What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Go to Grad School

By Thomas HennesseyTommyDancer

Congratulations! Probably! I mean you’ve decided to attend grad school  so pat yourself on the back, you’re doing fine, don’t sweat it so much. If all goes accordingly you’ll be starting graduate school in a future fall and you’re probably wondering: what will it be like? How will my life change here? Good news! You can learn the answer to these questions by simply continuing to move your eyes down this page.

  • Everyone here is super smart. Seriously, it’s bananas the brains we got walking smart raptorabout. You might be used to being the smartest cat in the kennel but that’s going to change. So if being the smartest is the only thing you’ve been basing your identity on, it’ll be quite an adjustment indeed. Personally I took some solace from still being the handsomest. And just remember …
  • What you know is not as important as what you can learn. If you’ve got a solid background in your discipline. That’ll be great for…a month, maybe two. Within a week you’ll be diving in to subjects so deep you’ll get the bends. By the time you’ve been here a couple years you should be on your way to being a world expert on whatever tiny sliver of the brain you decide to focus your effort on. And that’s important because…
  • Soon you won’t be learning knowledge, you’ll be generating it. Sure, you’ll never stop reading up on new developments in your field, if only to curse the other labs that beat you to the punch. But creating science, de novo, is very different from passively receiving it. Prepare for experiments not working, ideas not panning out, angry villagers storming the lab, and most of your plans going extravagantly awry. But keep at it. Because ultimately, being the first person on the planet to know something? That’s a very special feeling. Of course while you’re working on all this you’ve got to keep in mind…DarkRoom.jpeg
  • You need to take care of the rest of your life too. Underneath all the science you still have to make it in this crazy world. Apartment hunting, bill paying, food buying, relationship having, and carving out something away from the lab to stay sane. Maybe you like yoga, or snorkeling, or hunting the most dangerous game of all – Man. It’ll feel like you can’t afford to waste the time but taking care of yourself pays a lot of dividends over the long haul.

And it is a pretty long haul, but in the end I think it’s worth it. You’ll have added to the sum total of human knowledge, pushing our species just a little closer to that magical day we invent super intelligent machines to solve all our problems almost certainly without killing everyone. Probably. It won’t be easy, but what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. Good luck, and welcome to the club!
Thomas Hennessey

Emory Neuroscience Class of 2010

Handsome Scientist

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