Grad school is a slog. Everyone who has ever pursued a graduate degree would say it was a lot of hard, sometimes frustrating work. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” one might say on his or her grad school acceptance reply, because grad school may as well be the real world equivalent of purgatory. Much like Dante’s “Purgatory,” it’s an in between place full of metaphors, monsters, slavish work, and periodic futility that will ultimately get you into heaven–or at the very least, out of hell.
Grad school is the bridge between the hell that is your first few years of work out of school and the relative heaven of your cushy career position with job stability, benefits, and coworkers who don’t make you feel like you wandered into a Rob Zombie horror film. It allows you to get an education that can push your career far beyond what you might have ever achieved previously, but there are many who do not escape. Many perils await those who try to cross the nether between shitty jobs and good jobs. These range from apathy, graduate advisers who studied at Satan’s School of Collegiate Advising and received their doctorate of prickosophy with honors, and the ever present dead end research project.
There is always hope in grad school, though. For every shit adviser, there’s another committee member or professor willing to show you the ropes without demanding a contract on your soul. For every bad research project, there are five others who will get you national recognition in your field. For every apathetic week, there are three more where you can get by on borderline dangerous substance abuse and the sheer will to make it out with that piece of paper saying you’ve earned your stripes.
Like Dante’s “Purgatory,” you will find grad school a place filled with strange and often meaningless exercises meant to teach general lessons about life, the universe, or more likely than not, business management–you can’t throw a bounced tuition check without hitting five of them along the way. You will be asked to do things the hard way, the wrong way, or even potentially in a way that has nothing to do with the task at hand. If you’re lucky, you won’t land the starring role in “12 Years A Graduate Student” due to your nigh infinite stay within the hallowed halls of your university of choice.
How do you get out of purgatory? Take a page from 12th Century epic poetry and look at it like a journey. Along the way, you’ll stumble, fall, succeed, and learn. As long as you take in some important lessons along the way, you’ll make it to the stage without a few hundred thousand in loan debt. Grad school is all about learning how to apply what you’ve learned. The best way to make your way to the pearly gates of gainful, real world employment is to take what you learn and apply it to get yourself through faster. Well, that and caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine.