Today is going to be a bit of a sad post. Not because I want it to be, but because I am going to cover some topics that students face that aren’t really fun. I want to talk about a few challenges of grad school that we all experience that are just a bit hard to del with. Yes, the work load is a lot. Your adviser can be super mean. But these are all things that you expect to deal with. Today, I want to talk about a few things that people just don’t want to talk about that you’ll deal with in grad school, as well as undergrad.
You will get older
I wrote a post about how the freshman each year seem younger and younger. It’s currently summer B semester which means the freshman are here. They do look like they are 12, even though most of them are 18-19. It really makes you feel old, especially in grad school. Undergrad was 4 to 5 years of your life. You went through it and made it to grad school. You are probably much older than the undergrads which kind of makes things a bit sad. I, unintentionally, remind myself that I am 10 years older than the incoming freshman. By unintentionally, I mean that it literally just pops in my head when seeing someone with a “UF 26” shirt walk by. This is just one of the challenges of grad school that you will face, almost immediately.
Your friends will come and go
One of the biggest challenges of grad school, and well life, is seeing friends come and go. In grad school, you are going to meet quite a few people and make friends with a few as well. Usually, you’ll have a smaller group of friends, but they are or will turn out to be very close. Seeing them graduate and moving on with their lives is a very difficult thing that you will experience. I have had many friends come and go throughout my time in grad school. It’s pretty hard to get used to this. You always think they will be there until they aren’t.
Time will pass quickly and slowly at the same time
Let me explain this one. One strange phenomena that occurs in grad school, and life, is time tends to speed up. The years get really short but the days seem to get much longer. When in grad school, weeks will pass by in the blink of an eye and it will seem like you got nothing done. This can be good because you will think to yourself “nice, I am closer to graduation”. You’re not lol Graduation is always so far off and seems to just get pushed back even further each year. Because of this, grad school will seem extremely long even though it goes by quickly. It’s a weird thing that happens and definitely is a challenge in grad school.
You won’t feel accomplished after big milestones
When you were young, and very big milestones came up, you probably felt very proud and accomplished when finishing. Things like graduating, passing a class, actually waking up after your 21st birthday, stuff like that. There was this sense of completion. That hardly exists in grad school. There are a few huge milestones that will leave you feeling empty. These include your qualifying exam and even your defense. This isn’t the case for everyone though. Many people will have that feeling of completion, but many of us won’t.
You’ll think “what’s next?” You have spent so much time on a project to finish and just not know what to do in life. This is completely normal and many people have this feeling. It doesn’t make it any easier knowing that you’re not alone though. I find this to be a challenge of grad school because it really makes you wonder if all of this is worth it. It plays with your emotions.
People will never be as excited about something as you are
Everything that you do in grad school is for yourself. It is quite the personal experience, not going to lie. If something “ground breaking” happens such as you find out some weird scientific principle not found or you successfully get a paper published, you’ll most likely be the only one that is excited. People won’t show your level of excitements because they aren’t going through the process of obtaining a graduate degree like you. Even your friends won’t be as excited, even if they are a graduate student. This can be difficult because you want to celebrate and you also want someone there to celebrate with. People will celebrate but won’t understand really why.
You will spend a ton of time alone
I do not mean that you will physically be alone. If you are in a lab, there’s probably other people sharing that lab with you. You may also have lab mates that you see each day. No, the loneliness I talk about is being alone in your thoughts. Grad school, as I mentioned early, is a personal experience. he problems you have are your own. This is especially true when you get to the PhD level. You will have many problems that no one has the answers to and you are all alone trying to figure it out. When in undergrad or a master’s, you have classes. Everyone has the same problems. When in a PhD or research position, the problems you face don’t have solutions in the back of the book.
You will also be alone in your general thoughts. The hardships you face will usually only be faced by other grad students. It is hard to talk to people that didn’t go to grad school about your problems. You really just have to talk with other grad students. This can be quite a challenge. I know that the problems that I face, I only have 1 or 2 people to talk to. Everyone else has never experienced those problems before. If this is the case, I highly suggest seeing a therapist. If you are alone or feel alone, please reach out to a therapist. It was the best thing I ever did.
You will face mental health problems
We all struggle with something. That is for sure. On of the biggest challenges of grad school is your mental health and how it will be pushed to the limits. You will experience so many emotions, and might not be able to handle that. I truly wish that colleges did more to help students cope. Yes, it is hard, but sometimes there are things that the college can do to help individuals. Offering free therapy is one. Paying a living salary is another. Grad school should be a time where you learn but not one where you are so stressed that you literally lose years off your life. It’s tough when some professors think “well I had it tough and therefore my student should have it tough too” That mentality is toxic and terrible for mental health. Be better.
I have to apologize to you all about this post. It is pretty sad and depressing but it is something that people need to know about. Next post will be happier, I promise. If you are reading this and thinking about grad school, please do not be discouraged. One of the best things in my life was going to grad school and it opened up so many doors for me. My life is not more fulfilling and there is quite a ton of purpose. I am eternally grateful of my decision.
To end this very depressing post, I’ll share a grad school meme.