Moving across the world to start my graduate school journey was probably not my smartest move (in hindsight). To put it mildly, it was an utter shitshow and I was utterly unprepared. With no one to really guide me on what to expect, I stumbled into the whole process blind and ended up leaving academia for a few years afterward I graduated because it was such a bad experience for me (recap: unstable relationship, almost became homeless, was completely isolated from family and friends). YIKES.
I don't want that to happen to you! So, here are some things I wish I had thought about before taking the plunge...
Grad school is not a continuation of your undergrad
I loved my undergraduate experience, but in no way was graduate school a continuation of my time at New College of Florida. The study habits and methods that worked for you in undergrad might not work for this new, more independent-type of research. Revise and check in on yourself to see what is still working for you and what you need to change!
Don't make grad school your default move.
Students often enter graduate school without knowing much about the eventual careers that can wait for them on "the other side" (aka graduation). Don't go to graduate school because you can't currently find a job or you have no idea what you would like to pursue. This is a long, expensive commitment.
Examine your "why."
Before you even start looking at universities, ask yourself why you want to do a graduate degree. Is it to avoid confronting some of life's inevitable decisions? Because someone else expects you to get this degree? Because you feel like you "have to"? Graduate school is expensive... so make sure you aren't doing it for any small reasons.
Pick other grad students’ brains.
Books and websites can only tell you so much — there’s nothing quite as valuable as hearing it straight from a graduate student's mouth. Try to get in contact with some students who are in programs you are looking at and ask, “What do you wish you’d known before you started grad school?” Often, they will have a lot to say and can give you excellent advice about the idiosyncrasies of the program and the school as a whole.
Figure out your finances
I've said it multiple times on this post and for good reason: graduate school is not a lucrative place to be. It's expensive no matter where you go, so you want to make sure you know exactly where your funds are coming lest you risk going deeply into debt by the time you graduate. Don't do that! Take the time now to iron out your sources of funding (e.g. scholarships, stipends, fellowships, TAing, working as a research assistant, taking a non-academic job, etc.) so that you go into the school year knowing you are covered. While you're at it, outline a budget for yourself (here are the biggest financial lessons I have learned while in graduate school).
Thinking about applying for graduate school? Here's your go-to checklist!
Thinking about getting a PhD?
Here are 5 reasons you should, you shouldn't, and what to look for in a PhD supervisor.
Hi! I'm Melissa, an Australian-based Latina science educator, podcaster, and freelance writer. I spend a lot more time on Instagram and Twitter, but blogging is my first love. Thanks for stopping by — I hope you stay a while.
READ MY BOOKS
Some links on my blog may contain affiliate links. If you click and/or make a purchase through certain links on this site or any related social media platforms, I may make a commission (a small percentage) from that purchase.
Posts will only feature products I’ve purchased and will only recommend products I genuinely love. Please note that I can’t guarantee that you will love everything I recommend.