv and shopping for shoes she can’t afford. At least that’s what her Twitter bio says. Follow her @jenninzetta.
[lead image via Stokkete/shutterstock.com]

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