Grad school is an amazing experience. That’s all I really want you to know in this post. I have had a wonderful time throughout my 5 and a half years as a graduate student, but starting off was nerve wracking. Being nervous about starting grad school is completely normal. Here is a secret that no one really wants you to know. Everyone is nervous at first when starting grad school. I don’t know a single person that wasn’t.
See, humans are a funny bunch of individuals. We tend to hyper focus on the negative “what ifs” that come with everything. This usually leads us to get nervous in the first place because we think “What if I fail? What if I hate my classes? What if, what if, what if!!!!” We get in this terrible cycle of what ifs and that really makes the beginning of grad school a scary experience. I am her today to tell you that being nervous about starting grad school is completely normal and you will get over that almost immediately. I am also going to share with you today some ways to handle the nerves and how to make the most of grad school at the beginning.
Reasons why you are nervous
1) Feeling nervous starting grad school because of uncertainty
There is a ton of uncertainty in grad school. More than undergrad, that’s for sure. I believe that uncertainty is one of the major factors that leads to people being nervous. They truly don’t know what will come next. I’ve been in this exact situation. Starting grad school was filled with nerves because I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know if I would fail or thrive. The uncertainty really caused me to worry a ton until I actually started and found out that everything was just fine.
One way that you can conquer this aspect of starting grad school is just exposing yourself to grad school. Let me explain. See, when you don’t know what is going to happen, you tend to start thinking of all the bad things that can occur instead of the good things. One way of overcoming this is exposure therapy. There will be many things that might make you nervous and the best way to overcome that feeling is to just do it. It takes a bit of courage, but it’s well worth it.
Say, you are nervous about going into the gym for the first time at school. If you gain a bit of courage and just go there, you will show your brain that it’s not as scary as you made it seem. This will make it easier to go again, because you know you are not in any danger. Same with classes. You will be nervous and won’t want to go. Once you go to your first class, I guarantee you will feel way relieved afterwards.
2) Feeling nervous about making friends
Making friends is a very exciting and nerve wracking experience. Every year, I have to go out and make new friends because all of my current friends are leaving. That is a struggle about being in a PhD program. Anyway, I find that it get’s a bit harder the higher you get up in your education. Grad school is as high as you will get which means that making friends might be a bit of a struggle. It is no the end of the world, though. I actually have a few posts about friendships in grad school. Go check them out here and definitely check out this one about how to make friends in grad school. All of these posts are quite helpful.
Friendships will take a bit of time in grad school. It will make you a bit nervous when you are working a while and haven’t made many or any friends. Give it time. I promise that it will happen but might take some time. For me, I had some friends from undergrad that were still in school, so that made it easier. When they left, I had to work to make friends. It took a few months and a few classes, but I managed to gain a ton of really good friends. Just because you don’t have many friends at first, doesn’t mean you won’t make a ton.
3) Nervous about the amount of work
This is a justifiable reason to be nervous. The workload in grad school can be a bit overwhelming. Some days you will work 3 hours (2 of those probably sending emails or reading) and other days, you may be in the lab for 10 hours and then writing 3 papers afterwards. This is what grad school is all about lol. Though I say it is justifiable, it does not mean that you have to be nervous about it. Yes, there will be a ton of work, but you will most likely be able to handle it. Heck, you got through undergrad just fine. Actually, you did so well in undergrad that you were accepted into a grad program. You can do the work.
A way to get over being nervous for doin g the work, or being nervous about the amount of work that will come, is to plan things out and be proactive. Yes, start early. Many people complain about the amount of work they have to do because they aren’t ready for it. They may put it off until the last minute, causing more and more to pile up before it becomes overwhelming. This is totally on them and can be completely avoided if you prepare. This means starting assignments early, staying on top of deadlines, and, unfortunately, giving up all you can drink Wednesdays to get work done. I promise you that if you prepare, you will thrive.
4) Felling nervous about starting grad school in another state or country
This topic can be a whole post by itself. Many people move away to another city/state/country to go to grad school. This is a huge deal for most people and can make you pretty nervous. Once again, remember that this is normal. Being nervous about moving anywhere is normal. At first you may be nervous about just being alone in an area you aren’t familiar with. Don’t fret. Think of it as an adventure and you are just starting out. All adventure start off scary but will, in time, get quite comfortable.
If you are starting grad school in a totally new area, know that it’s ok to be nervous about it. The best thing that you can do is just go out and explore. Familiarize yourself with everything as soon as possible. This will help you settle right in. You will have to give it a few months to truly get acclimated, but it will happen. During this time, call people that are close to you. Talk with them on a daily basis, which will help you get some comfort in your life during this transition. Also know, grad school goes by quickly. If you don’t like where you are, you’ll be out of there in no time. That though usually calms the nerves.
In the end, being nervous about starting grad school is actually a normal thing. I would be more concerned if you weren’t nervous to be honest. You are starting something completely new and of course there will be some nervousness that comes from it. Just know that these feelings are fine, normal, and will go away soon. You will start off a nervous wreck, but will soon find yourself in a very comfortable position. Grad school, as I said before, is a wonderful and exciting experience. It will have it’s ups and downs, but it is certainly nothing to be nervous about. For those that are starting in the fall or spring, welcome. You are definitely welcomed here.
Sorry about the lack of posts guys! I have been travelling a ton and that has really reduced the amount of screen time that I have. I promise that I will post more often from here on out and I hope you are all having a wonderful summer so far. It is getting hot out there, so make sure to drinking plenty of water lol. As always, I hope you are all having a wonderful day. If you haven’t already, go check out my post about getting ahead in college (link here). I will see you all in the next one. Peace.