How Can I Have Fun in Grad School

Do you ever ask yourself, “how do I have fun in grad school?” Wait, you do? So, if you do, you’re most likely a grad student yourself. You have probably exhausted your resources and have come to this blog to get answers to the toughest questions that you have. This is a tough question, I won’t lie to you. It is one of the toughest questions that you can ask yourself while in grad school. Having a fun time while in grad school is essential to your success, and it helps you not hate every minute you’re here.

Having fun while in grad school is not rocket science. If you are one that is in grad school for rocket science, you may find it to actually be fun. So, in that case, having fun is rocket science. Sorry, I am getting off track. Anyway, there are many ways to make the most out of grad school and have fun while doing it. People often read the horror stories of going to grad school and how they had a terrible time. This does not have to be you. Sure, there may be some things that aren’t fun about grad school, but you can have way more fun and exciting things than not fun and unexciting things.

So today I want to talk about a few things in grad school that really makes it fun and exciting. These things can be related to your academics, but I want to kind of shy away from that and find fun things that you can do outside work that will make the whole experience so much better. So, let us get started with the ways in which you can have fun while in grad school.

ways to have fun in grad school

Ways to Have Fun in Grad School

There are a gazillion ways to have fun while going to grad school. Yes, even if you are going to law school, you can still have fun (after you read 15 chapters). Grad school is not supposed to be 60 hours of work a week, no life, and no happiness. No, it’s supposed to be a time where you learn how to do research or be a lawyer or be a doctor. It’s a time in your life where you are able to mess up, and learn from those mistakes without much repercussion. It is a tough time, but you will be able to have some fun, I promise you this.

1) Have a friends group to have fun in grad school

The absolute bets thing that you can do in order to have as much fun as possible is find some friends. Going through grad school alone is something that no one needs to experience. Just the feeling of being alone is sending shivers down my spine. Get a group of friends to just hang out with and talk to. They can be part of your research group, people from other places, or you can use a phone app to find friends that are similar to you. Heck, use tinder and meet friends that way lol.

Having friends can really make the whole experience of grad school so much better. You might be in school for 3 to 8 years, so having people to vent to, go to dinner with, or just hang out will make those years the best. If you are like me, and have had trouble in the past finding friends, go check out my post about how to get friends in grad school (link here). These methods helped me significantly.

Pets in grad school

2) Get a Pet

Probably one of the best decisions that I have made was to get a pet while in grad school. Coming home to a very loud kitty is a great way to brighten up my day. Sirius, my cat, loves to run around and play with toys, but he especially loves to play with the cat wand that I bought him. This means that I have to engage in his play. Have you ever not had fun while watching a cat chase after a mouse on a string? It’s so much fun and get’s you out of the work zone. He has truly made the grad school experience so much more enjoyable and fun because he forces me to have fun.

This is the same with dogs. Taking a dog to a dog park and watching them play is down right awesome. Bring a tennis ball and play fetch with them. What’s even more fun about taking a dog to a dog park is there are other dogs to interact with. if you play fetch, you might have your dog and 20 others chasing after the ball. You can’t be miserable watching all those furry animals chasing after a tennis ball. It’s just not possible.

3) Learn to Love The Journey

Did you know that you can make everything in your life not fun if you change your mindset to a way where you think of only negative things? Yeah, it can happen. Even going to a party with all of your friends can be terrible if you only think about the negative things. What I am saying is, the amount of fun you can have is solely up to you and the way you look at things. The journey to getting a degree is long, but if you have a positive mindset, the journey can be a fun and exciting one. If you thing negatively about the journey, all fun tends to disappear.

I found that counting my blessing each day and really focusing on the positive aspects of grad school has significantly made it more enjoyable and fun. I am in a good mood most of the time which really helps me to find all of the fun things that come with grad school. It’s easy to have fun at work when you are already in a good mood. Try it out and see if it works for you.

Sports to have fun in grad school

4) Join a sports league

I currently am on a kickball team that plays every Wednesday. This gives me a lot to look forward to each week and a way to relieve stress. Plus, I get to have a fun time playing kickball against friends. Joining a sports league can be quite a rewarding experience. You get to stay active, meet people, and for at least an hour, the only thing you worry about is playing. Having fun is the ultimate goal (and winning for some) and you get that when you join sports leagues. If you are more competitive, there are always leagues that place really good players against each other. If you want to just go out and have fun, there are a ton of leagues that do that too.

Intramurals are also extremely fun and you get to meet a ton of people. Grad students love joining theses leagues and you are bound to interact with quite a few. I played flag football with only grad students and had a wonderful time. We lost every game but had so much fun playing.

Hobbies in grad school

5) Start a new hobby

You can start a new hobby or continue with the ones that you have now. I have a few hobbies that I actively participate in to make my grad school experience way more fun. One is wood carving. It is a great way to learn patience and you get to create some really cool things. Another hobby that I have is fishing. Unfortunately, I can’t do this as often because I am on a crunch to finish my doctorate. Fishing is my all time favorite hobby and kept me very happy all throughout grad school. Another hobby of mine is working out. This is great because it helps me stay in shape, reduces stress, and makes the day a bit more fun.

I highly suggest trying new hobbies while in grad school. One hobby that I strongly suggest trying is blogging. I started blogging in grad school and it has helped my writing skills, made the day more enjoyable, and I have been able to make friends from it. Whatever the hobby is, go for it. If it makes these years much more fun then it’s totally worth it.

6) Go to as many events as your schedule allows

One thing that truly makes grad school a great experience is the amount of things you can do for free at your school. You are still technically a student so you get all of the perks that come with being a student. One of those is being able to go to events for free or at a very reduced rate. During the semester, there are millions of things that you can do. During the day, take an hour or so and go to one or two of these events. It is a great break from work and it will make the day better and more fun. As grad students, we do sometimes forget that we can leave our offices and labs. Make it a habit to leave during the day and go enjoy a free event or something for an hour.

Final Thoughts

These are 6 ways to have fun in grad school, pretty much on a daily basis. Grad school is a great time to have fun and be active. You have a ton of freedom in grad school to be able to do wonderful and fun things. It does not have to be a harsh/negative experience. In fact, grad school may be the best time in your life. Take full advantage of that.

I hope you all are having a wonderful time in grad school. I certainly am and I truly give credit to all of the above things that I covered. Try some of them and see how well it makes the experience for you.

So this is it for the night. If you have any more things to add to this list, please comment below. Also, this post (here) is a really good addition to my list. Go check that out. Hopefully the comment section is working. I haven’t had many people comment on my posts lately, so I don’t know. I hope you all have a wonderful week and I will see you in the next one. Peace!

How Busy Are College Students

For those that have just started college or have gone to college and wondered, why are college kids so busy, this is the blog post for you. Well, hopefully it is and answers your question. So how busy are college students really? The answer is really busy. So, I was doing some research to see what the average amount of time student spend doing things during the day. I typed into good, “How busy are college students?” and a nice little snippet cam up with some valuable information.

The website was the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you are not familiar with that, get familiar with them. Anyway, the snippet said this “On an average weekday, full-time university and college students spent 3.5 hours engaged in educational activities, 2.3 hours working, 8.8 hours sleeping, and spent 4.0 hours in leisure and sports activities.” So, in other words, on average, a college student spends 18.6 hours a day either sleeping, engaged in school, or working and leisure.

busy in college

What’s Left

That leaves them about 5.4 hours of time to do other things such as work more, blog, study even more, eat, and literally anything. This seems right and wrong to me at the same time. The numbers that is. When I was in undergrad, I was constantly busy throughout the week. I was working 33 hours a week as well as taking on a full time class schedule. One semester, I had a month where I worked every single day, for 16 hours to stay on top of work. I don’t ever recommend that. So that’s when it seems wrong but the data doesn’t lie. I have had many semesters where I had a ton of free time, so I agree and disagree with the data, depending on the semester that I am thinking of lol.

super busy in college

Some Are Super Busy

College students tend to be extremely busy. It amazes me how some people can hold multiple officer seats in organizations and manage to still take on a full course load. It almost makes me a bit jealous that they are able to balance 50 things at once without failing their classes but I can only take on one outside activity. I guess some people are just made differently. You will meet quite a few people in college that are just like this. They love to have all hours of the day booked up with things and are constantly running around. I have had friends, roommates, office buddies, lab partners, and coworkers just like this. During times of my undergrad years, I became this type of person. It is exhilarating, yet terrible for your mental health.

not being busy in college

Some College Students Just Aren’t That Busy

You will meet many individuals that spend most of their day lounging around, doing pretty much nothing. Yes, it will make you a bit jealous. In fact, it may make you really jealous. These individuals thrive off of not doing anything. They don’t get anxiety when there is a huge gap in their day where they can relax. I always find these individuals to be very happy, since they relax so much.

