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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.