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The Secret to Grad School: Thick Skin



Through the course of completing my masters and working on my PhD, I have learned one important lesson: the more you learn, the less you know! 

Grad school is a constant mix of personal self-doubt and professional criticism. Just when you think you have figured something out, there is someone there to remind you that you need to re-think or re-write. Of course, the criticism isn't malicious. It is intended to push you, to make you the best you can be. But constantly being pushed and working to your best is exhausting!

If you are contemplating grad school let me tell you, the key to finishing isn't being the best or the brightest, but having a thick enough skin to make it through the years of criticism! 

Even after three years, I still miss the mark. Just last week, my advisor told me I needed to rewrite a paper because, although it was "fine," she knew I could do better. Naturally, my first thought was not, "she's just trying to push me," but "why after three years am I still not good at this?" 

Of course I always push through the self-doubt (after I eat my feelings a bit) and pick myself back up and rewrite the paper remembering that I am not crap, I'm just being pushed. 

Every grad student I know experiences this emotional roller coaster on a weekly daily basis. Some semesters are better than others, but all in all, with each passing year you grow a little stronger (and a little wiser… I think). And the ones who don't, begin to drop one by one. On average only 50% of grad students complete the degree they start. 

So that's my advice for grad school - grow a thick (and I mean thick) skin! 

Any other post-grads out there who can relate?
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Ashley B
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7 comments:

  1. That's a really great lesson! I think it applies too much more than just school.

    I've considered going to grad school, but after reading this I sure won't be going for a chemistry masters http://www.chemistry-blog.com/2010/06/22/something-deeply-wrong-with-chemistry/ .

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  2. I don't plan on going to grad shool anytime soon - but this is such sound advice!

    agirlandhersparkles.blogspot.com

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  3. I totally agree with what you said, people thinking about going to grad school have to be ready to suck it up and push yourself for the next 2-3 years because even though it's hard when you have that degree in your hand its totally worth it.
    -Alex
    http://www.monstermisa.blogspot.com/

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  4. My two best friends and I just recently sat down to talk about our graduate school plans. Though I haven't started a program yet, I think this advice is spot-on and will serve me well. I also think it's relevant to those of us who aren't in graduate school- I think this can be applicable to careers and internships as well!

    Ciao
    Morgan
    BetweenTheIvyLines.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't plan on going back to school to pursue a graduate degree but this post offers very sound advice! Wonderful post :)

    Lauren,
    http://www.atouchofsoutherngrace.com/

    ReplyDelete
  6. I just submitted my first applications (fingers crossed). I'll be sure to keep this in mind! I've been warned that grad school is a tough road to head down…

    Rachel
    www.rachelwaxman.com

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  7. Oh lord, ha. I can't say I had a lot of criticism, just an overloaded and disinterested advisor. For me, the secret to grad school (that I didn't figure out afterwards), was learning that you're on your own to figure things out finding someone who could give you honest advice. And the secret to getting a job after is publishing while you're in grad school ;)

    jess | Quaintrelle

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