In college, you will have times where you can be just like these individuals. I guarantee that all 4+ years are not going to be crazy busy. You will have moments in your semester where you can spend hours just vegging out and not doing anything. So don’t worry if you are busy because you’ll have plenty of time to be lazy later.

Be as busy as you want to be in college

They Are As Busy As They Want To Be

If you are concerned that you are going to be too busy while in college, remember this, you are as busy as you want to be. This is pretty much true throughout the semester. Maybe not as much at the end, but definitely for the majority. Towards the end, you’ll be busy with assignments and projects, so let’s remove that from the equation.

Being busy in college is completely up to you. If you want to spend 24 hours doing stuff, go right ahead. If you feel like you want to just take an easy semester, do that as well. Even with your school schedule, you have a choice. If you want an easy semester, schedule it out to be easy classes. You can look online and see which classes require very little work to pass and get good grades in. You don’t want to schedule physics and chemistry the semester in which you want to relax. Those semesters won’t be as relaxing.

If you want to schedule your life to be busy to make another semester easy then go right ahead too. I did this towards the end of my undergrad. My last semester, I believe, was 3 classes and all very easy ones. I specifically did this because I wanted to have a final semester of fun before I started working full time. Unfortunately, that was the semester where I had a huge panic attack, so it didn’t go as planned.

Final Thoughts

College is a very busy time for everyone. If you are in undergrad, you’ll have very busy semester. if you are in grad school, you’ll also have very busy semesters. It is up to you on how busy you make it though. Remember that if you are busy, take some time to actually relax though. You don’t want to burn out, especially half way through the semester. Take some time for yourself and say the work “no”. It is ok to take time away from your busy life to actually enjoy things. trust me, the work will be there when you get back. You’ll never really catch up or get ahead.

Anyway, today’s post is a bit shorter than recent ones. I wanted to get a few extra out this week before I start writing my next chapter of my dissertation. Things are getting busy for me because it is getting close to the end of school for me. I am also trying to get as much done before I leave for the Keys in 2 months. After that trip, you may not get many blog post put of me until after my defense. I hope you all have an awesome day and I will see you in the next post. Peace!

Is It Ok To Fail In Grad School

I have written before about failure in grad school. Today, I want to write a little more about my opinions on the term “failure”. Today’s topic is, “is it ok to fail in grad school?” The answer is, it depends, of course. I do think that failure is good in grad school and also encouraged. There are many ways in which you can fail in grad school, some that are helpful, and some that are not so helpful. So let us dive into what I think about failure in grad school and why it is a blessing and a curse.

fail grad school

Why is it ok to fail in grad school?

Grad school is all about failing. In fact, you should fail ever day until you eventually get it right. The thing that many people have a hard time with, especially when they start, is you are supposed to fail. You are supposed to find out what works, try different things, and explore the unknown. Research is failing until you eventually get it write. In undergrad or even the first few years of grad school, you’ll be taking courses and doing work that probably has a correct answer to it.

It’s like math, there may be a few methods to get the answer, but you have to do them correctly or you won’t get to that answer. If you don’t do it right, you’ll fail an exam or paper. In research, no one knows the correct way to do stuff, that’s why you are doing experiments to figure out how to do it. You are bound to get it wrong quite a bit.

when it's ok to fail in grad school

When it’s ok to fail in grad school from the start

When you first start you graduate studies, you will be used to the question/answer life that you have learned to love your whole academic career. You’ll have a research question and you want to find the answer. You are programmed to look for a way to get that answer or look for someone who go that answer before. The thing is, your research question is unique and may not have a clear way to et that answer. It is up to you and maybe a select few to find that. This will mean that you are going to fail a ton of experiments trying to get an answer. That is part of the process and it is good for you.

Here’s another reason why failure in grad school is important. I overheard my adviser talking to one of our master’s students the other day. Apparently, the student was getting upset because they were having a problem with the program that was being used for their experiments. They were saying how it was a terrible thing to happen and how they failed. My adviser gave a really good piece of advice to them. He said “it’s good that these things happen because now you know how to fix it. Without having the experience of everything going wrong, how will you know how to handle it later on?” I thought this was perfect. See, if things always go the way you want them to, what happens when everything goes wrong? You won’t know what to do in those situations.

When is it not ok to fail in grad school?

Ok, so all failure is not the same. When you are in grad school, failing experiments, learning from your mistakes, and trying over is a plus. So when is it not ok to fail in grad school? That comes down to your course work and preparing for your qualifying exams. Course work is important. The first two years of grad school will most likely consists of just coursework. Failing these classes is bad and can get you kicked out of the program. The good thing about grad school courses are that they are pretty difficult to fail.

Yes, there are programs out there that are very difficult, and I am speaking on my experience. But, I have had many friends in grad school and they all say the same thing, grad school courses are easier in most cases than undergrad. This has been extremely true, especially with my degree in environmental engineering. I have taken some pretty difficult classes, but they were all in the years as an undergrad.

don't fail the classes in grad school

Don’t fail the coursework

Failing your coursework in grad school can really be hard on you. You need to pass in order to be able to do research later on. This is why it’s imperative to do well in these classes no matter what. The research will be there. If you are in the first two years of a doctorate and you’re prioritizing research over passing classes then you are doing it wrong. Research is important, but wait until you are only doing research. Pass the classes first.

The Qualifying Exam

This is something that is bad to fail, especially if you want to get your PhD. You have to pass the qualifying exam, and man is it tough. It is different for all departments, but if you are curious about it, go read my blog about taking my exam. (link here). It occurs usually after the third semester of your PhD, though it can be later. If you pass this exam, you become a PhD candidate and are welcomed as a researcher.

I know people that have failed this exam. More times than not, people will pass. It’s difficult, but totally doable. If you happen to fail though, you will have another attempt at it before they basically tell you to leave with a master’s. This isn’t all bad because some people start their PhD journey not knowing what they want. If they fail the qualifying exam then they can go on their way and get a job. It’s not bad unless you really want a PhD, then you really need to focus on passing.

learn to fail in grad school

You Didn’t Fail, you Just Learned What Not To Do

I often feel like a failure in grad school. It has taken me quite a long time to be ok with failure and accept that it is part of the process. I have learned so much these past 3.5 years in my doctoral program and I have to thank persistence for that. See, without me failing, I wouldn’t have learned anything. If I got everything right, I would have missed out on the whole learning process that comes with grad school. I tell new students all the time that a PhD is an apprenticeship. you are not here because you know everything. If you did, you would have 50 doctorates, a Nobel Prize, and probably be on Jeopardy. you are here to learn how to do research and learn how to fail until things go right.

Everything should be a learning experience. If an experiment goes wrong, write that down. Don’t repeat what made it fail. Brain storm and see how to do it better. This is what advisers want to see. Yes, they would love for you to get publishable data, but they also want someone that can do research and become an expert in their field. As long as you learn something from every failed attempt, you won’t be considered a failure. Remember, “a smooth sea never made a great sailor”-FDR.

Final Thoughts

It’s finally happening guys, my posts are getting ranked on Google. People from all around the world are reading my posts and I couldn’t be happier. I started this blog to help grad students and I think there are people out there that might be helped because of me. This is exciting. Anyway, I hope you guys are doing well and having a wonderful month. It’s summer so comment with any plans that you have for the next few months. If you have a post that you want me to write about, send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. Heck, send an email saying hello. Also, if you haven’t checked it out yet, go see my blog about grad school memes. Here is a link to that (link).I will see you all in the next one. Peace!

Life in Grad School

If you are a follower of this blog, you can pretty much see how life is for me while in grad school. Life in grad school has been a wonderful combination of ups, downs, twists, turns, and backtracks. Yes, it has been quite the journey and this is fairly similar to other’s who has joined me in my quest to obtain a doctorate.

