Academic advisors might warn students about heavier workloads, research expectations, and the increased competitiveness of grad school, but the personal upheaval is largely unspoken of.
Success in grad school is determined not only by academic achievement but by personal factors as well.
Along with practical advice on the ins and outs of grad school, prospective graduate students need to know the personal challenges they will face when pursuing advanced degrees.
Anyone who can get into grad school likely has the intellectual skills to succeed. But learning how to negotiate the new pressures on your personal life in grad school is an equally important skill.
So, along with practical advice on the ins and outs of grad school, prospective graduate students need to know the personal challenges they will face when pursuing advanced degrees.
Many graduate students, even at the masters level, have to undertake research trips or participate in conferences that take them away from home. Lasting anywhere from a weekend to a year, such trips are an amazing opportunity but can also be incredibly disruptive personally. While these trips can be expensive and lonely, they are also intellectually rewarding and exciting opportunities to travel.
Relationships can suffer from the enormous time commitments and potential travel requirements for success in grad school as well. For the lucky, partners might be able to join you at conferences and research trips. But for most, the time spent away on lengthy research trips poses a significant challenge to stable relationships.
Relationships are affected by more than just travel commitments at grad school. A graduate program will require more time, more personal investment, and more focus than undergraduate studies.
It’s not just school. You have to treat it like a full-time job. And this job requires lots of overtime! Balancing this enormous commitment with a relationship is hard. To do so successfully, you’ll need to prioritize and also limit the time you spend on your education. You’ll also need to identify and devote specific days and times to your relationship. Without planning, both will suffer.
Also, plan for the unexpected.
I moved to London, England, in February 2007, to undertake only a few months of research for my degree. In the end, I ended up staying more than two years! This move abroad took me away from my family and my friends, and even my professors, but it helped me to become an expert in my field and also build a relationship with a partner in England.
As in my own experiences, you will find that relationships, travel, research and finding the finances to manage these all become important considerations when thinking about going to grad school. They continue to be factors you need to consider throughout your studies as well.
Grad school offers amazing opportunities to advance your education, gain important credentials, develop professional contacts, and sometimes even to travel. It is, however, an enormous commitment in terms of time and money, and the decision to embark upon grad school should be made only after extensive research and advice.
The advice and experiences you’ll find here are a great place to start, but be sure to talk to professors, academic advisors, and career counsellors as you consider or prepare for graduate school.