Grad school and my social life, a balancing act


Grad school can create a tricky balancing act with your social life.

“Where have you been?” and “Why don’t I ever see you?” are the two things I’ve heard most often since I’ve started. I know I’m not alone; it’s common among members of my class, with many of us asking ourselves where our lives have gone.

Students in grad school come from all walks of life and are often in different stages. We come together to further our education with the hope of improving or changing our  career path, or getting on the one we want.

Grad school does not include the social network we took for granted during our undergraduate years, where everyone is typically the same age and has the same schedule. There are class socials intermittently, but overall, people tend to do their work and then go home (and sleep!).

And due to the hours of classes and the outside work required, I’ve found myself on a different schedule from my out-of-class friends. Night classes, for example, have a hindering effect on my social life. A lot of graduate courses are at night to accommodate part-time students.

Most of my friends work 9-5 (sometimes longer) and therefore have their nights free. Opposing schedules mean less opportunity to engage in social relationships outside of school. Also, with assignments, group projects and studying, nights and weekends are often accounted for.

I’ll admit, I haven’t gotten this balancing act down at all, but it’s been one of my goals this semester. Since I’ve started, I’ve felt I always should be doing work because there is always more work to be done. As a result, I have let my social relationships slide. Recently, I’ve taken a stance against myself and started to make time to maintain and create social relationships, along with some non-school alone time.

Here are some balancing tips I’ve come up with:

Make plans and stick to them

No matter how busy you are with school, you need a life! Even a coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile mid-week makes a huge difference.

Make a work schedule and when you’re done for the day, STOP!

This is much harder than it sounds, since grad school is never-ending work. By putting down the books, you’ll allow yourself to recharge and also feel a sense of accomplishment that you’ve finished a day’s work.

Have a weekly reward

If you never take a break, it’s hard to continuously motivate yourself. Choose one night or day when you won’t check your email and you can forget about school.

Make friends within your program

I’ll let you in on a secret: at first, I found it a little intimidating because of the whole all walks of life thing. But we’re all there for a reason and getting to know my classmates on a personal level is important and also makes the time at school a lot more enjoyable!

Remember, grad school can help you further yourself, but not just in terms of academics. Your social network is important and maintaining it can be difficult. Networking is key to a successful career (and friends are key to happiness).

When you look back on your grad school experience, those extra few hours spent outside of the classroom getting to know your classmates or catching up with friends you haven’t seen in awhile will be some of the best memories. So, organize your time wisely, put down the books and go have fun!

About the author

Alison Backman is a student at Ryerson University's Global MBA program, with an interest in international business and marketing. She holds a BA in psychology and sociology from Acadia University. After completing university, she worked with the YMCA at a not-for-profit children's camp and travelled Central America. This past year, she completed a marketing post-graduate program at Humber College.