When you think of life in grad school, you probably think of studying a ton, writing more papers than you ever wanted to, no time, and all other very negative things. The truth is, that usually occurs for a very small group of individuals. Also, you probably went on to some forum and read about everyone complaining about grad school and how terrible it is. You know what people love to do? Complain. Grad school is one of those things where it is easy to find something to complain about. Thankfully, life in grad school is much more than just work. It is a time to truly explore yourself and figure out who you are, and where you want to go.

life in grad school

What is Life Like in Grad School

Life in grad school is a combination of being an undergrad and having a full time job. You are not quite an undergrad anymore but not fully in the working field quite yet. You probably won’t have a very set schedule and might find that a bit hard to deal with, especially when you first start grad school. Let’s look at what life is like for master’s students as well as the crazy doctoral students.

What Life is Like in a Master’s Program

I write quite a bit about what you will be doing as a master’s student (link here). As a master’s student, your life will be a ton of classwork and maybe handling a parttime job, or even a full time job on top of going to school. My life, while in a master’s program was working as an engineer full time and getting my degree on the side. Yes, I was busy, but I chose that life and knew what was going to happen. It did not impact my job performance, but my job did impact my class performance.

Life in a master’s program can be really really really easy and laid back, or it can be excruciatingly difficult and busy. I am saying that it is as difficult as you make it. Some master’s programs are extremely easy. I have had friends do 1 hour of work a week for their entire grad school experience and spend the rest of the time lounging at the pool, going to the gym, and doing everything else they wanted. I have known individuals that spend more time at the lab than any Ph.D. student I know, getting lab work done, writing papers, and doing homework. These are the ones that are extremely stressed, but they chose that life.

Life for the easy master’s degree

If you choose the easy master’s degree then I suggest maybe getting some work experience or really honing on some skills. You don’t have to be busy 24 hours a day. In fact, you can focus on some skills or work while at the pool. It is a great way to make the most out of this time. If you just want to relax all day and enjoy the next two years, go right ahead. That honestly sounds like a dream!

Life for the hard master’s degree

The individuals that work all of the time. Their time in grad school will look a bit different. They may juggle 50 things at once and cry each night, but they are on a journey and have a set goal. Life in grad school for them will not be as fun as the easy path. They will make sacrifices in order to hit these goals. Nothing is wrong with that, but I suggest to these individuals to take time off and enjoy the two years they have in grad school. Once you start working, it kind of goes down hill.

Sometimes, you have a very difficult degree that you go into and you will need to work a ton. Engineering is especially tough and can cause you to spend a great amount of time in the library. Life for hard majors will look a lot like the person above. Luckily, it’s only 2 years. You can do it.

Life in grad school

What Life is Like in a PhD Program

Life as a Ph.D. student can have its ups and downs for sure. You are likely going to be in school for a very long time. This means you’ll experience everything there is that goes with grad school. At first, you’ll most likely be focused on school work. After your qualifying exam, you’ll go exclusively towards research. So, you really get the best of all worlds lol.

Life as a Ph.D. student has been quite a journey. I have experienced depression, anxiety, job satisfaction, job dissatisfaction, highs, and lows, and have learned more about myself than ever before. My life, as well as the other Ph.D. students, are fairly straightforward. We do work a ton, but we love to get out of the lab and do other things. Me, I play kickball and have a part time job. I love to go to the gym and hang with my cat, Sirius. Life in a Ph.D. program is almost like having a full time job that works you to death and pays you less than minimum wage. You try your best to finish the job and move on to something better while also trying to life a fulfilling life.

What it’s really like

For some people, research is their whole life. They wake up, go to work, then come home and go to bed. There is nothing wrong with them, but they do tend to burn out quickly. Then, there is the majority of PhD students that work 40-60 hours a week, have extracurriculars on the side, and enjoy hanging out and living a very normal life outside academia. It is quite a shame that people portray all PhD students to be workaholics that are burnt out and have no life outside academia. It’s simply not true. We have lives and we want to do things that aren’t related to our work. We are passionate about research, but we know that there is much more to life than being in the office.

Overall Life in Grad School

Overall, life in grad school is a fun time that will have its ups and downs. You are here to learn about complex ideas and figure some things out that help push the boundaries of knowledge. That doesn’t mean that you have to be a robot and work constantly. No, life in grad school is about becoming a researcher or lawyer or doctor but also figuring out who you are, where you want to go, and who you want in your life. I find that the flexibility in grad school allows me to accomplish all of these things and has definitely made me a more well-rounded individual. So, if you are readung this and thinking about whether or not to go to grad school, I say do it. Don’t be scared of hard work but know that your life won’t only be in the office. It will be all over the place, exploring so much.

Final Thoughts

I hope you found this to be a decent post about life in grad school. I find that many people are scared because they hear so many horror stories. People love to tell you the negative things that come with their experience but leave out the positives. Grad school is a positive experience and we are normal people, just hotter (more degrees ;P). Your life may look a bit different in grad school, but that is not always a negative thing.

Well all, I hope you have had a wonderful week. It’s the weekend (when currently writing this). Do you guys have any fun things planned for the upcoming week or months? Let me know in the comments below. I hope to see you guys in the next blog. Peace.

More Graduate School Memes

In grad school, things can be quite tough. One way to overcome the sadness and stress of grad school is with more graduate school memes! In fact, today, I have quite a few graduate school memes for you to look through. Hopefully they give you some hope to finish your program and make the most out of this experience. Trust me, finding the good things about grad school will 100% make the experience so much better.

If you like this post, go check out my other meme post for more chuckles. Here is a link to that page (link). Also, if you want to read through some comics and read some grad school jokes, check out my post about that. The link for that is (here). So, let’s get into some good graduate school memes, why don’t we?

My Other Favorite Graduate School Memes

These next few graduate school memes are on the Facebook page “grad school memes with relatable themes”. If you aren’t familiar, I suggest going to check it out.

graduate school memes
by Nick Piskurich

This is me when I was getting ready for my qualifying exam lol.

by Megan Marie

I have taken a few coding classes and can definitely relate to this. As long as it runs when my professor runs it then I am good to go.

graduate school memes
by Maddy Frazier

I don’t think I’ve cried and laughed this much at a meme before lol. This one actually hits pretty hard. Kind of goes well with my post about productivity.

by Jessie Li

This one might not be for everyone, but I can relate to this one. Towards the end of your PhD, you’ll definitely understand this.

Some memes not on Facebook, I think they aren’t

graduate school memes

You are doing enough, don’t listen to them!

If you want more memes that will really make you laugh, go over to cheezburger.com. They have some really juicy graduate school memes for you.

graduate school memes

I think everyone that has ever published anything can really relate to this. For me, it was reviewer 1. Reviewer 2 was actually very nice to me.

graduate school memes

graduate school memes
cheezburger
cheezburger

Final Thoughts

I hope these memes satisfied your craving lol. I found these to be absolutely hilarious and I wanted to share them with you. If you have some good memes, post a link to the page. Anyway, I hope you guys and gals have a wonderful day and I will catch you in the next one. Peace.

Traveling in Grad School: You Can Do It

It’s my favorite time of the year, summer! As a grad student, you tend to favor summers more than any other semester. 1) You won’t have to push through a ton of undergrads to get to your lab. 2) The gym is finally empty so you can workout in peace. And 3) it means your adviser is probably gone for a bit so you can take some time off. If you decide to take time off and go on vacation, I highly suggest doing it during the summer when things are a tad bit slower. Traveling in grad school during this time can be super great and a bit stressful. So today, I want to cover the topic of traveling in grad school and how you can do it without going insane lol.

traveling in grad school

Why You Need To Travel

Life is more than sitting at a computer and doing stupid work until 5 pm. Life is about going into the unknown, exploring what is there, and enjoying everything about this experience. You are more than a grad student, you are a human being. Life is quite a weird thing and you need to enjoy every bit of it. Traveling is one way of doing this. Now, in grad school, you are very limited on the type of traveling that you can do. Money constraints, work load constraints, and everything else in between. So, traveling to far away places might not be on your list of things to do. You can, however, explore the location in which you live. Traveling doesn’t always mean going somewhere far away. It can mean exploring the area where you live.

