The Chemist: Post-Grad Anxiety
Hey there! So this week we're talking about the anxiety that comes after graduation. I'm going to start this post by talking about pre-graduation anxiety then move on the the anxiety I have now being in grad school.
So my senior year at Pitt was stressful starting the summer before fall semester. I was making tons of lists of grad schools I wanted to go to, filled with all the requirements I would need to apply, due dates, recommendation letter guidelines, stipend details, etc. (I'm highly organized, if you didn't catch on). But seriously, I had a Word document with all this information on it thinking it would help me manage the stress that was to come that fall...it didn't. Between showing my list to my advisor and trusted professors, taking classes, doing research/prepping for my first professional poster session, meeting all the university deadlines to graduate, and the like, I was a crazy person. And to top it all off, the list I spent most of summer making changed dramatically with every professor I talked to. I maybe applied to two schools on my original list when it was all said and done.
Let's talk a little about the application process. It. Is. STRESSFUL. You have to make sure you stay on top of it, bugging your professors for recommendation letters, taking any GRE/standardized test you need, writing personal and/or research statements, filling out the actual application, scheduling visits, it's a lot of work. My best piece of advice is do it in small sections. Pick a day and work on your statement, pick another day to fill out the online application, send a detailed email to the people you want to write your letters EARLY and follow up as much as you need to. The more organized you are with this, the more manageable it becomes. Another piece of advice is to be open to advice from your mentors/advisors/professors because they know what grad school is like, know the people that work there, and know you well, so they won't lead you in the wrong direction. Fun fact: I wasn't looking at OSU initially, but here I am and I love it!
Let's fast forward to the spring when you're done applying to schools, or jobs. You get the itis. It's so real, guys. You see that graduation light and are over it. You just want to pass this last semester of classes and keep it pushing to the next chapter. I was there, trust me. You just have to find motivation to finish strong. You cannot slack off as much as you're going to want to. Schools look at that last semester to see if your senioritis got the best of you, DO NOT LET IT.
So now, you're a college graduate and you're starting grad school - whether it's the next fall, or you take some time off. For me, I moved, again, for school and it truly hit me I was in my own. I knew zero people in Columbus, I was going to be financially responsible for myself since I'm getting a monthly paycheck, I had to be an actual adult this time. It was hard, lonely, challenging, but exciting in a way when I first moved. I had to learn a new place all over again and I couldn't just come home when I wanted to. It definitely took some time to adjust.
My first year started and that was more stressful. Grad school is not like undergrad at all. I've had plenty of nights where I questioned why I decided to do this, so that is normal I promise. Making friends is different because there's no "right" age for grad school, people come from all walks of life with different priorities. Classes are hard, then once research started in January that added a laundry list of things to do all the time. It's no joke. You go from school just being school to it being your job and that feels different. It's a lot of responsibility, especially because most of the time you have to teach. I was blessed enough to be on fellowship so I haven't taught yet, but I'll tell you how that goes when I get there. Plus at OSU, we have certain exams we have to pass throughout the program and that was a whole other set of stressors that I'm not going to go into.
But now, I'm here. Finished my first year of my PhD program, balling out in the lab, passed my First Year exam with flying colors, but I know what's coming is more challenging than what has already passed. Post- grad life is hard, I'm not even going to sugar coat it. But with the lows, there are a lot of highs. You see your hard work pay off. You develop meaningful relationships with your classmates. You move one step closer to your dream career. You have to take it one day at a time. Reach one goal at a time. It is not a race. Work at your own pace, all that matters is you reach the finish line.