8 Things Only A Grad Student Would Understand

* You Start Asking Your Boring Self: “Am I Still Normal?”
* Your Life In Two Words: Study & Research
* Your Favorite Hashtag: #nosociallife
* Your Sleep-Wake-Eat Cycle is Disrupted
* People tell you, “Oh, I Thought You Were An Undergrad!”
* Coffee Is Your New Best Friend
* You Are Broke—or Getting There!
* You Think Of Quitting—But You Never Do

Graduate school is no walk in the park. College life is often thought to be synonymous with fun; graduate school, meanwhile, can be a torturous journey. While being in college lets you in on the latest events and parties, going down the Ph.D. road means giving up some of life’s greatest pleasures.

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Because of the promise of boundless career opportunities, many choose to pursue graduate studies! Research reveals that for the academic year of 2019-2020, colleges and universities all over the United States are expected to award 820,000 master’s degrees and 184,000 doctorates to some three million students.

Graduate studies are a battlefield, and students are soldiers who must all learn to survive—and thrive.

If you’re a grad student, you certainly are no stranger to the challenges and triumphs of the journey. And certain situations exclusive to grad students will seem all too familiar.

On your way to Ph.D., you are not alone on the battlefield. All over the globe, students sympathize with you. So here are the eight things that, as a grad student you will relate to. 

1. You Start Asking Your Boring Self: “Am I Still Normal?”

Your friends keep full-time careers. They spend time with their family. They enjoy rest and recreation on weekends. While “work-life balance” looks good on them, Ph.D. students like you delete the term from your vocabulary.

Your weekends are spent reading, researching, completing mountains of paperwork, and beating deadlines. Your mid-life independence is filled with even more responsibilities! You work, clean, budget, and study like clockwork.

Sometimes, your schedules drive you crazy; sometimes you feel in total control of them. As such, your graduate school life becomes a breeding ground for stress and anxiety. You develop what seems like a love-and-hate relationship with grad school.

In retrospect, you see your life made a 180-degree turn, and you need to commit to it! It’s all about that goal, right?

2. Your Life In Two Words: Study & Research

Do you constantly find yourself in search of new materials to study? Do you spend countless hours in your study area researching? Do you read your notes to sleep and dream about them? If you are nodding with both excitement and frustration, then you truly are a graduate student!

Signing up for grad school means doing what it takes to achieve your academic goal. You don’t mind the smallest of spaces as long as it’s a great spot for studying. You take simple joys in buying cheap highlighters and a new pack of sticky notes.

In a graduate study, you read and write at all times, learn and digest different perspectives, knowledge, arguments, and methodologies.  Whether it’s a three-page or a 15-page research, you want the best results.

Doing all these lets you know your way to the library even with your eyes closed. Your overdue books need another subscription plan. Stacking your reference books becomes sort of a skill, and you can’t help but create your very own mini-library every semester. You now have a mastery of setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely) goals and achieving them!

3. Your Favorite Hashtag: #nosociallife

Because you devote yourself to grad school, some priorities take a back seat. Your social life is on hold, too, or at least, takes on a different meaning. Socializing for you will generally mean studying with fellow graduate students. Befriending the librarian and debating over academic-related issues becomes “socialization” for you.

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It’s not uncommon to miss out on family reunions, birthday gatherings, and friendly meet-ups. Perhaps you notice you rarely return family phone calls. Your chat boxes with friends turn into deserted areas. All these will, at one point, make you feel isolated and disconnected from the rest of the world.

Remember: It’s healthy to take a breather. Have a couple of beers with friends after a project is done. Reward yourself! You’ll be in the same grad school routine the next day (and the many days after), anyway!

4. Your Sleep-Wake-Eat Cycle is Disrupted

Many graduate students compromise their basic human need to eat and sleep, which isn’t healthy! They sleep 3-4 hours and in between, they ask themselves, “Have I eaten today? Or was that yesterday?” To curb your hunger, you grab microwave-easy snacks with zero nutrients.

According to research, it is possible to perform well without ample rest, but getting less than six hours of sleep for two consecutive nights prevent you from functioning optimally. Similarly, a healthy diet can make you perform at your best!

Don’t make week-long all-nighters your new way of life. Get enough sleep at night and always eat healthy meals daily. These are life’s non-negotiables.

5. People tell you, “Oh, I Thought You Were An Undergrad!”

Graduate students are commonly mistaken for “just students.” You believe you deserve more recognition, so you get into the details of your level and specific area of study. Clearly, people do not know how terrifying graduate school can be.

And when someone acknowledges (and applauds) you for being in grad school, you feel a sense of pride. Even if you sometimes question your existence in the academe, you need the validation that success is on the way, and that will all be worth the hardship. 

6. Coffee Is Your New Best Friend

For a grad student, coffee is a life source. Coffee gives you that boost to jumpstart and make it through the day.  Being the world’s most popular psychoactive substance, it is what you need to be awake and alert to beat the deadlines. In fact, coffee also boosts cognitive performance and lessens the risk of depression, as one study revealed.

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Most grad students know all about caffeine concoctions from the French press, to the espresso, to the frappe, and everything else in between. They know the best and cheapest coffee shops! They are your perfect coffee shop reviewers and critics. Ask them, and they’ll give you the best recommendations! 

But as with all things in life, drink your coffee in moderation. If your coffee intake leads to sleep inefficiency, you’re not making the most out of this energy-boosting drink.

7. You Are Broke—or Getting There!

Most graduate students are professionals who have bills to pay. And while some get grants and scholarships, many rely on student loans. If you’re like many of them, you may be living on a super tight budget.

So when your colleagues invite you for beer or shopping, you politely decline—and those who have a clue know exactly why. When grad students say they’re broke, they truly are!

8. You Think Of Quitting A Couple Of Times—But You Never Do

The idea of quitting will come to you at one point. Unimpressive academic scores are setbacks that drive you to call it quits. You might have cried yourself to sleep as you think about how much you worked and still failed.

But you just don’t quit. You go back to your goal, be re-awakened with your motivation, and refocus on what makes you want you to complete graduate school. No criticisms, rejections, and cynicism can break you. So, you take a deep breath, dry your tears, and go over what you did wrong so you can correct it.

Committing yourself to graduate school is much like a life-long contract. You are in it for more than just career advancement; it is your gateway to enhanced knowledge, broader perspectives, and deep insights that you can use to contribute to society.