Traveling is important because you experience new things. You get to remove yourself from the day to day stresses that keep you up at night. Heck, you might just be traveling to see friends or family. This can be a huge stress reliever that adds years back to your life. If you decide to travel outside of the country you live in, you’re bound to be introduced to new lifestyles, cultural differences, and some pretty gosh darn good food. The best thing that you could possibly do is travel while in grad school. You learn so much about yourself and others this way.

traveling home in grad school

Traveling Home

Some of you are going to school pretty far away from where you grew up. For me, I only live about 2 hours away from home, so it is a quick and easy drive home for me. For others, you might be thousands of miles away. I know many students in my department that are from other countries. It’s not so easy being able to travel to see family, especially with plane tickets going up. If you are someone that has to travel a pretty far distance to go home, I have a bit of advice.

First, plan out your trip very far in advance. This serves many purposes. You will find better tickets for plan rides home for one. You can give plenty of heads up to your adviser. Remember, you still are doing research throughout summer. Planning out far in advance also allows you get enough work done so you are stressed about working when you get home. Spending time with family is important and you don’t want to be working the entire time.

traveling to a far away place in grad school

Traveling Somewhere Else

You may be taking time off to go and travel somewhere else and go on vacation. In this case, really plan this out to make sure that you are not working at all. Vacations are extremely important to take while in grad school. If you want to read more about why, check out my post about it (here). Also, if you would like to know some locations where you should visit, check out my post about those (here). I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel to amazing places that I think everyone needs to visit at least once in their lifetime.

Make sure to really plan out everything if you are traveling somewhere new. Make sure all tickets are bought, passports up to date, and hotels booked. Doing this far ahead will make the whole trip smooth and stress free. The point of traveling is to reduce stress and explore. You don’t want to be more stressed.

Traveling in Grad School on a Budget

I think the absolute best part about traveling in grad school is traveling on a budget. Yes, you are poor. If you aren’t, please send me some money lol. Anyway, if you are like most people in grad school, you’re pretty poor. This does not mean you can’t have the best trip of your life. It simply means that you have to put a bit of effort into making the most of it, on limited amounts of money. This makes trips very fun. I would love to have unlimited money and go everywhere, but that’s not realistic and I find limiting the amount of money spent on a trip is actually better. You may need to stay in a hostel if you are traveling abroad. This is actually my go to because you get to stay at some cool places, and meet amazing people. Most of the people going to hostels are the same age as you and trying to make the most of life. It is a great place to meet life long friends.

You also get to experience what it’s really like at that location. For example, I went to China right after graduating undergrad. I was on a very tight budget which didn’t allow me to get taxi rides everywhere or hop on planes each week to go to far away places. No, I had to walk everywhere and use the subway. BTW the subways in china are amazing and cheap. This forced me to completely immerse myself in everything there was in the city. I had to interact with the locals, find my way around a foreign place, and learn to handle being out of my comfort zone.

preparing to travel in grad school

How to Prepare

So here are a few things to consider when preparing to travel anywhere while in grad school. These are things that I personally do which have helped me a ton. Hopefully they work for you as well.

  1. Get plane tickets early
  2. Try and get a travel buddy if going out of the country. Traveling alone might be scary, especially if it’s your first time.
  3. Notify your adviser that you are taking time off and for how long. They will more than likely be Ok with you taking time off.
  4. Book hotels or hostels early. Try not to wait for the last minute, especially if you are traveling during the time of a major holiday. (trust me).
  5. Get most of your work done so you won’t have to worry about anything.
  6. Before leaving, pack for the weather. Wearing shorts in the middle of winter in Beijing is not advised…
  7. Make sure your pets are taken care of.
  8. Plan out a budget and give some wiggle room. If you stick to a budget that’s too tight, you won’t have as much fun.
  9. Do research on where you are going. If it’s home, you know what’s there. If it’s somewhere you’ve never been, find cool things about it and go do them.
  10. Make sure your passport is up to date.
  11. Plan out how to get to the airport. Uber can be expensive but friends can be bribed with food ;p
  12. Tell someone close about where you are going, for how long, and everything about what you are doing. Have them check in with you to make sure you are ok while away.
  13. When planning out things to do, don’t cram a million things into each day.
  14. Allow yourself to get excited.
traveling in grad school: you deserve it

Go On Vacation, You Deserve it.

Please, please, please, go travel somewhere this summer, or fall (if you are reading this in the fall). You deserve a break from academia every once in a while. It is healthy for you to leave the work and go enjoy life. Work will always be there. in fact, leave it there and never come back lol. Man, sometimes I wish I could.

Don’t feel like you need to spend all of your time working on your doctorate. In fact, doing so is actually hurting you. The benefits of taking time off and doing literally anything but work outweigh staying in the office and doing one more thing.

Final Thoughts

For those traveling this summer, let me know in the comments where you are going. I am heading to the Florida Keys in July to go fishing for a week. My family does this each year and it really is needed in my life lol. It will be the last vacation I take before I buckle down for the long write (thesis writing). My defense is coming up quickly so I want to make sure everything is ready. I will need this vacation to rejuvenate myself before I write each day for like 10-12 hours and prepare my dissertation.

I hope you guys get to travel somewhere cool and I also hope that you are having an awesome day! Thank you for reading my post and I hope to see you in the next one. Peace!

Being a Broke Grad Student: It’s Not That Bad!

Today was one of those days where the universe reminded me that I am a broke grad student. I went to the grocery store today to get stuff to make ramen. Yes, I fit the stereotype and eat ramen in grad school. So, I don’t just get ramen, I get peppers, garlic, bok choy, and of course, ramen noodles. I had a gift card, so everything was pretty much free for me, but I saw that just a few items was almost the whole gift card. The cashier was even complaining about the prices of everything.

It sort of made me realize just how broke grad students really are. I didn’t have this problem before, but the inflation has really taken a toll on everyone. See, thankfully, as a PhD candidate in engineering, I make more than most grad students. But recently, the prices of everything have really caused me to have to cut a ton of things out of my life just to be able to get food for me and my cat Sirius. Now, this isn’t a post about how poor we all are and how life sucks being in grad school. No, I want to make a post about how being poor in grad school can be a blessing. So, come with me on a very optimistic journey!

First, Let’s Rant

This rant is for all you grad students working 60+ hours a week and only getting paid for 20. So, grad students work a ton. They also get paid barely enough to eat ramen noodles. Some grad students get paid so little that they are forced to take out loams while their advisers male enough money to go on multiple trips throughout the year, fix their cars when things go bad, and also pay for hospital bills. I know many grad students that have had to leave academia because they were malnourished from not being able to eat.

For those that are going to say “well you’re supposed to be poor, you’re all students”, many of us are students but work a full time job doing research. So, if you decided to work a full time job and go to college at the same time, should your boss give you a pay cut? Grad students are employees.

I do know many grad students that have to have jobs on the side in order to eat as well. I happen to be one of those grad students. The inflation has hit us fairly hard too. See, grad students that get paid a stipend only get raises when the graduate union bargains for one. Colleges do not like giving grad students higher pay and, at least for me, we haven’t seen a raise in stipend since 2017. So, basically, we all make significantly less than we did 5 years ago.

Ok, I got that out of my system, now let us talk about how being poor in grad school can actually be a bit of a gift. I will give a few examples to make things a bit more optimistic.

Being a poor grad student is a blessing

Being a broke grad student can be somewhat of a blessing, though you may not be able to see it. Let me explain a little. See, being poor teaches you a ton of very valuable life lesson and skills.

Let’s first start off with the lessons that we are taught.

Being poor makes you understand what most of the nation is going through. You understand the hardships that come with being lower class. You can share these feelings with others and know just how hard it can be for many people living the same way as you. See, you may not realize these things when you are making money and possibly middle to upper class.

Another valuable lesson that you learn is to appreciate the things that you do have. See, in a materialistic society, we always want more, more more. When was the last time that you bought something and used it more than once lol? We often buy things because we can. We always want something and Amazon or online shopping or anything has made it to where we can satisfy that want. So, we tend to by stuff to satisfy this want.

