I’m Headed to Graduate School

Almost 18% of college graduates in 2017 decided to go to graduate school after college, according to this report [pdf] from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. You may find graduate school to be similar to your undergraduate experience, although with more time spent studying, doing research, and writing papers. The nice thing about continuing with your studies is that you can continue to take advantage of the resources of a college campus—the meal plans, facilities, and other student services. Here are some things that will be important for you to consider in graduate school.

Health Insurance

If you are under age 26, you can stay on your parent’s health insurance plan. Your school may offer a student health insurance plan that graduate students can purchase. If you have a scholarship or graduate assistant position on campus, you may automatically be enrolled in the student health insurance plan (make sure you check with your program to be sure). Regardless of the plan, it’s important that you have health insurance coverage, especially if your institution requires it.

Student Health Center

If your institution has a student health center, it’s a good idea to get established as a patient, especially if you have a chronic illness or specific medical needs. Transfer your medical records from your previous institution to your new school, along with records from your clinician’s office back home. If your school doesn’t have a student health center, speak with your program staff to see if they have recommendations for health care providers in the area.

Mental Health

A recent study found that graduate students often experience more stress and a greater risk of  mental health issues compared to the general population. This could be due to an increased workload, social isolation (from spending more time in the lab or with studies), or feelings of inadequacy. It’s important as a graduate student to take time for your mental health. Your school may have mental health services for graduate students, such as a counseling center. The counseling center may have graduate-specific workshops or counseling groups. See what is available for graduate students on your campus.

It’s also important not to isolate yourself. It might feel like all of your time needs to be spent doing research or writing papers. Spend time with other students in your program—they understand what you’re going through! You can also get involved in graduate student organizations, like graduate student government. This may also allow you to make changes and create programs to support other graduate students.

Talk to your faculty or other mentors for advice. They were in your shoes once and may be able to offer resources. Finding supportive faculty in your program can help you cope with stress and any feelings of inadequacy you may have.

Making Friends

Your graduate program is likely chock-full of available friends! Your cohort is likely experiencing the same struggles you are—balancing school work, research, assistantships, and more. You can get involved in student organizations on campus to meet graduate students from other programs and widen your network.

Networking

Graduate school is a great time to network for jobs and other roles you may be interested in exploring. Attend conferences, present your research, and get involved in regional or national organizations in your field. The connections you make could help you secure full-time employment, or help you get accepted into doctoral programs.