Thought Catalog

26 Fun Facts About Grad School

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  1. Being a grad student is twice the work of being an undergrad and only half of the fun. No, I’m just kidding — it’s none of the fun.
  2. I hope you like reading. Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha! Excuse me while I jump out of a high window with the five weighty text books I’ve been assigned this semester strapped to my torso.
  3. You have no idea where the f—k anything on your campus is except the two or three buildings you have class in.
  4. Despite what you may have learned as an undergrad, Thursday night is a weeknight. You’re expected to wake up early and get stuff done the next day and everything. Crazy, right?
  5. You’re also expected to refrain from drinking Sunday through Wednesday — including day drinking. Seriously.
  6. There’s a good chance that you’re a commuter student. Enjoy lugging 60 lbs of text books with you every day and dealing with gas prices/parking/public transportation. Remember that you are paying exorbitant amounts of money for these privileges.
  7. Believe it or not, you actually have high expectations for the rigor and quality of your classes. Having a half-witted, drooling simpleton for a teacher has lost a bit of its luster, even if they are an easy grader. You find yourself wondering, “What did I get from this class? Was it really worth my time?”
  8. You have absolutely no school spirit. You’re pretty sure your school’s colors are a light color and a dark color, but you can’t remember which ones. You also think your school’s mascot is a half-man, half-goat with black eyes that tells you to burn things, but, then again, you haven’t slept for days because you have five finals next week. Maybe you should go take a nap or something.
  9. You also have no knowledge of campus events. When you see people gathering joyously in the school plaza, you’re not sure if they are celebrating a national football title/tuition decrease/campaign victory, recreating the end of an 80s comedy, or just overturning a pharmaceutical delivery truck filled with Adderall.
  10. Speaking of which, you got any Adderall? It’s, uh, for a friend… Ned. Ned Pillow.
  11. There’s one student that everyone in your program hates and loves to gossip about. Since graduate school usually means taking a lot of classes with the same people, this is a nice way to give everyone something to talk about. You hear things like: “God, did you see that skirt she wore yesterday? This is grad school, not a frat party!” and “If she raises her hand one more time, I’m gonna throw my desk at her. Like, the entire desk.”
  12. If you don’t think the above is true, you are that person.
  13. If you’re not in a serious relationship, you’ve started to feel really, really self-conscious about the percentage of your classmates that are in serious relationships.
  14. You periodically return to where you did undergrad for a fun-filled weekend with your old friends. You leave completely amazed that you were able to live like that for four years.
  15. You’ve gotten to know your professors a little too well, including a lot of unnecessary details about their personal lives. They might even invite you over to their house for dinner with their family one day. You may think this is a little odd at first, but you’ll justify it as a good opportunity to further a relationship that could be beneficial to you. But you shouldn’t, because they’re probably planning to kill you. Try and remember: did they say “I’d love for you to come over and have dinner with my family” or “My family and I would love to have you for dinner”? Think hard, because this is the difference between Mr. Feeny and Hannibal Lecter.
  16. Your daily planner looks less like the responsibilities of one person and more like the projected plans of a small government or Fortune 500 company.
  17. You drink coffee. Large, large cups of dark, dark coffee. “Thank god for caffeine!” you shout nervously at confused strangers, attempting to conceal your involuntary facial twitches as you take enormous strides down crowded hallways.
  18. Your professors and advisors continually make cryptic remarks about the importance of a resume/cover letter/portfolio/etc. You spend a great deal of time fretting over what is essentially the corporate version of a Facebook profile.
  19. You’ve done some truly inspired doodling, including that sketch of an urbane giraffe wearing a three-piece suit that you swear was a work of art but you’re pretty sure you accidentally threw out.
  20. You’ve developed incredible arcane, esoteric knowledge that is only useful in a professional/academic capacity. You overhear people at social gatherings talking about “last night’s game” or The Avengers, and you interject with observations about the complex nature of post-colonial economics or the sculptures of the Byzantine Empire. People look at you funny and slowly slink away, avoiding eye contact.
  21. You fondly remember the time when it seemed acceptable to wear sweatpants and a t-shirt to class.
  22. Due to your overwhelming schedule, you’ve had to sacrifice old habits like healthy eating, recreational sports, and working out. Somewhere around February, you looked down and realized that you are the size of a mid-level commercial airliner. But don’t fret, that IKEA bean bag chair you call a stomach makes a nice paperweight for holding your text books open while you read.
  23. You’ve made a few really good friends. But, you’ve also met a lot of people that are really more acquaintances than friends. I mean, they’re cool and all, but they’re not going on your MySpace Top 8 or anything.
  24. You realize that you squandered a lot of opportunities as an undergrad.
  25. You’re pretty sure that “graduate student” is an oxymoron, but you didn’t realize it until your final semester.
  26. You’re probably excessively worried about that thesis/final project/research paper your program requires for graduating, but you shouldn’t be — you’ll be dead long before then. TC mark
image – John Liu

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    • Guest

      #13 and #24 are already true and I haven’t even started my first graduate school class. This article has me slightly less excited about graduate school.

