10 Things Every Graduate Student Should Experience

By Stephanie Small, March 2014


Grad school shouldn’t be all study, study, study. Here are our suggestions for improving your work-life balance.

10 Things Everyone Should Experience in Graduate School1.Crash another department’s event

Staying within your own department can get so insular! Bust out of the tunnel vision and hit a potluck or cocktail hour held by another program – preferably, one that’s vastly different than your own. In med school? Hit up the art school’s tea. Thespians, consider spicing up the economics Ph.D.s’ happy hour with some improv.

2.Crash an undergrad party

“Party? What’s that?” Parties are foreign to you now, but they weren’t when you were an undergrad…which is exactly why you need to go. No, not as the leering grad student creeping on young things – as the sage, elder, learned mentor that you are. Hanging with college students partying can bring a breath of fresh air and a long-forgotten perspective.

3.Sit in on an undergrad class

Ideally, one that you think sounds compelling but has nothing to do with your own field of study. Every college has one or two “famous” classes whose reputation for being quirky and fun precedes them. Check those out.

4.Go to a university event that has nothing to do with academics

Yeah, those exist! Remember them? Take in a basketball or football game, attend a poetry reading, swig some wine at an art opening. The grad school life can become so academic and insular. It’s important to find balance.

5.Get to know your adoptive town

While grad students usually live off-campus, prompting regional awareness out of necessity, their lives often still revolve around school. Poke around a neighborhood you’ve never seen before. Mix up your rotation of coffee shops. Visit the most beloved town monument, park, river, or building.

6.Live with a roommate

A good roommate is invaluable! They somehow always know when you need company and when you need to be alone. They cook delicious food and offer you some, just when you’re starving and out of groceries. They’re there at the end of a long day to listen to your complaints and veg out on Netflix with you. Plus, if you’re new in town, it’s great to have a little built-in community.

7.Live on your own

Because a bad roommate is the worst (we’ve all had them). Besides, you learn things being alone that you just can’t when you’re with other people. Decorate your place in your signature style and listen to the music you like. Enjoy the quiet and solitude, get things done on your own time and to your own rhythm.

8.Disagree with your advisor

This usually needs to happen. Even if you have an amazing, supportive, reliable and insightful advisor, there should be something you disagree on. And in that case, you should express your dissent – respectfully.

9.Have tea or a meal with a professor

You might not realize it now, but unless you’re headed for a career in academia, you’re not likely to be surrounded by such a concentration of brilliant minds (all fascinated by the same thing as you are) again. Take advantage! Invite your favorite professor, or one you’d like to get to know better, out.

10.Ditch a class

Funny how skipping classes in college is commonplace, while skipping classes in grad school – unless it’s an emergency - is hugely taboo. The reality is, we all need mental health days now and again. If you’re running on fumes and need to recharge, if it’s the first warm day of spring or the first snowfall, or if you just need a day to sleep in and wander around…consider ditching a class, just this once.

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