Many students and professionals applying for grad school worry about the prospect of completely losing touch with their social life. While I can tell you that there certainly are a number of factors that diminish the time available for your social life, there is no sixteen ton anvil that drops out of the sky and eliminates your social life the day that you enter into a graduate program. There are plenty of diagrams that indicate that balancing sleep, a social life and grades is an impossible task, but I would argue that it’s a necessary task. Embracing all the things that make you a complete person, will expand your value as a graduate student, and enhance your overall experience while in school…
I’m not gonna lie, it’s a balancing act, and many people think that the actual experience could be described by a Venn diagram such as the one above. But I like to think of it differently. On television and film representations of business in the 90’s the word synergy was thrown around a lot, so I’m going to throw it in here. To me the idea of synergy is a combination of synthesis (the act of creating something from previously separate components) and energy (a living force). As such, missing a component of your life will lead to a decrease in synergy, and actually diminish your capacity to achieve and potentially increase your happiness.
Now, I’m not saying that everyone in grad school should go out and get a full-time job, attend twice-weekly parties, study eight hours a day, and sleep in a hyperbaric chamber. What I am saying is that at least a little bit of all of these things is a great idea for a successful grad experience. Finding ways to combine the necessary aspects of life is even better.As the above photo indicates, it is indeed possible to have fun and be social, and go to grad school at the same time. And it’s great to involve yourself in fun activities inside your industry. While it might be hard to combine sleep and study, it’s definitely possible to combine social life and study, or study and work. If you have a graduate assistantship, then it’s likely that your work will cross over into the topics you are studying in your coursework. And if you have an outside job related to the field you’re studying, there are obvious crossovers there.
If you’re working on or near campus, go to lunch with some of your grad school friends, the conversation will invariably involve some of what you are working on, which counts as informal study. Work, study, and a social outing? I think that’s what they call a triple threat.
So why not think of your grad experience as an apartment, with all of the aspects of your life having some crossover, and the ability to carry these necessary elements into other rooms from time to time. If you’re studying happens at your dining table, and your social life happens in your living room, why not carry some of your study materials into your living room and learn and socialize at the same time? (Note: apartment shown, does not necessarily represent the apartment of a typical graduate student.)
Ultimately, this dance of each aspect of your life is dynamic, and some aspects of your life are going to be lacking from time to time, but that’s okay. In grad school, trying to have it all, all at once is fool’s gold, but having a little bit of everything from time to time is a way to keep yourself mentally alert and emotionally healthy, which will make you a much happier person…one who also happens to be going to grad school.