- Personal relationships: family and/or dating
First, make no mistake: graduate school is all about relationships. Some of them are life-long brotherhood (or sisterhood) type relationships. Some of them are difficult. All of them, however, are a part of grad school. Now the most important relationships are those with the highest levels of trust. With the stresses and rigor required by grad studies, it is imperative that you surround yourself with those that have your best interests at heart. That cannot be understated. That means family and loved ones are an essential part of a healthy grad-student support system. Vital.
Now the next most important relationships are those friends that are likely new but you still have a lot of trust in them. Peers of students can provide a wonderful support as well. In fact these can ultimately be lifelong friends. Think about it: you are studying together, grinding hours upon hours for entire semesters in the same situation. You understand what the graduate experience is…like no other. A true friend is priceless as a graduate student. And the more you have–no its not cliche–the merrier.
To illustrate, let me share an experience. One semester in my doctoral program I experienced a major roadblock. Without sharing details, it was extremely difficult for me. My trust in certain administrators was at an all-time low. But one of the fortunate things for me was that I had a small network of upper level doctoral students with whom we shared an extremely high level of trust. In this difficult tie I was able to turn to these friends and hear their perspectives and rely on their experience. At one point, I spoke to some of them almost daily simply to give them updates and hear their take on the situation. I was able to survive and progress in my program in time…but one crutch that I was able to lean on were those friends that shared much trust. I suggest any grad student who is serious about their long-term success try to cultivate sincere, highly trustworthy relationships while a doctoral student because you will likely rely on them–and certainly them on you–at different points of your program. Make no mistake: the relationships cultivated as a grad student will be a huge predictor of your success.