    • Tnpb7d

      At one point you realize that if you knew then what you know now, you never would have gone to graduate school, but you’re too deep into the program and debt to exit gracefully and thus you tumble to the finish line.

      And

      You come to terms with the fact that professor who holds your fate in her hands knows a whole lot about one tiny thing that no one cares about. The longer you are in grad school, the more aware you are that everyone pretends to be an expert, but we all use the same Wikipedia.

      • Sarah

        Amen.  I’m at the end of my graduate career and all I can think is “did I really just spend THAT much money for THIS?”

        As for the Wikipedia comment, do you go to my school? :)

        • Tnpb7d

          Haha!!! And I know!! And in this job market, you also have the anxiety that you might not even get a job to help pay the loans! Did you see the Huff Post article the other day reporting that the number of PhDs on food stamps and welfare more than tripled from 2007 – 2010???

          I should qualify my cynicism with the fact that I’ll be defending my dissertation this summer.   After 9 consecutive years of college, I’m a little jaded. But also employed at a good school beginning in August, so there is hope that eventually it will all be worth it! 

        • Sarah

          I have panic attacks every day thinking “what happens if I went through all of this and STILL can’t get a job?”  

        • Tnpb7d

          Signs are pointing to an improvement in the academic market. My field, political science, reported around a 30% increase in new job postings this year from 2 years ago. I think other fields are similar. Colleges have decided they’ve made it through the financial crisis and are now trying to fill the gap in teachers created during the hiring and salary freezes. I don’ t know how long you’ve got left, but jobs are out there. It’s a long, time-consuming process to get them, but they’re out there!!

    • Really?

      Thanks for the list of things to look forward to………………………….

    • Guest

      Oh my God, this is my life. 

    • Jmunozdelapaz

      i went to law school for one semester before i withdrew. this article is on point!

      its weird, though, this list makes me really miss it :)

    • Jacqueline

      applying for fall 2013. Was envisioning moving somewhere green where i can hike and kayak and snowboard until i realized i won’t have time to do those things.

    • Natalie

      There is a typo in #8. 

    • Elisek110

      No, no, no… grad school wasn’t that bad. I still had free time, nights free, etc. But add a job to that, then it is all true.

      • Jessica Knapp

        Were you in a courseload/academic-heavy program or a research program? I’m in a research program and I’m expected to take the normal load of classes, teach 2 intro classes of my own, and TA for my advisor. Every semester. I haven’t had a full weekend (except for funerals and weddings) in 3 years.

    • post-graduate depression

      yesssssss….i went to a design graduate school so if you flip the reading with studio time, i absolutely agree with this list.  the one part i see missing is the constant freaking out of how this very specific degree (that most people don’t even know exists)is going to be worth the massive student loans you will have to pay back.  i’m still clueless as to what the schools colors are and if we even had sports.

    • http://twitter.com/xorgol Adriano Farina

      This is what undergraduate engineering is like.

      • http://twitter.com/shineesherlock Josh 吳凡

        You’re not a martyr and you’re not in grad school.  Stop it.

    • Veronica

      Hahahaha some of these are so relatable. But honestly, I love graduate school (maybe it helps that I’m in science).

    • Guestropod


      You overhear people at social gatherings talking about “last night’s game” or The Avengers, and you interject with observations about the complex nature of post-colonial economics or the sculptures of the Byzantine Empire. ”

      help I dropped out of undergrad what’s a “byzantine”

      what is this help why isn’t anyone talking about sports

      help

    • Maybeemily

      I just finished grad school. My discipline involved mostly math. I had a lot of fun at grad school. Also, going through torture with people makes you best friends. My grad school friends are the best. 

      • Tnpb7d

         True that! My grad school friends are my family. We didn’t choose one another, but the process built stronger bonds than undergrad parties ever did.

    • underemployed

      When I was finished with grad school I felt like I had just gotten over a long illness. I was finally able to go outside again, eat properly, see friends and all the other things healthy people do.

