Caffeine Use in grad School

Today is a productive day, and it’s only 10 am. Yes, I have been up, focusing on getting work done, and having the capabilities of being able to finish everything because of the wonderous effects of caffeine. Unfortunately, I am at a place in my doctorate program where I heavily relying on caffeine to get me just to 12 pm without falling asleep. It’s a blessing and a curse. So today, I want to discuss caffeine use in grad school. Kind of a new and weird concept. But, I think, it’s a very important topic. Let’s get into it.

coffee in grad school

How much is too much caffeine in grad school

I was reading a blog post about a grad student that has never had a caffeinated drink in his life. Here’s the article if you are curious. Of course, this is quite the anomaly in grad school. Many people are extremely dependent on caffein usage. I am one of those people, unfortunately. See, I made the mistake of drinking caffeine, in high amounts, as an undergrad. Because of this, I became extremely dependent on caffein consumption, just to get through the day. But as an engineering student, I really needed the extra boost or I wouldn’t have done as well as I did.

I hit the limits of caffeine consumption that one can get to. As I have written before, I am an avid gymgoer. My caffeine consumption came from preworkout to get me through those crazy workouts before class. The more I took, the more I needed just to get by. There were days where I would hit about 1g of caffeine. On average, a cup of coffee is about 100 mg. So I was consuming 10X that amount a day. The problem with this is not just the heart palpitations or the anxiety, it’s getting used to that amount and relying on that or else you get the worst headache of your life.

Why we drink so much caffeine in grad school

We all know that grad school is tough. It’s mentally and sometimes physically demanding and the hours are long. People don’t quite understand this sometimes and they don’t really understand the struggles that grad school brings. Caffeine us in grad school is high because we need it to get stuff done. Grad school does not have a schedule and you will have quite a few nights in the lab and have to wake early for class. Many times, I will come in to my lab at 6 or 7 am and not leave until 11 pm, then have to come right back in at 7 to finish an experiment. This is one of the reasons grad students love caffeine so much and rely on it.

Another reason why grad student rely on caffeine is because it brings clarity and innovation. Imagine, for a moment, you get results back from an experiment that you did. You are looking at all of the data and have to come up with a reasoning of why this is happening. What fundamental scientific principles are at play and do these results even make sense. Drink a cup of caffeine right before and you may just have a few “aha” moments. Most of my great ideas have come from either long walks around campus or moments of intense caffeination.

Caffeine use in grad school

Is caffeine good while in grad school?

I think the daily cup of coffee is actually quite good for grad students. It helps with productivity, learning, and just puts people in a better mood. I think when you become dependent on caffeine is when things get a little shaky. If you are able to limit yourself to less than 300 mg a day, I think that is a good amount for peak optimization of grad school potential. Any more than this and you may start feeling the negative effects of caffeine (headache, falling asleep at 1 pm, crankiness).

I think caffeine is a great thing in grad school. It has helped me significantly and given me the motivation to continue the long tasks that I need to do to finish my program. Having too much is bad though. Quite like grad school, you need to do an experiment and find out where you are most productive and what level of caffeine you need to hit this spot. If you have too much, you’ll be too jittery to do anything, too little and you’ll fall asleep at your desk.

What to drink in grad school

Coffee is the way to go. Sometimes I drink energy drinks, but those tend to make me extremely jittery and anxious. Both are very bad in grad school. Coffee has been my go to ever since I started. I try and limit the amount to 2 cups a day but often find me making a third cup. If you want to read more about coffee in grad school, go check out my blog posts about it. You can find one here and here.

Try and stay away from caffeine pills or anything similar. These can lead to overconsumption of caffeine which can cause some problems. I say, if you want caffeine, stick with tea or coffee. Some people absolutely hate the taste of coffee. In that case, tea is the way to go. You can find a billion different flavors of tea with various amounts of caffeine.

