The reality of grad school

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In a world full of misery and stress, the college student chooses how they want to be miserable and stressed. lee lim

Staying in school is an option, but not an easy one

When you’re born, the world seems big. Anything is possible. It is a place where all your dreams can come true. You can be anything or anyone you want to be. You can choose to be an academic, a professor, a scientist, a business owner, or a designer, among other things. There is something for everyone. Then you get older, you go to school, you graduate high school, and before you know it, you are supposed to pick what you want to be, what you want to do for the rest of your life. Forever.

This doesn’t take into account the reality that forever is an extremely long time. It is unbelievable that young people are expected to choose the path they want their lives to follow. This makes us the architect of our own fortunes or misfortunes. It is an incredible amount of pressure that the world puts on us. As you get older, your dreams seem unreasonable and impossible. They get smaller. You give up. Life humbles you. You experience the growing pains of adulthood.

Many have graduated in the midst of what seems to be a cost-of-living crisis, inflation, and an impending doom known as a recession. At that point, what else is there to do other than to go to grad school? The reality is that academia offers a veil of protection for some. It is a humbling experience, but it also shields you from the mainstream, stereotypical form of adulthood. It ensures you remain a student and that is all your life will be. Your worries might not be about an unprofessional boss; instead, they might be about the paper that is due tomorrow that you haven’t gotten started on.

Ultimately, people go to grad school for different reasons. It is unique to everyone, and it is unfair to comment on how others choose to live their lives because it has nothing to do with us or our choices. Graduating during COVID-19 means that we are entering a job market that is inconsistent and always transforming right before our own eyes. It becomes increasingly hard to keep up with a job market that focuses on corporate greed and slaving your soul away for a dead-end job. Thus, what better time to remain in academia than the times we’re currently living in? When school is all you know, it makes sense to grow attached to it whilst simultaneously hating the pompous academics it comes with.

The unfortunate reality is that grad school is extremely hard to get into. Forget acceptance, applying alone requires a lot of time, effort, energy, and resources. It is a full-time job. It will take everything out of you. I had no idea how exhausting applying was until I gave it a try this past year. It was an extremely humbling moment for me. It taught me a lot about patience. Nobody warns you about the waiting period. Being ghosted. Not knowing where your application is. Whether you even stand a chance. Nobody warns you about how competitive grad school is. I know people who have applied to 10 schools and never got into any of the schools despite having amazing grades, experience, and essays.

The most important thing to remember is that life is different for everyone. Comparison is the thief of joy. All we can do is attempt our best with the resources available to us amidst the circumstances we are in. It is unfair to put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. If there is nothing else we can do, then we must actively refuse to rot our youth away in despair and hopelessness. That is what the status quo wants: our misery.

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