    • riles

      Mr. Feeny had no family.            #dark

    • jeff

      yeah so i’m in grad school and i’d say maybe a quarter of this is true; this just sounds like the kind of guy who likes to make esoteric grad school jokes.
      fact no. 27 – people in grad school hate those guys

      • Ted Pillow

        You’re not my real dad, Jeff.

    • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

      I’d take grad school over my undergrad years.  I actually enjoyed applying all those damn science techniques I read about in the laboratory.    It’s good to feel that you have a purpose (plus, seeing your biology professors hammered at the department party is aweeesome.  I felt like the little kid finally allowed to sit at the adult table).

      • Jessica Knapp

        I’m in environmental science/ geology and my undergrad students can’t fathom some of the stories they hear of the “department christmas parties” or week-long field work trips where ALL of us (profs included) spend every evening in the bar before heading back to the tents. lol

    • http://twitter.com/yllwsmmrdrss Marie

      I was feeling guilty for not knowing my campus too well – good to know that’s about par! :D

    • Katie

      My life summed up in 26 fun facts. SO. ACCURATE.

    • http://twitter.com/jemmehlee ~ JAMIE (//∇//)

      Now I’m scared to apply for grad schools…. 

      • Mariflores

        I’m almost done with my first year of a PhD, and my experience has been COMPLETELY different. I can relate to #13 but that’s pretty much it… so, don’t let this deter you. It really depends what you’re doing, where you’re going, and what kind of attitude you have!

    • Alice

      graduating with MBA on saturday. related to many of these….although the drinking thing? I’m pretty sure we had a good deal of 4 day weekends that started on Wednesday….maybe thats a business school thing…

    • Anonymous

      Sounds like undergrad engineering to me

      • Jake

        That’s right, a major in engineering is so hard – keep telling everyone you ever meet all about it

        • Anonymous

          hahah and a masters in history consumes every waking moment of your life.. really?

    • lp

      Loved 11 and 12.

    • sweet tea

      While there will be individual differences, these 26 facts are pretty much on the mark.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/INGD5D4NBLJHJSXW2OC5ZWB2XY She-Ra

      Okay, so a couple of these were humorous.

      But the whole whining about how “hard” grad school is — that’s something that makes me yawn.  Grad school is as stressful as you want to make it.  School is a privilege that so many take for granted.  Getting paid (or even just getting aide) to learn, rather than working some drone, mindless job day after day… I cannot imagine ever complaining about this specifically, and I think that it is this smugness that makes academics so alienating to the “common people”.  People probably complain about it to feel as if they are not as privileged as they are and to make it seem as if it’s so much harder than work out of the ivory tower.  But there’s nothing wrong with having privilege.  Fess up.  Enjoy what you have, and stop whining.  Yes, grad school can be a challenge, but if you’re not up for challenges and not inspired by them, why the hell would you go to grad school in the first place?  It’s a great place to be.  Interestingly, probably the same people whining about grad school are the same people who whined and “just wanted to be done already” during undergrad… and didn’t appreciate how great THAT was when they had it.  I’ll call myself out for this one, because I was one of those assholes.  By the time I went back for grad school, though, I recognized how phenomenal my college years actually were, and also how lucky I was to be going back.  If you’re really this unhappy with grad school, you should probably go get a real job for awhile, because when you get done with grad school, you’ll probably just complain about how hard your post-doc is or how hard your tenure track position is.  And it doesn’t matter how far along you get, your life will always be “so much harder” than everyone else’s life.  Reality check… if you made it to grad school, your life is probably better than most… and it’s a hell of a lot easier than it is for people who are working 2 full-time minimum wage jobs without benefits to raise families; and it’s probably a hell of a lot easier than it is for people who are living in third world countries struggling to get by.

      I thank the stars every day that 1) I’m alive; and 2) that I get to be in school and live the life that I lead.  I cannot imagine a much better life than I get to have.  I get to study and explore things that I am extremely interested in.  I get to work on my own research while getting supplemented with a TAship.  With my TAship, I get full benefits while only working 33-50% time.  I get to work with some incredibly bright and inspired students, and I get to challenge new students to think about topics that they’ve never thought about before.  I’m only in my 30s, and already I’m feeling the benefits of generativity; nothing better than being in a career I love and having younger students thank me for what I’ve taught them.  We are SO lucky…. at least I am so lucky.

      Oh, by the way… I’m TOTALLY “that person”.  Thankfully, I enjoy it ;)

      • buzzi

        TL;DR

        • Anonymous

          That’s what his dissertation advisor said.

          *rimshot*

      • Tgd

        you obviously missed the point of this list

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