All the Important Things My First Year of Grad School Taught Me

The night before my 23rd birthday I gave my final presentation as a first year graduate student. That night my boyfriend and I celebrated the last moments of me being 22, finishing my first year of school and the fact that I earned $5 in extrabucks at CVS.

As a senior in college, it felt like everyone was talking about what they were going to do after graduation. Those who were admittedly too scared of the idea of jumping into the workforce filled out grad school applications faster than they could create a login profile.

My original plan was to take a year off to gain experience, but two months of living at home gave me the motivations I needed to accept an admissions offer. Also, my mom prefers orange juice with extra pulp, which I had a hard time coping with.

Moving across the country to begin my master’s coursework left me feeling like a fish out of water, but now approaching the beginning of my second year, I can reflect on all the lessons that first year taught me.

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1. You will be just as confused as a first year graduate student as when you were a first year undergraduate. Except this time there will be no welcome rally or RA to show you how to navigate the campus.

2. Making friends is a lot more difficult when you don’t share a hallway with sixty people and most of your classmates are a lot older than you.

3. Every year gets more expensive, not including all the bills that come with entering adulthood.

4. You can’t hide in the back of class anymore, and if you want to, you’re might not be in the right field.

5. It’s an amazing feeling to be surrounded by people who all want to do the exact same thing as you.

6. Once you start school, no one will care where your former school ranked or who went where.

7. Working and going to school full time requires a lot of time management, and ziplocs filled with snacks.

8. You will eventually get overwhelmed and break down. Sometimes when home alone, sometimes when riding the subway after a long day.

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9. Professors don’t seem as intimidating anymore, you might even enjoy coming to class early to talk to them.

10. You won’t miss things like homecoming and campus concerts as much as you thought you would.

11. Yes they were fun, but there’s something different about painting yourself in your school colors when you were 18 vs 23.

12. While you feel completely naïve in your field, you also just cannot relate to undergraduates.

13. Milestones in undergrad meant turning 21 and landing an awesome internship. Milestones in grad school are more about making your monthly student loan payments on time and finally being able to afford to live on your own.

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14. College parties are a thing of the past, now they’re called happy hours and you go with the intention to “network.”

15. The whole you-must-graduate-in-two-years is just at thing people who aren’t in graduate school say. Doesn’t matter if it takes two or four years, as long as you finish.

16. It doesn’t matter where your school ranks, everywhere has its benefits.

17. Did I mention making friends is hard? Because it deserves another mention. Busy schedules will leave you wanting to do nothing more than go home after a long day.

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Graduate school was a thing I kind of just jumped into. I was sure I had picked a great school, I was a bit nervous about the cross country move with no saving or friends/family to fall back on. Unlike my freshmen year of college though, there were no welcome rallies or mentors to show me the ropes. Living off campus and working full time led to me take a full year to learn some basic things, like how to figure out the campus internet portal and the importance of keeping in touch with your financial aid adviser.

If you’re deciding whether or not to go for it right after college or wait a few year, just do it! Yes you can always go back to school, but why not get it done while also gaining work experience? Going into my second year I am now finally becoming comfortable with the idea that I’ve somehow managed to find my passion so young, a thing that takes some people a lifetime. Graduate school won’t the same for everyone, graduate school isn’t for everyone, but for those of us who love to learn, it’s the place you can sit in a room full of like minded people and share with one another all the lessons you’ve learned and the goals you hope to one day accomplish. 

Do you have any words of advice for anyone looking to attend grad school? What's the biggest thing you learned outside the classroom? 


  1. Making friends after college is so hard! I'm glad you're enjoying grad school! I think I want to go back to school someday, but I don't have it together enough yet to know what I want to go back for.

    1. So so so so hard!! Why is there no exit rally in college that warns you about how lonely adulthood can be?? I wrote this post a while ago so I'm totally on the whole, maybe I dont have this as figured out as I thought I did, boat.