10 things We Wish Someone Had Told Us When We Started Graduate School

There are those lessons you learn from facing the fire and walking through it. Those things that you read and know will change the way you think about your life. This list is definitely an outpouring of the former, whether it will serve as the latter for you remains to be seen.

So What Did We Wish Someone Had Told Us When We Started Graduate School?*

This is partly the advice we would give ourselves if we could go back to day one, an encouragement to those of us still engaged in doctoral and masters coursework, theses, and dissertations, and a chance to express the best of what we know to those thinking about embarking on a PhD or MA program.

I am summarising from the contributions of friends and colleagues, all of whom resoundingly exhorted -

That will come out again and again, but I thought i'd shout it out loud!

These are the things and the attitudes which have helped my colleagues/friends and I get through the hard days, nights, weeks, and months. This is about the big picture and not just short-term success (and burnout). 

1. Grades are not as important as excellence. Read More

2. This is not limbo; this is life. Read More

3. Balance is the most important thing. Read More

4. Plan carefully, but do not be dismayed when those plans must be revised or abandoned.  Read More

5. Know Thyself: Should you be doing this? Read More

6. Grad Schools don't make mistakes with Admissions. Read More

7. Realize that the word "enough" has ceased to have any meaning. Read More

8. A Sense Of Humor Is Very Important. Read More

9. Be Kind To Your Fellow Students. Read More

10. Don't Do This For The Money. Read More

There are in fact way more than 10 that we thought important enough to share, like almost 30. I wanted to make it 10 because that's a nice round lovely number but the advice and insight was so good that I had to let it run its course. I hope you will beg my indulgence and forgive the false advertising. I am certain you will fin it worthwhile! You can read explanations of the first 10 and the other 20 over at the original post on Goannatree.

What do you wish you had known?

* When I started asking around I thought I would put together a list specific to Literature and Religion (Post-)Graduate students. What I found is that many experiences as a Graduate Student in the Humanities are similar enough for this to be a general list; but know that this list largely consists of a synthesis of contributions by Literature PhDs and Religion PhDs with a smattering of those interested in the interdisciplinary field. As such there are alot of other people to credit with helping me with the raw material!


Anna Blanch is founder of Goannatree, and a PhD student in the Institute of Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at St Mary's College, University of St Andrews, Scotland. This is her third graduate degree in as many countries! She also holds a Law degree from the Australian National University and an M.A. in English Literature from Baylor University, Texas.



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