5 Things I Wish I Was Told Before Starting Grad School

You have probably seen quite a few of these articles where they tell you the # number of things that they wish they knew before (blank). This is going to be one of those posts but with information that those blogs don’t really cover. There are so many things I wish I new before coming to grad school that has affected my mental state. I will go into those in a second because they are real and you will face these challenges. If you are thinking of grad school, make sure you are prepared for what will come up. I find that the work is easy but the mental strain is the hardest part. 1 in 3 PhD students will be at risk of developing a mental health issue. That’s nuts!

Helping to prepare students for grad school has been a goal of mine for quite some time. That is why I started this blog. I was not seeing the right information online to help me get through these years. I have had some pretty dark times while on this journey and I don’t want others to go through that. Here are 5 things I wish I was told before I started grad school.

  1. You will experience imposter syndrome

More than likely, you will experience this in grad school. You will feel like a fraud. You may even question how you got into a school as good as the one you are in. Looking around your class, you are bound to compare yourself to others and that leads to a feeling of inadequacy. I am here to tell you that you are exactly where you need to be. Grad school classes can be quite difficult and you may struggle. That is why you are here though! You are a student, not the professor, so you are learning the material and training yourself to one day be an expert. You are also surrounded by very intelligent individuals which is intimidating. Have you ever though that they may be intimidated by you and your accomplishments? You are not a fraud and you most definitely belong in your program. Keep going!

2. No one will really care about your work

This one makes me sad because I want everyone to be as interested in lead pipes as I am. You will find that no one really cares what you are doing other than the people working on the project with you. This is totally and completely normal. You are hear to contribute a tiny sliver of knowledge to the world then move on to bigger and better things. Just keep at what you are doing now and eventually you will work on stuff that is extremely meaningful and exciting, not just to you, but to others as well.

3. You will say goodbye to a ton of friends

Persons Left Hand on Airplane Window

This time in your life is a hard one because people are just starting to branch out and start their own lives. You may have to say goodbye to them. I like to say “see you later” because goodbye implies some form of end, in my mind at least. I have said “see you later” more times than I would like. My friend group has been on the decline since undergrad, but that doesn’t mean that I am super sad about it. The people that mean the most to you will be there and you will have lasting relationships with them no matter where you end up. The friendships that you get in grad school may end though, and frequently. I have had many friends come and go while I slave away at the computer, writing all day. It happens and that’s life, but be prepared to say goodbye.

4. You do not have the metabolism like you did in undergrad.

Assorted Sliced Fruits in White Ceramic Bowl

I am a pretty active guy. On average, I think I burn about 2800 to 3400 calories a day. This is including basal metabolic rate (BMR) of course. But for some reason, I gain weight so easily now. In undergrad, I could eat 2 pizzas and then lose weight lol. It was crazy. You are older now and you may find it harder to lose weight or maintain weight. This is normal. Prioritize exercise and eating right and you will go good to go. That can often be difficult because of how busy you are, though. To combat overeating or to track calories, I have used a Fitbit in the past. Lately, I use my Samsung Galaxy Active Watch 2. Both have been amazing.

5. You are not in undergrad anymore

Person in White Shirt With Brown Wooden Frame

You will have way more responsibilities in grad school. Going to bars every night then waking up at 12 to go to class is harder now. You have things to do such as early morning experiments, grant writing, being a TA, writing blogs, taking care of lab rats, etc. I am not saying you can’t party, what I am saying is partying will change. I was the one to go out on a night right before an exam. Don’t do this! That was my form of partying, though. Now, that has changed. Having friends over, talking about ideas, having a few drinks, then being in bed by 10 is the best partying that I can think of lol. It takes a bit to transition, especially if you are fresh out of undergrad, but you will change. That’s the beauty of life. You will change whether you like it or not.

These are 5 (very harsh) things that I wish I knew prior to grad school. It’s hard for everyone and you are not alone if you struggled with these like I did. That is why I write these posts. Let me know if you have anything else to add to this list in the comments. The grad school experience is difficult and different for everyone so it’s interesting to see what else people deal/dealt with. Thanks for reading!

8 thoughts on “5 Things I Wish I Was Told Before Starting Grad School

  • I still have imposter syndrome in the workplace 😂😅 I’m happy to be done school though! Although I didn’t go to grad school, I have 2 undergraduate degrees.

  • I agree with points 1 and 2. In my experience, students in my cohort didn’t party as most of us had family and work responsibilities in addition to grad school work.

  • I just recently enrolled in a doctoral program, anxiously waiting to be “found out” like when are they going to find out I’m not supposed to be here. It has been a mental struggle, for sure. I experienced imposter syndrome in grad and undergrad school. I’m still wondering how I got through it–it was nothing but by the grace of God!

    • At first, imposter syndrome really affected me. There will be a moment, almost a transition, when you get so far into the research you do that you are teaching your adviser about the project, rather than the other way around. I recently hit this mark and that really made me feel like I belong. You will have that moment. It usually comes after the 2nd year so hold tight! You got this.

  • Always be true to you. It is tempting to blow with the winds in grad school, but by being true to yourself, you find passion in the field you are trying to master while remaining faithfully a learner despite what education may be swaying you to adopt. Carpe Diem.

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