Final Thoughts

I want to thank coffee for the wonderful 4 years in grad school and the amount of motivation it has given me. It really is a wonderful thing, caffeine is. I always look forward to my cup of iced coffee in the morning and definitely look forward to my second and third cups. Let me know in the comments what your favorite form of caffeine is? Are you a coffee, tea, energy drink type of person? Let me know.

Now comes everyone’s favorite segment, grad school memes!!!! Today I want to give you two. I know I haven’t posted in a while, so I want to make it up to you guys and gals. Enjoy!

grad school memes
Chan Narula
Grad school meme
David Hontz

So, When are you done with school?

Ah, the most asked question while I have been in grad school. Every single week, someone asks when I will be done with grad school and my program. Each time that it comes up, I roll my eyes and say the same thing, “soon, I hope”. I don’t mean to roll my eyes, it just happens. This is a question that every grad student will get and you just have to come up with a good way to tell the person that it is a long process and you don’t really know when it will be over, if it ever will. So, today, I just want to write about the frustration of this question and how I handle it.

When will you be done with grad school

Why people ask it in the first place.

People are curious about what you do in grad school and why you are doing it. Many master’s programs are set time limits and only classwork focused. People pretty much already know when that will be over so they may not ask you. If they do ask when you’ll be done with grad school, you can confidently tell them. In a PhD program, you actually don’t know when you’ll be done, especially when you first start.

People will ask PhD students when they are done because they have really no idea the process that happens. They might actually be curious, but it can be annoying for the student because it is the one question that really get’s brought up all of the time. People want to know when your major milestones are and the question of “when will you be done with grad school” is always an easy one.

Why It is FRUSTRATING

I get asked this a ton. My family wants to know. My neighbors want to know. Heck, just random strangers want to know. I get asked all the time. I usually tell them a year or possibly two. Now that I am at the end, I can safely say that I have 2 months left, which is exciting. But for the longest time, I had to make stuff up. Sometimes I would say that I really didn’t know when I would be finished. This is not an answer that people like to hear. This is also why it is so frustrating.

See, in a PhD program, it’s not like school. You don’t just have to get a certain number of credits then move on. No, you have to contribute to the research field, publish papers, get certain credits, pass a qualifying exam, pass your defense, and everything in between. I know people that finished a PhD in 4 years, and I know people that finished in 7. You aim for like 4.5 to 5 years but it all depends on your work, luck, and if all of the machines you have to use are working…lol.

More Frustration

It is also very frustrating because it adds a sense of urgency. When someone asks me how long I have left, I feel rushed. I feel like people want me to get out of school and stop messing around. A PhD is not school, it is a job/apprenticeship. When I hear people asking how long I have left, it’s the equivalent of asking a full time worker how long they have left working their job. It’s a dumb question. Of course, unless you are familiar with the PhD life, you won’t know what I mean by this. Everyone thinks that it is just school, when it really isn’t. Sorry for the rant.

What to do if someone asks you when you’ll be done?

Be nice. Do not show frustration because people will think you are being rude. If you just started, just say that you just started and it will be a long process. If they want years as an answer, just make a joke and say something like “I think they said 10 to 15 years” I do this as a joke and it always works. People won’t understand that you will never know when you are done. They just won’t. The best thing to do is just try and steer clear of having to answer that question or just be nice when it does come up. It will come up all of the time, I promise.

Final Thoughts

This is a bit of a shorter blog post. It is mostly a post for those that are frustrated by the question “when are you done with grad school?” It really is a question that grad students hear way too much and have to defend themselves each time. It seems like a harmless question, but it is one that causes a ton of hardship for grad schoolers.

If you are reading this, and know someone in grad school. Instead of asking them “when will you be done with grad school?” ask them, “how are things going in grad school?” or, better yet, “any cool findings in your research?” I think the last one is the best because we tend to find really cool things while doing research but have no one to talk to about it. I know, especially for me, this is a question that i would love to get. Unfortunately, it’s not one I ever do.

