Queen's University Queen's University

What Makes Grad School Worth It? – Guest Contributor Amanda Tracey

Here’s the first of the submissions we received and the second guest piece from Biology’s Amanda Tracey. Follow the many links and be richly rewarded with GIFs, arguably the cultural focal point of today’s emerging community of scholars.

What makes grad school ‘worth it’?

By: Amanda Tracey, PhD Candidate in Biology

Today was one of those days I thought to myself…what the heck am I doing? I think we’ve all had those days. You know the ones where the piece of equipment you rely on breaks down and your many attempts at fixing it fail, you get your supervisor’s edits and it looks like blood smeared all over the page, not red pen, or you go to grab a book from the library (that no one in their right mind would ever want to read) and alas, it’s gone. Or maybe, all three of those things happen in one day- it’s possible…because they happened to me yesterday. And to top it off, you stop by Metro on the way home for the very grad student-friendly 6.99 chicken wing special on Thursdays, and not only are they all out of Sweet & Spicy, now they’re 7.99! That may have been a rant, and I apologize, but what I am getting at is that I think we have all been there. Sometimes one or more of these things among other things all happen at the same time and make you wonder, why am I doing this?

So yesterday’s horror had me wondering, what makes grad school worth it? It often seems like the many late nights spent doing experiments, wading through journal articles or marking undergrad papers goes unrewarded yet something keeps us all going…but what is it?

I took some time to ask some of my fellow grad students a question about their graduate student experience—what makes grad school ‘worth it’? Of course I had a few classic jokers who responded with “Nothing! What am I even doing here?” But I found most people’s responses interesting, surprising and in many ways motivating. I’ll give you my top 3 favourite (and serious) responses:

3. “Teaching and interacting with Undergrads who are really interested in your field”. It’s true. It really makes you take a step back and think about how far we have come since Undergrad and reignites that flame.

2. “The successes we all experience”. This was a common response that ranged from getting positive feedback from your supervisor, to getting great results or getting that grant proposal approved.

1. My favourite response was one that may not be so intuitive and had to do with the failures we experience as graduate students and these crappy, nothing-goes-right kinds of days. All they said (or maybe all Kelly Clarkson said) is “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I really think they hit the nail on the head with that one. As graduate students we balance a lot. Our research, work as TA’s or TF’s, mentoring of undergraduate students, extracurricular sports and volunteer work, side projects/collaborations, grant proposals, course work and then on top of that the obvious things (but often forgotten things) like housework and maintaining an acceptable level of hygiene. In the end, everything we’re going through now will make us strong, balanced and amazing at whatever we choose to do.

So I guess what I am getting at is… if you’re reading this and have recently had one of these days or you’re smack in the middle of one right now, take a minute and consider what makes the experience worth it for you.






Posted in General, New Students, Student Perspective, Thesis Tagged with: , , ,
2 comments on “What Makes Grad School Worth It? – Guest Contributor Amanda Tracey
  1. Colette Steer says:

    I love it Amanda, great effort and i hope to see more of this.

  2. Yao-Hong Kok says:

    Great article. I find it very true that grad school is not just about research. It is the whole experience. At the same time, I just want remind others to consider other factors before going into grad school. Not everyone is for grad school. I wrote a post on my blog, you can check it out here – http://controlgradstudy.blogspot.ca/2013/04/factors-to-consider-before-coming-to.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe to Gradifying

Gradifying Poll

Grad Community at Queen's
How connected do you feel to a community of other graduate students at Queen's?