How to survive and thrive in graduate school
Graduate school can be difficult due to the unstructured nature of the process, and the lack of information about what to expect. So here’s what we think you need to know!
Adjusting to grad school
Most students feel a mixture of anticipation, excitement, hope, insecurity, and fear during the first several weeks. It’s normal to experience some physical and emotional symptoms during this change. Adjusting can be especially difficult for international students or those who’ve moved their partners/families (guilt!).
Chances are, no one sent you a brochure outlining how graduate school is different from undergrad so you can adjust your expectations. Now, you will have more readings and tasks than ever before and maybe even more than you can actually complete (instead of finishing your to-do list), you will be responsible for learning the material independently (instead of having lectures that teach the readings), your colleagues may view you as competition (as opposed to potential friends), and working like a “good student” now means keeping pace (but not completing every task as well as you’d like to), earning A’s, B’s and maybe an occasional C (instead of all A’s), and getting some accolades, but no longer being at the top.
Impact on your relationships
Unless your family, friends, or partners have attended graduate school, they also won’t know how the graduate school process is different, and this can lead to frustration, jealousy, and hurt feelings on both sides. When your dad asks you a third time to explain what you’re studying, your stepmom asks you when your thesis is “due,” or your partner is angry that you’re “still working on your research; it’s been 3 years!”, it can make you feel like they don’t understand you anymore.
CAPS has a Healthy Connections Support Group that can help.Learn about the group
You need a strategy for completing graduate school. Runners train differently in order to run a sprint race versus a marathon. Graduate school is more like a marathon. You’ll need to pace yourself, eat, hydrate, and conserve your energy sometimes, even though you’ll feel like you could run faster/work harder. In graduate school, there are so many exciting opportunities and tasks to do that your work can easily become what you think about and do 24/7/365, crowding out other important relationships and activities in your life.
Impact on your confidence and identity
You may think “I’m not as smart as everyone else here” or “When I turn in this paper, my advisor is going to see that I shouldn’t have been admitted.” This has been called “The Imposter Syndrome” and it’s common, especially among females. This can lead graduate students to feel anxious, procrastinate, or over-correct for these feelings by talking/bragging about all the things they have done or do know. Also, you’re now one of many “big fish” in a “little pond” and that shift in how you view yourself and your abilities compared to others can feel disconcerting.
CAPS has a Support Group for Graduate and Returning Students. Information can be found under the Healthy Connections Groups tab.Learn about the group