Heading back to grad school after a few years in the working world (aka the “real world”)? That’s what I did, and I highly enjoyed my nine-month (!) graduate program, which, as you likely can imagine, completely flew by. Since I had taken two years off before starting school, it took some readjustment to acclimate to life as a student. Here are a few lessons I learned (but keep lesson #1 in mind as you read this!). If you happen to be considering grad school and need any advice whatsoever, don’t hesitate to reach out!
Lesson #1. Everyone’s situation is unique. Your classmates won’t all be in the same boat when it comes to their reasons for choosing your particular institution, or how they’re financing their education, or even in terms of what exactly they’d like to do after your program is over. People like to talk about all of these subjects a lot, and it’s fine to participate in these conversations as much or as little as you feel comfortable. Just be respectful of other people’s decisions and situations even if you wouldn’t have necessarily made the same choices yourself!
Lesson #2. Your schedule will feel weird at first. After working in an office from roughly 9 to 6 every day, it was refreshing to have short breaks during the middle of the day (when I wasn’t in class or at my graduate assistantship). However, with bursts of time off during the week came busier weekends. Gone were the days of a night out followed by a leisurely brunch followed by shopping with a friend followed by a movie night (although I was certainly thankful to be able to do just that this past weekend!). Sure, you can maybe do one or two of those things, but weekends are also key for catching up on work and sleep, meeting with classmates to nail down group project (group projects were a constant in my program), etc. Your non-student friends may have a hard time adapting to your schedule at first, but planning ahead ensures you can still make time for your normal get-togethers.
Lesson #3. Your priorities may shift. In college, I was extremely dedicated to my extracurricular work on the student newspaper. Not only did it set me up for my future jobs before grad school, but it was a great way to meet people both on and off of our staff and feel involved on campus, and I enjoyed it so much! In graduate school, my coursework, assistantship, and another part-time job in my field kept me more than busy. The requirements for my program (namely, the assistantship) kept me fulfilled outside of the classroom, and making an effort to spend time outside the classroom with the people in my program filled any social void I may have experienced due to not participating in a traditional “activity.” While I did have some friends who were involved with our grad school’s student government or other groups on campus, extra commitments just weren’t a priority for the majority us during a nine-month program (and this is coming from a group of higher ed master’s students who were nothing but involved as undergrads!).
Lesson #4. You can still have fun. When I started school, I was worried that I would never have time for social activities or dates or visits back home or to New York City. Not true! I found it totally possible to have a life outside of the classroom–maybe not every day, but after all, this is grad school, there’s obviously work involved! By planning ahead, it was super easy to buzz up to NYC from Philadelphia and spend a quick weekend with my friends back there. Since some of my grad school friends were part-time students who also worked, we often met up for lunch and caught up mid-day while they were on campus for their jobs. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, people!
Have any pressing grad school q’s or other tips to share? Send ’em my way!