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Friends in Grad School


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Tried posting this in the Lobby with no response, hoping for better luck here!

What has been your experience making friends in grad school? Is it natural for cohorts to be close, or does it really vary by programs?

I'm really looking forward to not being surrounded by undergrads (especially freshmen, given my position as a resident assistant...); I usually make friends with older students. I also don't like partaking in alcohol/drug consumption, and I'm hoping the norm of going to frat parties on Friday/Saturday nights will peter out once I start. What's been everyone's experience like making friends, and what's seen as a typical grad school weekend night, beyond cramming for exams or editing/grading/writing papers?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm not yet a graduate student, so I can't say for sure, but there are several factors that will influence making friends that are different from undergrad!

For one, are you going to a state school or a private school? The culture of the university is usually the main attraction for undergrads and not graduate students (who tend to gravitate toward research potential) but if you're surrounded by parties, party-minded graduate students may go out and drink and dance as well. If your university is in a place with no bars then "parties" may be more get-together like, with some light drinks and board games.

Next, is your university graduate only or do you share the campus with undergraduates? I'm going to be attending CUNY, which has an entirely separate campus for graduate student classes, so the only undergraduates I will talk to will be in the labs I rotate in. Most of my interaction will be with my graduate cohort and not undergraduate students.

Third, the ages of graduate students vary greatly, especially when you factor in international students. The graduate student I'm interning under in my post-bac position is Korean, and she is almost 30 years old and in her third year. My PI is also Korean and he said that the norm is for Korean students to wait until around that age to begin graduate studies. One person I interviewed with at CUNY will be graduating undergrad at the end of this semester and told me that she's 21. I'm 23 myself, having attended undergrad for 5.5 years. So your desire to hang with "older students" might not work out so well, despite your graduate status.

Lastly, do you expect to only make friends within your cohort or will you also be attempting to make friends in the city/town you live in? If you like D&D or hiking or some other hobby you can easily find meet-up groups to make friends without drinking/bars! I already have a ton of friends in New York City, and they are all professionals, so I'm not depending so much on hanging out with my cohort. Of course I want to be friendly with them but I don't plan to stick around them in all of my free time.

Hopefully this helps, even coming from someone who just got their bachelors ?

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I think this will vary a lot as not all grad students are right out of undergrad or even 20somethings.  A grad student with kids and/or a spouse will have a different experience making friends compared to those who don't for example.  I think it really helps to not limit yourself to the students in your department or even your university when it comes to making friends.  Establish hobbies off campus, go study in cafes in different neighborhoods, go to random events all over town, join meetup groups, etc.  If you don't want to work all weekend then make your work week so productive you don't need to.  If drinking isn't your thing, find other activities to enjoy.  My weekends only involve work if I should to play hooky on a weekday or if I feel crazy inspired.  Otherwise my weekends are for self care, socializing, or just lazing about.

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  • 3 weeks later...

If you make an effort to be social in the first 6 weeks, I don't think you'll have a problem making new connections anywhere! Why?

- everyone is nervous / new / excited at that point. there's plenty common ground to talk about (what classes? what advisor? thesis? background etc etc)

- (mostly) everyone will also want to make new connections

- it will warm outside (if you are somewhere that has cold winters - best to make friends before people are terrified of coming out of their apartments haha)

Good luck ?

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I've been nervous about this too, as I'm pretty shy (which most people mistake for disinterest). However, I know many cohorts are tight-knit and have regular get-togethers. One of the programs I applied to does weekly readings at a faculty member's house. If your cohort isn't like that, consider suggesting a weekly/bi-weekly event.

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  • 1 month later...

*3 years in Ph.D. Don't attend drinking parties. Slightly introverted. Making friends slowly. 

For cohort: It's not abnormal that cohorts get close. It depends on the department and the cohort dynamics. My cohort are considered the most collegiate among all 5 or 6 cohorts in my program by the end of our 1st year. We are closer in age, few married or with children, most living on campus, no one too invasive or dominant, no strongly exclusive cliques. There are some regular dining out, trivia nights, game nights in our first year, like weekly or biweekly, but nothing mandatory. I'd say let it be natural. Making friends is indeed only partially in your control. If you'd like to bond your cohort, go ahead but know that in grad school, people may be more independent or want closer/smaller friend network. Openness and understanding are the keys. 

On campus: in my undergrad and current institutions, grad and undergrad are not closely connected. I do have undergrad RAs in my lab, but I don't bond with them due to power dynamics. I still go to events on campus, like performance and talks, recreational sports classes, etc.  

About age: what is the "active ingredient" about age? Otherwise it's just a label. 

Typical weekend night: one thing about grad school is to be comfortable with not being typical, especially in the domains you asked about. Follow your feelings and do what's comfortable for you. 



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