Retaining Sanity in Grad School

Spending between five and ten years in graduate school is probably enough to make even the most even-keeled of us feel like we’re going crazy. Being a grad—as great as some aspects of that situation can be—can occasionally feel interminable, depressing, or devaluing. Sometimes, it can make you feel a dreadful combination of all three. Whether you’re giving up hope because you’re in your eighth year and feel no closer to publication, or have been in tears for days over the cutting remarks a professor left on your latest chapter, don’t despair. There’s hope. The question is, how do you hold on to it? How can you make it through grad school?

  • First off, remember that grad school isn’t your whole world. It can feel like that, but it’s not. It’s an insular, specialized, and focused place. If you spend all your time thinking and talking about what goes on there, you’ll miss out on what else is out in the world. Initially, being obsessed with grad school and academics—doing research until all hours of the night—might feel like the responsible, scholarly thing to do. But there’s more than one way of being a responsible scholar. Taking a step back and finding interests in other places will help you find a renewed interest in your scholarship when you return to it.
  • To that end, stay balanced. Find friends who don’t study what you study and aren’t grad students. Hang out with people who won’t put up with you talking shop all night, every night. Instead, seek out people who do something completely different—people who hold down nine-to-five jobs, people who are athletes and artists, or people who share your non-scholarly interests.
  • It’s important to hear about the pleasures and pains of other walks of life. That can give you perspective on your own situation. If you only know what it’s like to be a grad or to be friends with grads, you can lose that perspective. Of course, this isn’t a suggestion to abandon your grad student friends. It’s a suggestion to broaden your society. With that breadth comes breathing room.
  • Remember why you came to grad school in the first place—presumably, at least one of your reasons was love or passion for your subject. Don’t lose that. Over time, being in graduate school can push you to actually dislike your subject: you run the risk of equating it with the dread of deadlines, the terror of cruel critiques, or the drudgery of another trip through the library stacks. It would be terrible to leave grad school with distaste for the very area you wished to specialize in. Instead, find a way to remain passionate about your field of interest. Read a book, watch a play, or conduct an experiment that’s not related to your dissertation. If you can bring that passion back to your academic work, that’s even better!
  • Finally, if your dissertation editing isn’t going well, hire a good dissertation editing service–such as ours–to help you out.