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kit2138

Advice for young grad student?

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I'm graduating this May a year ahead of schedule so I'll still be 21 when I start my Master's in IR/Public Policy this fall. I think the only thing that I'm nervous about is being the youngest in my class.. I know it's not something to worry about too much, but I'm mostly afraid of people (professors) not taking me seriously. I'm not afraid to branch out and network but I know it will be a little intimidating at first. Just not sure what to expect really! Any advice for a young grad student would be very much appreciated!

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First off, congrats on starting grad school :D Now some advice:

1. Don't worry about being the youngest. You were selected to be there out of many other applicants. They knew your age before offering you a spot so they know you are more than capable of succeeding in the program. I have a friend who is the youngest in her program and she is brilliant.

2. Get close to your cohort. At least one person. This person will be with you through the ups and downs of grad school and you guys can complain as well as praise each other. I had my grad school bestie and man, it helped to know that I wasn't the only one struggling. Speaking of struggling...

3. You deserve to be there. It may sound weird now but imposter syndrome can get to you, especially if you are surrounded by other people who think differently than you do and who are seemingly brilliant. That happened to me a couple times but I was able to get out of it and succeed.

4. Know how you cope and make sure it is not destructive. This was something I wish I knew before going in. I never had a high stress job in my life. Undergrad was a breeze for me and all the actual employment I had at that point was either retail or food. So I never really experienced true stress until I got into grad school. And man...did I have a vice for every semester. I drank a lot, slept around a lot, had a mixture of both one semester, and then shut myself off from the world and became a hermit for my last semester. Was it productive? Eeehhh I mean I got my work done and I survived. But I could see how that could have gotten destructive if I hadn't been able to get my work done. All I can say is that it will be hard. You will stress out. Try to find constructive ways to cope. But if you do like to drink...

5. Find a place with a good happy hour that is walking distance from the campus. While I don't encourage drinking as a way to cope, finding a place (any place, alcohol or otherwise) that other grad students like to go to and hang out after class will help both making friends and taking the edge off.

Hope that helps! :D

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In my experience, people won't even know your exact age and will usually just assume you're the same or about the same age as them/the other students.

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Hey @kit2138,

First, congratulations! Just a thought - I'm an older student (37!) with kids in school and a spouse who works full time, and let me say, I'm often jealous of some of my younger colleagues' discretionary time. In seriousness though, despite coming into this game late, I have the utmost respect for my fellow students, old or young. Everyone has something to offer, and some of my best friends from my masters cohort were in their early 20s when we started. Just be honest with who you are, don't downplay your ideas or overly self-deprecate, and don't put up with people who refuse to respect you. And stand up to us older students who can be asshats sometimes because of our "experience."

Second, find yourself a mentor. This is important for everyone. I think it would be really cool if it's someone who is right now doing what you want to do. They can be inside or outside of your school. They don't even necessarily have to be in your field, but do find someone who is a mature and wise person (as much as you can tell).  I'd avoid picking a more advanced student because they might be gone before you graduate. I know a lot of people (myself included) who lay a lot of their success at the feet of their mentor. 

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My best friend in my program is also 21 and she is not the only 21-year-old in the program!  I honestly forget people's age 99% of the time anyway, you are all there for the same reason so it's easy to view everyone on the same level.  I would say it's actually harder to be older/married/with kids than it is to be young (in my program, anyway).  You'll be fine!!

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I'm 20, turning 21 in November & starting a master's program in August- generally I got through college on @MinaminoTeku's first point & the fact people don't know, but that got harder when everybody turned 21 and I had to explain why I couldn't go out. I drink but I don't have a fake ID, I feel like I'll be outed pretty quickly. But @kit2138, you're not alone. 

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Being younger means nothing at all. When I did my master's I was 22 and the primary colleagues I used to hang out with were 19 and 28. We didn't have any drastically different experiences in the program --- trust whoever picked you that you have what it takes for the job.

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Hopping on this thread here...  I'm just wondering what the typical workload of a PhD program is like.  I heard that I'm expected to work ~20 hours a week in the lab and take classes.  My question to older students would be: did you find this to be a realistic estimate?  Were you all able to find time during the weekends to relax and go places?

EDIT: FYI, I'm coming directly from an Undergraduate institution and I'm in my early 20's - so I wanted some insight especially from someone who went from undergraduate --> PhD at a young age.

Edited by shikkui

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Undergrad -> PhD here! And I'm 20 so probably I could be counted as "at a young age". It certainly doesn't feel good to be taken to an ice cream place when everyone else is going to a bar. That's certain.

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13 hours ago, shikkui said:

Hopping on this thread here...  I'm just wondering what the typical workload of a PhD program is like.  I heard that I'm expected to work ~20 hours a week in the lab and take classes.  My question to older students would be: did you find this to be a realistic estimate?  Were you all able to find time during the weekends to relax and go places?

EDIT: FYI, I'm coming directly from an Undergraduate institution and I'm in my early 20's - so I wanted some insight especially from someone who went from undergraduate --> PhD at a young age.

Probably depends on your program and advisor. For me, it's like 30-40 hours/week for lab then do classes on your own time. 

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