Whether it’s medical school, law school, or any other graduate level program, every grad student faces pains and struggles only we can understand. Sure, our lives may look beautiful from the outside. We are Professional Students at this point, and who wouldn’t want to be in college forever?! What the outside world tends to not grasp is there is college and there is grad school. College is fun. Grad school is pain. We are broke. We are tired. And we are usually over the age of 22. We thought we’d have everything together at this point. Instead, our cars are losing their paint jobs and we are losing our minds. Here are 8 struggles only the grad student will understand:
1. Big-kid purchase envy.
There are three things you’re almost guaranteed to see on your social media pages at this age: baby pictures, engagement photos, and….. new car/home owner photos. The latter is painful for us grad students. We are similarly or more educated than those posting new photos of their shiny new 2015 Honda Accord or their copper key to their new 3-bedroom home. Sadly, while their degrees, or lack of, have afforded them these accomplishments, we’re still living with a roommate who eats our favorite cereal in an apartment that may or may not be safe and wondering if our card is going to go through next time we fill up gas. The struggle is always incredibly real.
2. Speaking of being broke, I am broke.
Some grad programs may be an exception, but for the majority of the ones I’ve encountered, most of us are living off of student loans. We get one disbursement in Fall, and one in Spring. They are fixed. They don’t go up. They only go down. So while everyone else is buying their third round of beers because they get paid on Friday, my insides are eating at me for my one beer imaging my bank account move farther from green and closer to red. Our least favorite, but inevitable hobby is calculating just how many vodka sodas we can have each weekend during the semester while still being able to pay our bills.
3. If I seem distant, it’s not you, it’s grad school.
In college it seemed like we were invincible. The second actual class ended and the weekend had arrived, school would not even cross the mind until you stepped foot back into the classroom on Monday. Grad school comes along and looms over you like the guy who says he just wants to be your friend but won’t stop asking you on a date. The stress never goes away. If I tell you I can’t go to the gym or get coffee with you, it’s not because I don’t want to. It’s because even if I do, your face will slowly morph into my professor telling me I’m a failure because I’m not note-carding right now. Don’t take it personal.
4. Relationships. LOL.
Most of us go into grad school with them. You’re on top of the world. You have a degree. You are READY for a relationship right now, because you are educated, and you have your stuff together! Grad school comes around and says, “that’s funny, because you’re actually dating ME.” Grad school and relationships mix together worse than orange juice and toothpaste. You might be able to make it work, but your significant other will probably rather watch paint dry than hang out with you along the way.
5. Wondering WTF you were thinking.
It’s always magical when one of your friends tells you about how “awesome!!!!!” their new job is and how they just made 1,000 dollars in commission this week. Every grad student experiences the dreadful feeling of “why didn’t I just go into the work force like a normal, sane human being? Wasn’t ONE DEGREE ENOUGH?” at least once a semester. While people are actually MAKING money for their pain and exhaustion, we are spending it. Really, this concept will send you to a very disturbing place.
6. Wishing to have time for your “health”.
It’s so fun logging on to social media to see everyone has become body builders and nutritional coaches all at the same time. Unfortunately for us, eating healthy probably means I had one coffee today instead of 5. We’re so glad you all have time to cross-fit, meal prep AND post an Instagram of both today, but I had to read for six classes while trying to plot how actually not to read for those six classes and still get away with it. Abs are overrated, anyway.
7. Answering the question “what are you going to do after grad school?”
Look, homie, I didn’t go to grad school to learn to tell the future. I can give you a good idea of what I would LIKE to do after grad school, but there are no guarantees and it scares the crap out of me. Don’t ask a grad student this. Unless we are fortunate enough to be in grad school because our current employer encouraged/paid for us to receive a graduate degree, we probably don’t know and the uncertainty eats at us since we are already thousands of dollars in debt. You aren’t us, so please don’t worry about our futures.
8. Being mistaken for an undergraduate student.
Whether you’re at a bar meeting a potential date, or you’re talking to a stranger on a plane, people love to ask, “so what do you do?” Grad students are especially good at telling you their specific area and level of study, because dang-it, we are NOT undergraduate students. For example, a law student isn’t going to simply say “I’m a student.” Oh, hell no. I earned these bags under my eyes and my first gray hair that I shouldn’t have gotten until at least my early thirties. You’ll usually get a response like, “I’m in law school at the most prestigious law school in the country and I’m on law review and I also read romance novels on the side because I’m so good at school so I definitely have free time while simultaneously interning for the District Attorney and by the way I save cats from trees.” We are not. Just. Students.
While these 2-4 years are often horribly challenging and we are inevitably losing years off our life, most of us wouldn’t change it for the world. We love our crafts and we love to learn. So cheers to all the grad students out there, and stop reading this because you probably have homework to do.