Tag Archives: grad

Start of Class, Start of Mental Games

The new school year has officially begun. Naivety and underestimation is in the air. And as a graduate of the wild, free, memory-making undergrad, you become more aware of the beauty of being a freshman again. You also become more aware of how old you truly are. There is no turning back because as a graduate student you are not allowed to be naïve, irresponsible, or lost.

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So as you walk the campus looking at all the young students milling around, you realize 1) you’re lost but don’t want to ask an undergrad where a building is because you will look dumb and 2) you are lost in more ways than one that no undergrad could ever help with. It is a big change being on a campus as a graduate student (law or medical student included). Even if it’s a familiar school and familiar grounds, something deep down within you feels changed. Don’t try to ignore or deny it, it’s a part of life now and you need to accept and adjust.

But there are some things you will never adjust to. Like when you’re looking for your classroom on the first day of the new semester with that practiced, fake smile like you know exactly where you are going, and suddenly a new undergraduate student asks you for help. It went a little something like this:

Female Student: “Excuse me, miss, where is Bryan Hall?”

Me: “Yup you’re almost there” and walk away.

Total shut down. And wait, did she just “miss” me?! That means I’m old to people who are only 4 or 5 years younger than me. Then it suddenly sinks in how the university campus world sees ME now…

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Just when you think the worst realizations have occurred that you will have to deal with, you finally do find your classroom and sit in those rickety chairs with the desktops that flap up from the side. You look around the room and see faces of people who really are older than you: people already in the work field, those who have been in their profession for many years, those who are married with kids, those who have already figured out their life. It’s then that you suddenly feel like a child again…the child that one of these real adults brought along with them, a child who should be writing in crayon and having a coloring book rather than a textbook.

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Then you start mentally freaking out that this is not the right decision. You shouldn’t be here. Grad school isn’t for you. This life isn’t for you. I just want to stay at home and play with kittens and puppies all day. You went from being the oldest person on campus to the youngest and dumbest person in the room within 15 minutes.

In the midst of your mental breakdown, the professor starts speaking and introducing himself or herself. Only to then inform you to call him/her by his/her first name. Say what now?? I don’t think that’s even in my biology to call a professional and my elder by his or her first name.

After explaining the syllabus and how it will all work there’s a final realization….

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So in conclusion, you’re screwed… but everyone around you is in the same boat, just in different phases of life. You are not the dumbest in the room. You are not the only one who feels misplaced. You are just part of this whole new world called “graduate school” and expectations are higher. But that means you need to play the game and fake it until you make it, baby!

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And we’re right back to the child thing again. Stay young, my friends!

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So you’ve graduated.

Congrats. After a party that lasted four years straight (and that thing people call “school”), the commencement ceremony is supposed to be the grand finale. As much as that may be a little true, the day after consists of a serious hangover…and not the type from alcohol-induced graduation celebrations.

It’s the day after where you realize you are no longer a student at that college and you are now expected to have your life figured out. No more using the gym for free, no more walking on campus saying “yeah I go here!” and no more getting away with procrastinating. Even if you were a good student (like me, since I am a perfectionist), everything goes downhill after graduation day. Like you haven’t heard that question “So what are you doing next year?!” enough, but now it is “So what are you going to do now?” Notice that exclamation mark was dropped? That’s not by accident. People ask the question now with a dry tone expecting a legitimate answer. Have you got a legitimate answer?

I don’t.

Although people say it’s okay that you don’t know, it’s not. See in college, especially senior year, you could get away with procrastinating and making up answers to questions about the future. However, the time has come to really piece together parts of your life. My opinion? Charts. Pros and cons of getting a job or continuing your education. Would you benefit from furthering your education? Does your field require it? Would you be able to make it through more years of studying? Can you find a decent job that will help your future?

Both options involve major financial considerations. Some people had this in undergrad: taking out loans, working one or more jobs, paying all of your own bills. But even these people are in for a tough time. People expect more out of you now. No one is sympathetic to you anymore compared to when you were a ‘struggling student trying to get a good education.’ Now it’s more of a welcome to the adult life of many people in this world, you’re one of us now. This doesn’t come with a welcome party, though. So don’t bring your party shakers and champagne. (Also, you can’t waste money on those things now! You’re an adult!) It is a tough but serious consideration, so don’t make the decision lightly. But don’t let it get you bogged down either. This really is a new chapter in life that you should be excited and happy about. You made it through college, which means you are good at faking it enough to make it through the whole “career” thing.

So in summation, good luck. Although don’t take all the luck because I need some, too, you know. And you thought this would be easy, you silly graduates.

image from: http://www.clearpointcreditcounselingsolutions.org

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