This was published as a University of South Carolina series called “Professional Journeys” where Candace Wiley give tips to current graduate students.

5⅔ Things I Didn’t Realize About Grad School until I Left

Ah… grad school… The place where you think that you’re the only person crying in the shower. In grad school, you eat Foucault for breakfast! Along with a side of impostor syndrome, anxiety, a dash of depression, and of course no actual breakfast. While it’s rewarding and transformational, can we also acknowledge the exhausting routine: 6:30 wake up to beat the train and find a parking spot, to teach from 8:00 to 10:00, office hours from 10:00 to 12:00 while you huddle over your $8 soup like Sméagol over the Ring, then you take your own classes from 12:00 to 4:00, when you rush off to tutor for a few hours to support your soup habit, then back to class from 6:00 to whenever in the evening, and spend the rest of the night in the library running on coffee and cookies?

This website talks a lot about having a plan, writing it down, and checking in with it. In the picture, you’ll see the Bridge to my Enterprise, where I keep track of my goals and time. Since you already have tons of resources on this website, I won’t spend any space here discussing that. I also won’t spend time here enumerating the many wonderful aspects of my program and University of South Carolina degree.

As a current grad student, you’re already sold; you don’t need a commercial. Instead, I’ll give you…5⅔ things I didn’t realize about grad school until I left.

  • #1: I Thought Grad School was School

It’s not. It walks like school and quacks like school. However, the danger is that you finish and still only have a G.P.A. and degree to show for it.

Grad school is a misnomer: call it “The First Stage of My Career.” I made the mistake of taking a full load of classes each semester, because when else would I get the opportunity to take such amazing classes with such prolific professors for free! Mistake! I should’ve taken a full load for the first three semesters and then spent the last three semesters pursuing my own reading lists, writing my obsessions, working closely with mentors, and submitting for publication. At a certain point, grad school becomes about what you can produce for the world, not how many classes you can balance. That crazy-ass schedule in the first paragraph would have been completely different if I’d known this. My C.V.-building contributions to the industry would have been different, too.

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