A Year of Blogging in Grad School

A few weeks ago (like 2 weeks ago), I was informed that I have been blogging for a year now. To be completely honest, I thought I was blogging for much longer than that, but no, it has been a year. I started this journey to help me cope with the struggles of grad school as well as help those that are in the same boat. I was successful in this endeavor. Blogging has been one of the most rewarding hobbies that I have taken up. So, today, I want to share some things that I have learned while blogging in grad school for a year.

What I have learned blogging in grad school

There are a ton of things that I have learned in the stretch of a year. Today, I want to share few of those and encourage you to start your blogging journey. If you are a grad student, I highly suggest starting a blog early. Not only is it a great stress reliever, but also a wonderful way to document your journey. So, let’s go over the things I’ve learned while blogging in grad school.

blogging in grad school

1) People want you to succeed

I think the coolest thing about blogging is having people from all around the world, reading your blog. People from Africa, Europe, North America, Asia, and South America have all read my blogs and that’s super cool. I have had individuals reach out to me from various countries asking me questions about grad school. I have also had many people just comment on my posts and send the nicest messages. Strangers, from all over, read my blog and are so encouraging and supportive. Grad school hasn’t been the easiest time, but it has been so much better due to the support from my readers.

2) Writing things out can lead to finding the answers or figuring stuff out

Many of my problems have been addressed in my blogs. Mental health, education related problems, making friends, etc. have all been covered. I have struggled with all of these things but have found that writing about them has given me a different perspective. Often times, I figure out what my problem is and how to address it. Writing about the struggles of life has allowed my brain to solve these problems and made things way easier for me.

blogging in grad school for mental health

3) Blogging in grad school has made me more mentally prepared

Sometimes I go back and read about the struggles that I have come across while in grad school. I can also read about how I have tackled those problems. I have seen myself grow and come out of a pretty dark mental state thanks to blogging. It is really cool being able to go through my blog posts and see how my mental state has gone from bad to wayyyyyy better. This was a great way to address my problems, gain support from the community, and overcome the hardships that I have faced.

4) My writing can always improve

Blogging each day (until I had to start my thesis) has definitely helped with my writing. I find writing my thesis to be easier and more enjoyable now because I can actually write something that makes sense. If you write each day, or at least a few times a week, you definitely improve with your writing skills. This is 100% true when you are in grad school. This is why I encourage grad students to take up a blog.

grad school blogging

5) I am not alone

Grad school will make you feel extremely lonely at times. In fact, I have written about feeling alone in grad school and how to overcome it (link here). Blogging in grad school has made me realize that I am not alone in my problems and plenty of individuals have the same problems. There are so many people out there that are facing what I am facing and the blogging community has helped me find those people. We have created a community that has been supportive and now I feel less alone. Without blogging, I may not have found these individuals.

6) Writing can be fun

I have had such a wonderful time writing for you guys this past year. Unfortunately, the grad school blogs will be coming to an end soonish because I am graduating in a few months. I have had such a fun time writing and learning what works and what doesn’t. It has been so much fun seeing my audience grow and having people write back to me. I will continue to blog, just on another topic. But I am glad my first blog was on the topic of grad school. It was definitely fun.

Writing used to be such a headache for me. English was my worst subject in school because of the writing. I just didn’t have it in me to be good at it. Now, I love writing and expressing myself in words. I have grown to really enjoy the process of writing articles and I know I will continue.

Final Thoughts.

Blogging in grad school has been such an enjoyable experience and I am so glad that i did it. Not only did it help with my writing, it helped with my mental state. If you are a grad student and want to start a blog, I encourage you to do so. If you have any questions, you can always email me at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I can give some helpful tips on getting started as well as answer any questions that you may have. Heck, just send me an email to say hello. I love receiving emails from my readers.

Let’s get into what you have all been waiting for, grad school memes!!!!! Here’s todays meme. Enjoy!

grad school meme
by Gina Arias