Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated September 2010
Graduate school can be overwhelming and sometimes lonely – but not if you foster friendships with some of your classmates. The nature of grad school, with its emphasis on independent work, focus and drive, can stifle your social life. How can you go to the bar with your buddies when you’ve got 150 pages to read before the next class discussion? And if you have work and family obligations, it can be even more difficult to establish meaningful ties to your fellow students.
But there’s a lot more to graduate school than academics, and having a friend in your graduate courses can benefit you in more ways than simply socially – it can make your next few years a whole lot easier.
Be aware, however, that it may be more difficult to make friends as a grad student than it was as an undergrad. You’ll find fewer built-in opportunities to interact with your classmates in graduate school. For example, it is less likely that you will live in a dormitory where you are put in a situation that nearly forces you to make connections.
So, how can it be done? And really, should you even bother?
The importance of friends in graduate school
The impact of human interaction and relationships should not be overlooked, particularly at a time when friendships can be of great help to you. Humans need friends to help them achieve balance, which is very important as a grad student. Finding a friend in graduate school with similar interests, values and goals gives you a chance to build relationships through shared experiences.
Sharing is an important term when it comes to your relationships with your grad school classmates. Of course, you will not hit it off with every person in your courses, but you will find one or two to whom you can easily relate. When you have a friend in graduate school, you can sometimes share textbooks and materials for your courses to help each of you cut costs. Grad school is expensive, and any opportunities to save some cash should be taken.
You and your graduate school friend may live near each other, which might enable you to carpool to school, saving gas and money. If you establish a really strong bond, you may decide to cohabitate and save even more money. Perhaps you and your grad school buddy each have children. In that case, you can take turns watching each other's kids or pool your money to better afford babysitters.
Making friends with your classmates in graduate school can help you stay motivated, as well as help you to sustain and reaffirm your goals. You can study together, bounce ideas off each other and add some laughter to the process of graduate school. You may work on class projects together or even team up to conduct research.
If you are struggling with the stresses of graduate school, a friend in the program may be able to offer some advice as to how he or she manages everything. You can also turn to your friends in grad school when you need help with your studies, as well as be there for them. Should you be absent from a class, friends can get you the notes and materials you missed.
Tips on forging friendships
Setting up a support network in graduate school is very important. You will find numerous ways to meet friends as a graduate student. You may join clubs, attend graduate events and join dissertation or master's thesis writers' groups. And even though they may be time-consuming, extracurricular activities and co-ops are an excellent way to meet people at school, and are therefore totally worth that time.
You should be open to all types of people and take advantage of the population of international students at the school. You will learn about people from different backgrounds, as well as about yourself. Get out there and talk to people and make yourself approachable. If you are particularly outgoing, you can attempt to coordinate group activities, nights out or day trips. Some departments will occasionally invite grad students to their social gatherings, or arrange a get-acquainted party for grad students and professors at the start of a school term. Take advantage of such gatherings, and start your quest to make new friends among the grad students.
Making friends in graduate school can help you get used to depending upon and working with others. When you make friends in graduate school, you will foster relationships similar to those you will have with your future colleagues. Your graduate school relationships could very well lead to lifelong friendships.
Graduate school can be one of the loneliest times for people, but everyone needs companionship, so make sure you connect with a classmate. It will help you in school, and with maintaining your sanity amid the pressures of graduate study.
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