So everything seemed to be going well but there is now an enormous boulder in your way that you were completing not expecting. So grad school threw you a curve ball. Well welcome to the club. Know that you are joining some elite company. Let me guess, you’ve always been an excellent student? You’ve always gotten along well with all of your professors and just about all of your colleagues? For the most part, you achieve all of your goals? Does that sounds familiar? Well if that accurately describes you then know that you are the rule, not the exception. So what happens when things don’t go quite as planned?
The nature of grad school is one in which challenge is a common occurrence. Grad school is meant to be difficult. It is designed to stretch you. It is not intended to be like the undergrad experience. Arriving at that realization can be difficult, even painful. I know making the transition from undergrad to grad school was very difficult for me. Could how I handled a challenge as an undergrad work to handle an obstacle or challenge in grad school? Nope.
So what to do then? Regardless of the type of obstacle or the depth of the challenge, it is really important to know that you are NOT ALONE in facing an unexpected situation. I can count 4 or 5 times between the MS and PhD where I felt like I had been punched in the gut: some outcome had gone 180 degrees from what I was expecting. As a God-fearing person I am a strong believer in doing all that you can within your control and then not stressing the rest. I believe strongly that how you respond to difficulty is revelatory: you reveal yourself to yourself through adversity. So what has experience taught me? I truly believe that hard work and smart work can overcome a lot of the challenges and curve balls that arise in grad school. I truly believe that a humble attitude is 100% to maintain a level of peace and sanity during grad school. I believe in you-get-what-you-give or what-goes-around-comes-around. In fact, every single person (including myself) that reacted positively to adversity or challenge had a positive experience down the road. Every single time. There are so many other grad students who likely have had a similar challenge that talking to one (or three) you trust can only be helpful. The same goes for a faculty member or two that you trust. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that surrounding yourself with a core of people that you have high amounts of trust is very very important during grad school. This is one of the reasons why. Work hard, work smart, rely on those you really trust, and you will likely be just fine and have an equal or even better outcome then what you originally planned. That seems to have worked well for me.