1. The academic job market is literally bananas. People have been saying this for years but, believe me, it’s really tough out there. When you go on the job market you’re not just competing for jobs with your peers, people in your program and people graduating from their programs. That would be way too easy. You’re competing with those people PLUS people who graduated in the last few years who are adjuncting, postdoc-ing, who are already an assistant professor somewhere and want to move schools. They’re stellar in every way you can imagine. You really have to walk on water and be lucky to get a tenure-track position nowadays.
2. Graduate school is about critique, rejection, denial and getting shot down. It’s basically a dick measuring contest — who is the best, who has the best degree from the best school, etc. etc. Your ideas will get shot down, your journal submissions will get rejected and marked up in red by some famous scholar you love, love, love. You can’t let it get to you or impact your self-esteem.
3. And even still, you’re going to suffer from impostor syndrome, an ailment known by graduate students throughout history where you feel like a fake. You worry that soon the Department is going to discover that you are a complete bullshitter and they are going to kick you out tomorrow. But guess what? Everybody bullshits in academia!!!
4. You will take a class with some people who are going to be “seminar assholes,” whereby they act as if they are in fact the professor and are the sole entity in the room to really, truly comprehend the subject.
5. You will watch as people you went to college with get richer and richer as you toil away on Medieval tapestries!
6. Binge watching Netflix will not help you get your seminar reading done.
7. When you do finally graduate and make it on the job market, the most important thing you can know is that you will not be teaching your dissertation. Departments want to know that you have a research trajectory, but they have real needs to fulfill. So if your dissertation is on Ovens, you will not be teaching American Studies 341: A Cultural History of the Oven. But you CAN teach something broader, like “Women and Domesticity in the 19th Century.”
8. Don’t chose a graduate school to work with a single professor. No, no, no. That professor could hate you or you could hate her or they could up and leave. It’s much better to go to a place with a faculty you enjoy and a place that will allow you to do the kind of work you want to do.
9. Definitely come up with a side hustle, whatever that is. Not necessarily for the money, but just to keep you sane. You can’t be a researcher 24/7.
10. Every department has drama, tea and shade.
11. You’re not going to know what your dissertation is on until you are about to turn it in. You will write a prospectus that will be approved and you will feel like you’re advancing and what not. But you’re not going to REALLY know what it’s about until the very end.
12. Don’t become one of those “creepy grad students” that preys on undergraduates. Yes, they’re hot and young and fresh. But they might also be in one of your sections so be careful!!!! People gossip.
13. Don’t be surprised if a professor you really admired suddenly turns their back on you and you are just like WTF?
14. When you attend the national conference in your field, all the gay academics in the vicinity WILL be on Grindr. So just…don’t forget to change your shirtless pic to something a touch more professional, and remove all the stuff about how you’re a voracious power bottom looking for cocks. Unless you want the chair of the hiring committee for a job you just applied to to see u !!
15. Build relationships with faculty and students at other schools.
16. And for that matter, have friends outside of academia. It will keep you grounded.
17. When you finally find out what your research topic is you are going to be SO EXCITED and then you are going to discover that some other person just wrote a book on the exact thing you want to study. Don’t panic.
18. Straight white men are not allowed unless they have seriously considered, struggled and discussed their intersectional privilege.
19. You will begin to use academic words like “praxis” and “social construction” and “heteronormativity” and “phallogocentrism” in normal, everyday parlance.
20. Be careful who you sleep with in graduate school because that person might be your colleague/reviewer one day. No joke.
21. Graduate students typically get to check books out for 6 months at a time. It’s really easy to check out 150 books for 6 months and forget about them. But when those bitches start collecting overdue fines, it adds UP. And the university WILL come for their coins at graduation.
22. Someone in your field/program is going to get a better job than you. And while you will genuinely feel awesome for them, u will still be throwing serious shade behind their backs.
23. Don’t get wasted at Departmental cocktail receptions. Yes, there might be that one drunk-ass professor in the room but s/he already has tenure, so.
24. Don’t be a snob and say dumb shit like “I only want to work at a top 10 university” or “I would never work at a liberal arts college.”
25. Try to get your writing out in other venues, not just standard academic journals.
26. Organize a conference panel, a conference, bring amazing speakers to your campus, get involved with the local community, take classes in other departments, volunteer to be the spokesperson for prospective graduate students in your department. Stay visible and engaged.
27. Make sure you absolutely love what you’re studying.
28. No one knows what a dissertation is and there will be no one to tell you how to write one. That’s the point. Part of writing a dissertation is figuring out what a dissertation is in the first place.
29. Don’t read guide books on how to manage your time and don’t waste money on books telling you how to be a better graduate student. Only you know what works best for your process.
30. There will be times where you spend weeks working 16 hour days, going in on that queer theory. And then there will be weeks where you do absolutely nothing but masturbate all day and watch reruns of The Voice. If that’s your process, go with it!
31. Back up your files!!! And then back them up again.
32. It’s going to be hard — emotionally, financially, intellectually, sexually. But don’t give up. There’s nothing like walking at your Ph.D. graduation in front of your loved ones, wearing that funny hat and seeing all your professors and folks from your program. Always remind yourself that you can do it.