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FlowerofLife

Anxious to start Graduate School

6 posts in this topic

I have been admitted to a graduate program of choice and could not be more elated about my acceptance. Lately though, I've been feeling rather anxious about starting this chapter of my life. I have been feeling very doubtful of this decision and feel scared that I will spend all this time and energy in this subject, only to receive my Master's and wish to switch to another career. I am a hard worker, love to be intellectually stimulated, and love a good challenge- the difficult part for me is socializing day in and day out with colleagues, especially on days when personal life is hitting the fan or i'm just plain exhausted. It's really hard to fake it, and it makes me feel guilty when mentally I am just not there that day. I think a lot of the anxiety would melt away if I knew I could just genuinely be myself (good, bad, and ugly), but I know that the culture of academia does not really work this way. We must be "on" at all times. I am also nervous that grad school will be so time consuming that it will derail my personal life and leave me feeling isolated from my friends and family. More than anything, I wish to have a balanced work/home life, but I keep receiving messages that it is just not possible in graduate school. Does anyone else feel similar to this or have advice? Thank you!

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For what it's worth: 

  • You don't know if your chosen field/program is right for you until you try. Lots of people come in thinking they want thing A but learn that actually maybe thing B is better suited for them. Happens all the time, but you still have to take the chance, otherwise you'll never know. 
  • What you describe sounds pretty common, and not at all an indication that you've made the wrong decision. 
  • Academia has a ridiculous number of awkward, shy, and introverted people. Academics are most definitely not "on" all the time. Maybe SLPs are different, but I bet that just like any other profession, there are all kinds of people.
  • Everyone has bad days. And while it's generally best to treat your academic program like a workplace and not snap at people in ways you wouldn't treat a work colleague, it's also entirely understandable if some days you're not as outgoing or happy as others. If you make genuine friends in your program, you'll find ways to vent during the days, and if not, I'm sure you'll find your friends and vent in the evenings. This is no different than any other job you'll have. 

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14 minutes ago, FlowerofLife said:

 I think a lot of the anxiety would melt away if I knew I could just genuinely be myself (good, bad, and ugly), but I know that the culture of academia does not really work this way. We must be "on" at all times. I am also nervous that grad school will be so time consuming that it will derail my personal life and leave me feeling isolated from my friends and family. More than anything, I wish to have a balanced work/home life, but I keep receiving messages that it is just not possible in graduate school. Does anyone else feel similar to this or have advice? Thank you!

Honestly, the only way to succeed in grad school is to be yourself. If you are "on" all the time, you will be exhausted and your performance will suffer. If you let grad school consume your life, it can. So don't let it! Seriously. Schedule in downtime, "me" time, etc. As a grad student, I made time to go to happy hour, watch TV with my roommate, and travel to see friends and family. During my PhD coursework phase, I took up a martial art, joined a trivia team with friends, and started lifting weights at the gym, all of which I scheduled and engaged in regularly. I even went to multiple martial arts classes during the 10 days of my comprehensive exams because you can't just read and write all day. If you don't take time for yourself, you won't be successful (which means being burned out, not graduating, not doing well in courses/internships, etc.). Don't listen to anyone that tells you otherwise.

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Sounds like totally normal thumb-twiddling you're experiencing.  I'm going through the same while waiting for the next step.  Funny enough, my WIFE is going through the same, after just FINISHING school and having to wait a few weeks before her job starts.  Totally rational response to moments of limbo, I say.

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I can definitely relate to the stress that's created by feeling like you have to constantly be "on." As an introvert through and through, this is one of the most draining things that I experience in a day-to-day routine. For me, the key is to find ways to recharge throughout the day when I need it. Sometimes that means finding a quiet corner of the library, going to sit in my car for a few minutes, or even just putting in some headphones and taking a minute to let myself be "off." Sometimes you just need to recenter your energy. I don't think that you necessarily need to be "on" as often as you would in an 8-5 office job, which is one of the reasons I love academia- though that's just my experience and your field may be different. 

I also echo the sentiment that those in academia can tend to be more "quirky" and accepting of differences in people than those not in academia (another reason I'm drawn to it), so honestly I wouldn't worry too much about that. 

Take time to pause, breathe, and reassess. You'll learn to balance everything.

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Posted (edited)

First of all, anxiety about your program is completely normal. Nothing to worry about, and certainly not a sign that you've chosen wrong. :)

And second of all, as someone who did go to into a graduate program and later found that it was not my thing...it's not the end of the world. In fact, the moment you know that you want to give up is the moment you no longer care about giving it up. And if you won't worry about it when it comes, then why worry about it before it comes? Sometimes it takes a bit of self-discovery to figure out what you want to do, and even if that discovery comes later, it's better than nothing. Never think of self-discovery as a waste of time. It's merely one of many steps that you must take to reach your ultimate goal, whatever it may be.

As far as work/life balance goes, it is what you make it out to be. Grad student stress is nothing new, but there are plenty of grad students with spouses and kids who are active in the campus and academic community. I think a part of life is that if you're serious about what you do, whatever it is (and pretty much all grad students are), you'll feel stressed at some point. But there's no need to make that stress debilitating. Take part in activities in your department. Spend time with your friends and family. Treat school like a 9-5 job. Work hard when you're there, but one crucial thing that we all need to learn as we transition from students to professionals is how to leave that work behind when we get home. Good luck!

Edited by ThousandsHardships

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