When you are poor, you start to appreciate the very simple things in your life like going on walks, hanging with friends without having to spend money, and other things like maybe taking a hike or a bike ride, if you have a bike. Simple stuff like this is what really brings us join in our lives. Those materialist items will bring some happiness, but it never lasts.

being a broke grad student

You learn how to be poor

When you have money, you don’t know anything but that. What would happen if you lost all of your money one day? You’d be in a very bad situation. You might not know what to do with yourself and you’d be extremely stressed out, that’s for sure. When you are in grad school, you learn how to live and survive on very little. You are able to feed yourself and house yourself on extremely little for a very long time. You learn how to shop for deals, live at places that you can afford, and manage money. These are skills that are not really taught in school. These are also highly valuable skills that will benefit you in the future. Once you graduate, you may continue to live this way. You might have a ton of money but live in a very quaint apartment or house.

Learning how to live on very little money has helped me so much when it comes to food shopping and apartment hunting. I have learned all of these soft skills that I wouldn’t have while working full time. So, when all of my money seems to disappear one day, I will be ready!

More Great things about being a broke grad student

Here is a list of more great things that come from being a broke grad student. If you have any more to add, please share in the comments.

  1. You won’t eat out as much. This is good for your health, unless you start buying McDonalds everyday lol.
  2. You Won’t spend all of your money on Amazon.
  3. You’ll start using coupons and figure out the best deals on items.
  4. You won’t develop bad habits such as partying every night like you did in undergrad.
  5. You’ll get very creative presents for people. You might even just make stuff instead of buying things.
  6. You may come up with a way to make side money that is passive (cough cough blogging).
  7. You don’t have to worry if you lose it all since you don’t really have much to lose.
  8. The friends in your life are “real friends” as they don’t just hang out with you when you partying.
  9. You will know what rock bottom is like and know that it’s only up from here.
  10. People will buy you tings because they know you are poor. This one is one of my favorites lol.
  11. You buy fewer items which means that you are less likely to end up on the show “Hoarders”
  12. You know you can handle tough times and become a stronger person because of that.

Final Thoughts

You know, thinking about writing this post made me a bit worried because I didn’t think I could come up with enough reasons to be happy as a broke grad student. Now I realize that I am very happy as a broke grad student and very appreciative of the time I have had as one. I know many people struggle with finances while in grad school. I totally understand and I have a post about how to handle that (link here). The best thing that you can possibly do to be a little less miserable is count your blessings. Write out all of the good things about being broke in grad school, like I did above, and really see that it is not as bad as you make it out to be. Changing our perception of something can really make a difference.

How was that? Are you feeling better about being poor lol? Let me know if you agree with my post or not. Be happy guys and gals, it’s the weekend. Go do something fun and enjoy the beautiful weather. I am hoping to go scootering tomorrow or possibly kayaking, but we will see. I hope you all have a wonderful night/ day, depending on when you read this. I will see you in the next one. Peace.

Apply For Jobs For After Grad School

I have been actively looking for jobs after grad school for the past month. I graduate in almost 7 months to the day, so I figured I would try my luck at job hunting. Man, has it been quite the journey so far. I have had quite a few interviews so far and I almost get emails daily about setting up more interviews. Finding a job with a doctorate has been pretty easy so far.

Today, I want to talk about when to really start looking for jobs and some other helpful advice when it comes to the job search. This is totally my opinion, not backed by research or anything lol. I am sure that there are studies out there on when the best time to apply for a job in grad school. Maybe I will link some in this post if I find some.

Applying for Jobs For After Grad School

This is what it’s all about. Grad school prepared you for your next phase at that usually is one of two things 1) academia jobs 2) industry jobs. If you are like me, you are probably going into industry. Yes, being a professor sounds really cool, but I want some experience first, and honestly want to make some money. At least enough to pay off loans lol.

Applying for jobs for after grad school can be difficult at first. You may not know what you want to do in life. You might be comfortable where you are and continue doing things because it’s familiar and not scary like going to a new place. I get it, this is a scary part of the journey, but also a very exciting one. Trust me when I say, it will all be fine!

What you need to do first

You have been studying for years, taking exams, writing papers, doing research, and writing dissertations. This is all you really have done for a while and now you have to find something that uses those skillsets to actually make a difference. The very first thing that you must do before applying to a job after grad school is find out what you want to do with your life. Well, find out what you want to do with your life at the moment. Your career interests will definitely change so don’t think you’ll be stuck doing the same thing for the rest of your life.

The biggest things is to search for careers that interest you. Something meaningful, exciting, maybe good paying (I can go on and on about this lol), and something that essentially makes you happy or at least feel satisfied. The people that do the best work are the ones that find meaning in what they do and are genuinely interested in the work. The ones that aren’t interested yet do really good work are called robots lol. If you are searching for a career in something that doesn’t pique your interests, you won’t be fulfilled. There are exceptions though. You may find your niche by taking a weird job that you had no interest in. This does happen, but maybe try that later on down the road.

What you need to do next

When applying for jobs for after grad school, you need to not put it off until the end. First, figure out when you are going to graduate. This is important, especially with doctorates, because sometimes things happen and you graduate earlier or later than expected (thanks Covid). Once you know when you will be graduating, plan to start looking for jobs at least 6 months out. It can be a casual look. You don’t have to go hard with applications at this moment. But see what is out there. Maybe send a few applications to large companies that hire students that haven’t graduated yet. The worst thing that can happen is you get interview experience lol.

I know many people that were stressed to get jobs because they waited until like a few weeks before graduation. They weren’t prepared and hadn’t gone through the hiring process before, so they didn’t know how long it takes from interview to first day. Don’t be like them. Plus, if you secure a job pretty far out, you can worry just about finishing your doctorate or master’s. You don’t have to worry about snagging a job.

Interviewing for Positions

You will most likely get quite a few emails/calls/carrier pigeons to schedule interviews. I had 3 in one day this week. It was crazy at how many people wanted to schedule interviews. This is great. Of course, I sent out around 20 to 30 applications so far. This will happen to you. This is also why I stress the importance of starting early. You might apply to 100 places and hear back from 1. Also, you could apply to 3 places and hear back from all of them. The job finding game is an unpredictable one.

Once you do get an interview, it will usually be an initial phone interview to make sure you are actually a person and to tell you more about the position and the company. I had one of these the other day. These are pretty informal and casual in nature. I got to learn more about the company and position I applied for as job descriptions really don’t do justice. After the phone interview, they may schedule you for an in person interview or one on the computer. These are usually an hour long and are with the people that you are most likely going to be working with. They want to see if you can do the job and are a team player. I have found these to be pretty casual too.

When interviewing, make sure to dress professionally. This includes skype/zoom/teams calls. You want to impress the hiring manager/managers from the get go. I highly recommend getting dress shirts and coats. If you are still pretty concerned what to wear, just literally Google “job interview attire”. That will give you the best examples of what to wear and not to wear for interviewing.

Here is a site that I just found that gives you a ton of description on what to wear for interviews.

Have Fun and See if it’s the right place for you

The interviewing process is a great time to have fun and learn more about the company. Getting interviews means that you stand out among other candidates. This is a major win for you because all of the hard work the past 3-8 years has paid off. Go into that interview with the confidence of someone who deserves to be there but also with having fun in mind.

One of the things I tell people is this isn’t just the company interviewing you to see if you are a good fit. It should be you interviewing them to see if that company is a good fit for your life. Many grad students go into these interviews trying to please the hiring manager so they get the job. They later find out that they absolutely hate the job and only wanted to go there because of the reputation of the company. As I said earlier, the people that do the best work and are most fulfilled are the ones that found a job that fits them.

Final Thoughts

This post was aimed primarily towards those that are looking for jobs in industry. If you are looking at academic positions, that will come soon I am probably going to apply to some positions for professorships in the next few weeks as well as postdocs. I will keep you all updated with how those interviews go because I know for a fact that those are way different that interviewing for an industry position.

I hope you guys found this to be a somewhat decent post. It is a bit different than usual, but something that is very important in the grad school community. Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Also, if you haven’t read my post about the best gifts to get grad students, you can check it out here. I will see you all in the next one. Peace!

