Things I Wish I Had Known: Grad School (Part 1 – What is Grad School?)

If you get a Ph.D., you get to dress up as a wizard even when it's not Halloween! I find more and more that I know things that seem obvious now, but were less so when they could have been more useful to me.  I’ve come to realize that these things are probably likewise confusing to still-uninitiated. So, as a public service to people who are as confused as I was, (or an excuse to talk about myself for a while,) I’m inaugurating a series about various things I learned too late, or whose importance I didn’t realize soon enough. I call it, imaginatively, “Things I wish I had known”, and this particular entry will hopefully shed some light on the mystery that is graduate studies.

I want to lead with a caveat – I’m going to say “grad school” a lot here.  I will try to keep what I say as broadly applicable as possible, but you should know that I started in a Ph.D. program in Computer Science, and left after my Master’s.  My experience is almost definitely not applicable to professional degrees (Law, Medicine, MBAs).  It only kind of applies to people in Master’s-only programs.  People in the humanities or softer sciences should recognize at least a glimmer of their experience.

It is also worth mentioning that though I left early, I actually love grad school in that way that only the abused can love their abuser, and I fully intend to go back to school for my Ph.D.

What are you getting yourself into?

Before I got into grad school, I thought I knew what it was, but like many things, no matter how much you know intellectually, you can’t really understand grad school until you’ve experienced it. As such, a lot of the things I have to say will at best soften the surprise.

Continue Reading »