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What to Expect In Grad School: Hopefully at Least No Dirty Looks…

Posted By Leah Kaminsky



Have you found yourself in any of these situations lately?

*Over a round of margaritas, all of your friends are talking about things like signing bonuses and relocation packages.  You stare blankly at them and pick at the remaining shards of free tortilla chips, hoping, but not daring to ask for more.


*One of your chief talents is really knowing your way around a ramen pack:  You have a variety of “special” meals you can make from just that one little packet.  (Just add mushrooms or some chopped up scallions!)

*While others are planning vacations to Cabo or going on swanky business trips, you are biting your nails and making the long trek down to the mailbox of your third floor walkup, hoping for good news in the form of a thick envelope.  (Good news AND more tortilla chips!)

Anyone?  If these scenarios sounds familiar, it sounds like you may be a recent college graduate headed off to grad school in September!  Huzzah!  Who needs signing bonuses?  Think of all the classes you’ll be able to audit.  Think of the crisp pages of a fresh new day planner (um, or the smooth touch of your iphone...).  Think about all the new people you will meet and all the beers you will drink with them as you all say smart and funny things.  It’s going to be great. 

Only sometimes, sometimes it’s not great.  Graduate school can be an overwhelming and strange beast for many to tackle because in many ways it is so different from college.  Here are a few tips to keep you on the up-and-up come September:

Your Advisor:
In college you may have been assigned an advisor based on last name or some vague academic shared interests: “I like Austen, and he studies post-apocalyptic fiction and so that means we both like words...it’s such a fit.”  However, in graduate school, your advisor just might be the most important person in your life for a while.  Sorry pets, husbands, wives, crushes at juice stands, etc. Your advisor is the person who can, hopefully, keep you on track and help you to find your niche in the field. 

Finding an advisor early and cultivating a relationship with that person can be key to having a happy and successful time of it in grad school.  Also? Your advisor makes more money than you do and has nicer things than you do.  Therefore, he or she will probably have nice wine and cheese parties at his or her house and may invite you. These events are not to be missed.

Your Cohort:
These are the folks you come into school with, and for at least the first year or two of grad school, you will likely have more in common with them than you will with almost anyone else: “He likes the shrimp flavored ramen and I do too.  She believes that Derrida is worse than a root-canal and I do too.”  It’s really important to make connections within your cohort.  The importance of having a group of people to bounce ideas off of and to commiserate with cannot be overstated. 

These are also the people who will help you figure out which dentists will take your lousy student insurance and which happy hours offer the most free food and treats.  Again:  their importance cannot be overstated.

Reading Material:
Hating Hegel?  Frustrated by Foucault?  Maddend by Marx?  The mountains of reading that you’ll be doing may send you running for the hills of You Tube, where you’ll take comfort in the blissful mindlessness of your favorite cat videos.  Instead, take our advice:

A.  NO ONE does all of the reading.  If someone pretends to have, he or she is lying and you should not take his or her advice about which dentists take your insurance. Shooting for most of the reading is a great goal.

B.  Don’t just read.  Write, write, write. All of those ramblings can become, in time, the germs of conference papers or the tiny seeds of a dissertation.
C. Procrastinate here...it is at least a teeeny bit more academic than “Cat Gets Water on His Nose.”

We wish you all of the best of luck in grad school.  We’d love to hear about your first year and learn whether or not you have started saying frankly or making up words that sound important and wearing berets, or whether you just made some friends and learned some stuff.  Isn’t that what it’s all about, after all?

Jamie Oldham is a college admissions coach for Just Start Applications, and a pretty great gal, too. While her interests are varied (she does have a higher degree in Liberal Arts, after all), one of her great life's passions is helping students and parents through the admissions process, doling out great college and graduate school admissions tips along the way. Check out her full bio here and contact us today to get her on your team.

What to Expect In Grad School: Hopefully at Least No Dirty Looks…

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What to Expect In Grad School: Hopefully at Least No Dirty Looks… News flash: grad school isn't anything like college. That's a very bad thing...and a very good thing. Jamie Oldham of Just Start Applications tells us why.

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