Goals for Grad Students

Today, I want to discuss with you some goals that need to be on you list of achievements in grad school. Overall, the main goal of grad school is to graduate, make a difference, and not go insane, right? There are some other goals that I truly believe are important to strive for that will benefit you as a student and professional. Honestly, the goals for grad students that I am about to share of some that I have been working to reach. Am I there, heck no lol, but I have learned quite a bit from trying to reach these goals.

What are some common goals for grad students that you know of? Publishing peer reviewed articles is probably a good start. Graduating is probably the next biggest goal. The ones I want to talk about today are probably goals that you might not think are important now, in the beginning stages of grad school, but oh man, you’ll want to try and hit these by the end. So let’s talk about goals for grad students!

6 Goals For Grad Students To Aim For Before Graduation

Yes, I have 6 goals that you need to aim for. There are many more, but I feel that these are the most important for all graduate students. If you would like to add some more, please comment on this post. I love when people comment.

goals for grad students: presentation skills

1) Being Able to Give a Presentation Without Having a Breakdown

Ok, so I think this is a goal that everyone has. Grad students have to give a ton of presentations and they are nerve wracking. One of the biggest fears that people have is public speaking. Grad school will probably lessen that fear. This goal is a great one to ty and achieve because of the amount of talks you are gong to have to give. You’re also going to have to present your research multiple times and having a mental breaking prior to presenting is not good. Presentation skills are essential to being able to graduate as well as being a very good researcher. This is why one of your goals in grad school should be focused on being able to give a presentation and be able to answer questions. If you can do this, you will be very successful.

2) Being Ok With Not Knowing Everything

I am going to tell you something that may hurt your feelings or make you uncomfortable. YOU DON”T KNOW EVERYTHING!!! Are you a bit uncomfortable with that? Good. Grad students tend to think they know everything until they figure out that they don’t. Usually around the second semester, they start realizing that they don’t really know much about their research and that can cause some anxiety. You are surrounding yourself with people that do know what they are talking about and you might not know much. The thing is, you’ll learn as you go and you’ll start knowing a lot more on the research subject, but you won’t know everything. Once you realize that it is ok not to know everything, then you can release a ton of stress and anxiety. Research is about finding why things happen which means that people don’t have the answers and it’s up to you to figure it out. Be alright with not knowing everything, you have a long journey to learn. Plus, if you knew everything, then you wouldn’t be doing research.

goals for grad students: deal with finances

3) Graduating Without Too Much Debt

One of my goals in undergrad was to go to as many parties and stay social as much as possible. I had loans that would cover my expenses. Yes, I know this is irresponsible, but that’s what you think about as a 21 year old. In grad school, your main focus is to learn to do research, get a higher education, and grow as an academic. You are also going to be pretty poor so taking on debt might be an option. In grad school, a really good goal is to try and limit your debt and live within your means.

Don’t be like me in undergrad and spend a ton of money partying lol. This is a great goal to tr and achieve because it teaches you how to manage money. With a grad degree, you’ll probably make a bit of money when you graduate. The good thing that happens is you learn to live on very little money and not spend it all at once. I thing grad school really forces you to be financially responsible.

goals for grad students: handle stress

4) Be able to Handle Stress

Grad school is stressful. I write about the stress all of the time (check out the links here, here, here). One goals to aim for is being an expert in stress management. If you can control stress and anxiety, you can rule the universe. Seriously, people go their whole lives without being able to handle stress and anxiety and it makes things very difficult. Finding the best way to manage stress in grad school will be one of the biggest goals that you need to try and achieve. Not only will this help you graduate on time, but you will not end up with a mental health problem. Grad students are prone to being affected by mental health issues. One of the main reasons this occurs is because of stress. Finding a way to handle this stress and overcome it is one of the best things you can strive for.

5) Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfotable

I wrote an article about doing something that makes you a bit uncomfortable every single day. Here is a link to that post. A goal that I am trying to achieve is being comfortable with thigs that bring me out of my comfort zone. As I say in the post, this is where the magic happens. Growth occurs when you decide to branch out and leave what makes you comfortable. In grad school, you will have to do a ton of thigs that you would rather not do. Conferences, presentations, writing, talking on the phone, emailing about reference letters, etc. If you can become comfortable with doing things that originally made you uncomfortable, you’ll be unstoppable.

Think about all of the things that are stopping you from advancing in your studies. You might be afraid to ask questions or email your professor. You know that doing such things will help you but it makes you feel uncomfortable so you don’t do it. Be ok with the feeling and do it anyway. Eventually you’ll get to a point where you won’t feel weird asking questions, talking to people, or anything else. It’s a bit of exposure therapy. Check it out.

goals for grad students: Being able to say you had a good experience

6) Aim to Be Able To Say “I Had A Great Grad School Experience”

People love to complain about their grad school experience. It really isn’t that bad. Of course so people do have a bad time, but collectively, it’s really not that bad. I think a great goal to achieve is finding all of the good things about grad school and remembering those when you get to the finish line. Really focus on the good that comes from your time in college. We need more people going online and encouraging people to go to grad school. There’s a ton of negative Reddit posts that discourage grad school. Trust me, if you focus on the good that came with grad school, you’ll have a better time. Aim to reach this goal. It’s very important.

Final Thoughts

We have come to the end of the post about goals for grad students. I hope you found this information informative and helpful. If you would like to add some other goals, please comment them. I know that this post is a bit late in the week. Yes, yes,I know, I haven’t been posting as much because I’ve been going hard on job applications. I have had a few interviews so far and I think I will write a post about that. Getting a job after a PhD is quite an interesting process. Anyway, I hope you all are having a wonderful day and week and I will see you in the next one. Peace.

Graduate vs Undergraduate: Who’s Better?

We have a battle going on. It’s a battle of graduate vs undergraduate and who is better. Place your bets now! Ok, now that you have your bets down, let us talk about graduates vs undergraduates. First, we need to define what each one is. I’ll start this segment off by showing the difference better graduate students and undergraduate students. Then I will go into who I think is better. Well, maybe not who is better, but definitely what each entails and maybe the level of difficulty that each has. So, hold on tight everyone while we go head to head in Graduate vs Undergraduate (queue cool music that they usually play in moments like this).

Graduate vs Undergraduate: undergraduate student

What is an Undergraduate

So let’s start off defining what an undergraduate is for those that are not too familiar with the term. An undergraduate, according to the dictionary, is “a student at a college or university who has not yet earned a bachelor’s or equivalent degree”. So, an undergrad is just someone who is in the first 4 years of college. They are the babies of the campus. Think dorm room living, dining hall eating, partying every night individuals lol. These are the ones that are in the beginning stage of their learning as well as getting ready for either grad school or job searching.

Undergraduates are in the exam and paper stage of their college careers. Usually undergrads are doing coursework only which requires passing a ton of exams. At the end of the semester, there are usually projects that come with most classes. Some undergrad degrees even require doing an internship in order to graduate. But, primarily, their job is to go to class, pass exams, and move on to the next course. Undergrads usually learn a lot of information about a lot of subjects.

Graduate vs Undergraduate: graduate student

What is a Graduate

Grad school is a bit different that undergrad. A grad student is one who has finished their bachelors and is trying to obtain a master’s or doctorate. This also includes the professional degrees like medical and law. Grad students will take courses and many will also do research. You usually go into a specialty at this point and study a lot about one particulate field. For me, grad school is learning a lot about water systems. My master’s was all about water and my PhD is even more niche and deals with lead in water. Undergrad was all about environmental issues which included air, soil, water, solid materials, and climate. Way mor broad than what I deal with now.

Grad students will primary conduct research. Either this or they will be in an MBA program or a professional program. For those in the research field, the classes the take are there to help them do the research and understand wat is going on. Grad students are less focused on passing the class and more focused on learning the material so they can benefit some way from it.

Graduate vs Undergraduate: whos better

What is the difference better Undergraduate and Graduate

So the main difference between graduates and undergraduates, other than having a bachelors, is really the focus of their studies. Undergrads will primarily focus on a very broad topic and graduates will hone in on a very niche topic and study a great amount on that particular subject. This makes both graduate and undergrade studies very difficult.

Another key difference is length of the degree. An undergraduate degree is usually 4 years while a graduate degree can be anywhere from 1 all the way up to 7 or 8 years. Class load is also a difference as undergrads will usually take 12 to 16 credits and grad students will take a maximum of 9 to 12.

Graduate vs Undergraduate: what's harder

Which is harder

So, when comparing which is harder, it really comes down to what your major is. I found that undergrad engineering was much harder than getting my masters. In some cases where undergrad was easy, grad school might be wayyyyyy harder. If you are comparing things like getting a degree in underwater basket weaving to law school, of course grad school is going to harder.

I think undergrad might be harder than grad school. This is my opinion, if you think otherwise, let me know in the comments. Hear me out. In undergrad, you learn some complex ideas about a whole bunch of things. You will be constantly busy, broke, exhausted, and pushed to the limits. You have to pass courses in order to get your degree and you have a very limited amount of time to accomplish this. In grad school, you do have to pass courses, but the classes are much easier because you have conditioned yourself already to passes exams. The research is the hard part. In a master’s program, usually you are working on a research project that your adviser knows will work. It’s mostly there to get you introduced to research.

A Doctorate is Different

In a doctorate program, you may have a project where no one knows the outcome, but you don’t really have a set time to complete it. In fact, if you have enough funding, you can be in the program for a very long time. The hard part about a PhD is being independent most of the time while working on this project. You will probably be the only person in the world that knows anything about what you do. This can be super tough.

So when it comes to graduate vs undergraduate and which is harder, I think undergraduate takes the cake. This doesn’t not mean that all undergrad degrees are harder and this doesn’t mean that all graduate degrees aren’t harder. I just find that getting an undergrad degree, overall (well at least in the STEM fields) is more difficult.

Graduate vs Undergraduate: So Ben, Who is Better

When it comes to graduate vs undergraduate, I have to go with graduates for this because I am pretty biased lol. I love my undergrads, but I think they are still a bit immature. When in undergrad, I was the immature one. I did not have any experience whatsoever and thought I knew the how whole world worked. Once I started working full time, I realized that I knew nothing. Grad school is where I learned how to actually be a scientist and an engineer. I learned about my weaknesses and my strengths and I have grown into the person I am today because of grad school.

Undergrads, I love you all. I have so much respect for you and what you are going to accomplish. Undergrad was an amazing 5.5 years of my life and I know you all are having a great time. Those were some of the best years of my life, and some of the hardest. Enjoy the time you have because life gets tough and it is nothing like college. I guess another reason why grad school is better is because you can put off post grad things as well. Yes, it will eventually catch up to me, though.

Final Thoughts

When going head to head, graduate vs undergraduate, who do you think is better? I am curious to know. I hope this was a decent post. I wanted to have some fun with it and see where it took me. This is an interesting subject and I thought it would be a good one to tackle today. Anyway, I hope you are all having a great day. If you haven’t already, go check out my post about the Best Grad School Memes (link here). Those are sure to brighten up you day. See you all in the next one. Peace!

Grad School Mental Breakdown

Today I am going to cover a very tough subject and that is grad school mental breakdowns. Everyone that I know has their own story. I have a few stories and I will share one with you. Having a mental breakdown in grad school, let alone life, is a fairly common occurrence. Life is not easy, in any sense. In fact, it is the hardest thing that you will ever do. Having a mental breakdown can be a scary thing, but there are some things that we can do to prevent them and even take control when they occur.

My Mental Breakdown(s) in grad school

I have had quite a few grad school mental breakdowns, Usually they have all occurred in the first year to year and a half of grad school. This is a weird transition for many people and these breakdowns usually occur then. The biggest mental breakdown was right before Covid. It actually cause me to seek help from a therapist. I was doing my thing in school and starting my research. I was alone for a great deal of time and always had a feeling of loneliness, but never anything that really made me have a breakdown. It wasn’t until, I think Christmas time, where I snapped. I was stressed from school, I had no one to talk to, and the feeling of loneliness overwhelmed me. My anxiety was through the roof and I had some episodes of pretty bad depression. This last a few months until therapy really started to kick in.

Mental Breakdowns are Different For Everyone

Grad school affects everyone differently. Some people are fortunate enough to go through and never have a mental breakdown. Others, have a hard time with them. Grad school mental breakdowns also have different forms. You might have a breakdown because you failed a test. You might have an overwhelming sense of anxiety, sadness, depression, and any other negative emotion. But this may only last a day or so. Some mental breakdowns can occur even longer. For me, it lasted much longer than I wanted it to. Yes, I still have mental breakdown, but they are the shorter types now.

Be Prepared

Grad school is stressful. Sometimes, the stress will be so much that it may lead to a mental breakdown. Unfortunately, this is normal. Why this is a normal thing is beyond me and I really wish people wouldn’t push themselves to the absolute limit. It’s terrible on your health and mental state. The best think you can do is prepare for something like this to happen. Until the whole system changes, there will always be mental breakdowns for grad students and college student.

One of the best ways to prepare is to handle stress early on. Grad school has a funny way of going from slow to 100 mph in a day. You might be having a good week, low stress, then get hit with 4 assignments and 3 papers all due in a matter of days. This can be extremely stressful. Being prepared and having the ability to cope with the stress can help train your mind to be able to handle the hardships that are going to come your way. One way of doing this is to take breaks when feeling overwhelmed. Do meditation. Finding a stress relief method such as exercise or even combining meditation and exercise by going on a meditation walk (Yes that is a thing).

Also, if you are able to, do not procrastinate. I think many mental breakdowns can be avoided just by starting early and getting small amounts of work done each day. Imagine you have a few assignments due but put them off until the last minute. You’re going to be stressed beyond belief. You probably won’t do your best work, which might cause you to get an F, and you’ll be stressing over it until you get started. All of these combined are a recipe for disaster.

If you Are Having a Grad School Mental Breakdown

So, you’ve tried to prepared, but you still had a grad school mental breakdown. What can you possibly do? So, there are a few things that you can do in order to reduce the breakdown that I think are quite beneficial. Some of these are really easy to do and I use them often to help reduce the chance of me having one as well as reduce the breakdown while I am having it. Hopefully some of these help.

Grad School mental breakdown
cry it out

Cry it out and then move on

I don’t remember the last time that I have cried while having a mental breakdown. I do know people that cry it out though. This works if it is something like failing a test, being overwhelmed at the moment, or anything else where the breakdown is a bit short. Just cry it out. Cry as much as possible and wear yourself out. Get it completely out of your system. As soon as you are done, you’ll probably be so exhausted that the mental breakdown doesn’t faze you anymore.

This is a good moment to calm down, forgive yourself for feeling bad, and learn from the experience. Maybe after a good cry, you realize that the grade really isn’t that bad or you might not have as much work as you think you do. You’ll have a bit of clarity afterwards and that can help solve many of your problems. A friend of mine has done this multiple times and they ended up better than fine. They also graduated with many honors and a great career.

Run Away

I don’t necessarily mean run away from the problem. I actually mean to physically run. get yourself up and go on a long run or, better yet, go sprint. You’ll probably be full of anxiety and unwanted energy. Go exhaust yourself. You really can’t have a mental breakdown when you’re running. This is kind of like crying it out. You exhaust yourself and then you might gain some clarity afterwards. You can also go to the gym and just lift heavy weights instead. I find this difficult though because during a mental breakdown, you’re mind is racing and lifting weight might not be distracting enough.

Grad School mental breakdown

Spend time with others or alone if you need to

Grad school can be lonely and this might cause some unwanted feelings to come up. If you have a mental breakdown because of being alone all of the time, try and spend some time with others. If it is the opposite and you are having a breakdown because you are overwhelmed with people, try getting alone for a while. On the other hand, if you need to be alone, try and go somewhere that in nature. Go to a park, or walk a trial in the woods. If you need to see people, call up a friend and ask them to dinner. Go somewhere that’s busy and you’ll see many people.

If you are having a mental breakdown but don’t want to go do stuff, try calling up a friend or loved one and just talk. Get them to take your mind off whatever is making you have a breakdown. Talk with them about why this happened and maybe they can give you another way of looking at what’s going on. Sometimes, you can solve your problems and calm down all because someone talked to you and possible gave you another way of looking at your problems. Sometimes, all it takes is a phone call.

Grad School Mental Breakdown Getting help

Get Some Professional Help

This is what I did. I signed up through Talkspace.com and was in contact with a therapist right away. If you are having a ton of grad school mental breakdowns, it probably means that you are not able to handle the stress and emotions as well as you could. A therapist will help you with this. I highly, highly, highly recommend seeing a therapist more than anything to be honest. My therapist truly made a difference in my life. I rarely have mental breakdowns anymore, and if I do, I know how to handle them and learn from them. I wrote all about my experience, (here). Go check it out and see if it’s something that’s right for you.

Most Of All, Be Kind To Yourself

I think the most heartbreaking thing that I see grad students doing when they are stressed or if things go badly is that they blame themselves or put themselves down. If you truly want to end the vicious cycle of grad school mental breakdowns occurring all of the time, you have to be kind to yourself. This means not beating yourself up if you didn’t do you best work or negatively talking about yourself when things go bad. I am not saying to blame other’s either, unless it’s truly their fault. I am saying not to blame anyone.

If things are overly stressful, don’t put yourself down for putting off the work until last minute. Instead, tell yourself that you will be more proactive next time and learn from your experience. You might have a mental breakdown at first, but if you are kind to yourself and learn from your mistakes, you’ll have much fewer.

I think what really helped me in the end was being kind to myself, learning from each experiencing, and growing from them. At first, this can be a hard thing to do, but keep going. Things are always hard at first but get easier the more you do it.

Final Thoughts

Having a grad school mental breakdown does not mean you are crazy or going to fail. It means that you are human. The best thing that humans can ever do is learn from every experience, get right back up, and keep pushing on. See, grad school never gets easier. It never will. You just get better. You can either “survive grad school” or you can thrive in it. If you are here because you are having mental breakdowns in grad school, remember that you are not alone. Every grad student has at least had a few. You’re human, it’s going to happen.

If you are having trouble with grad school and need some advice, I am always here to help. Send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. We can talk about ways to make sure that you get the most out of grad school as well as leave without going insane. I hope you all have a wonderful day that is stress free. I will see you all in the next one. Peace.

Failing an Exam in College

Failing an exam in college is quite a heartbreaking thing. You studied countless hours only to received a grade that was much less than you hoped. Trust me, I have experienced a ton of grades that started with 4s and 5s lol. I have failed quite a few exams in both undergrad as well as grad school. Today, I am here to discuss how to react, what to do, and how to overcome failing an exam in college. I will discuss how to go about failing an exam in undergrad as well as grad school. They aren’t too different, but the way you deal with it in grad school is different than undergrad.

failing an exam in college

What It feels like to fail an exam in college

For those of of you starting college, or those that have been in it for a while, you’ll eventually get a failing grade. There are a select few that will never experience an F on an exam, and we all envy those people. Failing an exam is like getting kicked in the gut. You might have studied weeks for an exam, gotten to it, and completely forgot everything there was to know. If you aren’t familiar with test anxiety, read about it (here). This can cause you to forget everything and fail an exam. Of course there are other reasons why you failed. Maybe you didn’t study. Shame on you lol but life may have gotten in the way and made it impossible. So, no shame on those people.

When you study for a long time to get a failing grade, it physically and mentally hurts. As I stated, it can feel like you were kicked in the gut. Mentally, your brain will be going to every negative thought in the book. You might have self doubt. The amount of worrying for your future will increase, and anxiety will be very high. If you are on the premed track, you’ll probably be thinking that you aren’t set out to be a doctor. I think the mental effects are the absolute worse. But it will be fine.

What to do first when you get a failing grade on an exam

First thing first, do not blame yourself and do not panic. Failing an exam in college happens all of the time. There are so many reasons why you may have failed that exam. The test may have been unfair. You may not have had enough time to prepare for such a hard exam. Test anxiety kicked in and made you forget what happened. Heck, something may have happened that week that really put you in a bad mental state, one where you probably wouldn’t have passed the exam anyway. Whatever the cause, do not blame yourself. If you are coming to this blog, you are probably finding ways to cope with failure because you usually do well and are an overall good student.

The first thing that you need to do is look over the answers and see where you went wrong. Maybe you got the answers right and the TA marked it wrong. Maybe you just made some silly mistakes and seeing the answers will show you that you were on the right course, just not there. Just take a look at the answer sheet and see what went wrong. If there were mistakes made by the TA, email the professor right away. You might get quite a few points back.

Next, after you saw what went wrong, go over the problem again and really understand how to do the problem. One weird, but actually understandable, think that will happen is you’ll remember how to do those problems later. Years later, I still remember the material on the exams I failed. I also remember how to do those problems still. That’s because I went back and learned. The combination of learning and having a tragic event like failing really solidified those questions in my head. I think it’s a form of Flashbulb Memory.

Moving past failing an exam in college

IU think this may be one of the hardest things to do. Failing an exam in college can be extremely difficult to get over. You will be worrying whether or not you will pass the next exam and I guarantee you will probably be looking at different majors lol. I did that after failing an exam in undergrad. I got a D+, which is technically a failing grade for certain courses. This was a critical tracking course, which meant that I needed a C and nothing lower. A D+ really messed with me.

What I did after getting that grade helped me to move past the feeling of failure. I took a moment, looked at what I did wrong, went over every question, then I went to get ice cream. The first thing to do when moving on is to let it go. You failed an exam. If you did everything in your power to make sure that it was graded fairly then all you can do is move on and tackle to next exam. Do not linger over the fact that that pone exam was bad. Instead, focus on how you can improve and get a higher grade on the next one.

If You Fail an Exam in Undergrad

You are a baby and learning. Unfortunately, your whole existence revolves around passing exams. Failing an exam in undergrad may be detrimental to your GPA and you graduating. My best piece of advice is to actually go to office hours, participate in lectures and everything to do with that class, and I guarantee that you will pass the course, even after failing an exam. DO not give up any hope. Work hard, put in the hours to study and you will be rewarded. Also, be kind to yourself. You may not get straight A’s, but straight A students don’t necessarily make the best employees. I also feel really bad for those that haven’t failed an exam. When the time comes where they do fail something, because they haven’t experienced it before, they’ll have a rougher time with coping with the failure.

Don’t give up hope. Most classes have 3 to 5 exams, so failing one will give you motivation to pass the others. Also, most finals are a lot easier than the first and second exams of the class (TA secret). If you are close to failing the class, stick with it until the final. You’ll have a grade booster then.

failing an exam in college: getting past the failure

If you Fail an Exam in Grad School

So, I have written about whether or not grades matter in grad school. If you want to read about that, here is a link. You probably won’t really deal with failing exams in grad school because most professors will hand out a B as the lowest grade. Colleges are under a ton of pressure to graduate master’s and doctoral students, so they pass pretty much everyone. In grad school, research should be your main focus. If you fail an exam, sure it stinks, but you’ll probably be used to failure so it won’t faze you at all.

If you are concerned with failing an exam in grad school, I have some helpful tips. 1) Take a deep breathe if you do fail one. Go see your professor and go over the exam 2)Forget about it. Go do some research because you will be more remembered for the research you do, the lives you changed, and how you benefit society than passing a stupid test. No one will remember you for passing a class, but they will remember you when you contribute some form of knowledge to the world.

failing an exam in college

In The End

Grades, in the grand scheme of things, don’t matter. No one will ask you how well you did on the second exam of your chemistry course. All you really need to do is pass, actually take something away from the class, and move on to the next one. This is true for most everything unless you are going to grad school or a professional school. Good grades are important then, but one failing grade on an exam won’t really affect you too much. If you are in engineering, just graduating will get you an amazing career.

The most important thing is learning something when you fail an exam in college. If you don’t learn anything, then you truly failed. Failing an exam in college is not the end of the world. You may fail multiple times and that is fine. Just learn from the mistakes that occurred and move on. Life is way too short to ruminate over a stupid test.

Final Thoughts

I want to know. How many college exams have you failed? I think I failed like 10 or close to it. I remember the first few that I failed but lost count lol. If it says anything, I failed more times than I wanted and now I am well on my way to receiving a doctorate in engineering. This is happening because I learned from the failed exams and I grew from them. You can too.

If you haven’t already, go and check out my post about the best gifts for grad students. It’s graduation season so I want to help you find the perfect gift for your grad student. Link is right here. I hope you all have a wonderful day and I will see you in the next one. Peace!