Can you handle grad school?

A post from our student blogger Catie

What everyone tells you is true: grad school is difficult. Is anyone really surprised by that? I somewhat addressed this topic in a post from last semester, but I would like to talk about it more in-depth, incorporating reflections from my experiences from the current semester. As I have mentioned before, I was a graduating genetics senior this time last year. As recent as it seems, it was only a year ago when I myself had so many questions in my mind about what grad school would be like. Of course it’s going to be difficult: I’m entering graduate school at Notre Dame! My real question was: can I do it? Can I handle the work of graduate school? Will I be any good at this patent law stuff?

Grad school is hard; otherwise, everyone would go! I knew this, and I initially had fears that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, which is quite an ominous fear when you’re paying Notre Dame tuition! Another note of advice that you’re likely hearing is that grad school requires a lot of time management. This is also true. However, you had to master time management in undergrad, too, right? This is not something that is ever going away: the program’s visits to San Francisco and D.C. have indisputably taught us that time management will be a major theme during your career, as well.

To connect these two points of advice: have faith that you CAN survive grad school, as long as you are fully aware that you will be tasked with a new world of time management. Grad school is a whole new world. Throughout the year, during casual conversations about how school is going for me, plenty of people had made comments along the line of “you’re in college”. I have been pretty adamant in gently reminding those individuals that I am in grad school, which is most definitely different from undergrad. I am no longer simply going to school, where I am taking an array of classes; I am training for a career and doing class work that is going to prepare me for that upcoming career!

To put this into perspective: I just recently completed my final presentation for my capstone project. I survived drafting my first complete patent application! Seven months ago, I had no idea how I was going to reach this point! The thought of drafting a complete patent application on my own (with plenty of wise guidance from mentors, of course) was simply not something that I could see myself accomplishing. Here I am now, with my capstone completed, and yet I am still taking one day at a time balancing the work from my patent law classes, a group presentation for my elective, work for my internship, correspondence with potential employers, study materials for the patent bar, as well as my miscellaneous day-to-day tasks. The point that I’m trying to make is that I have already completed what I expected to be an insurmountable task, and yet I’m still trucking along and successfully balancing more than I ever thought I could. This is incredible: someone tell this to Catie from one year ago!

What I really want to get across to any prospective student is that you should not be fearful of being able to handle the work load of the MSPL. As long as you put forth the effort and are willing to learn, you will find your balance and discover yourself keeping up with the work. Grad school is a different world, but the adjustment just takes time to master, just like any other change in life. I mentioned how much I have on my plate right now, and it definitely keeps me busy. However, make no mistake: I still absolutely make time for myself. You have to make time to wind down; it’s how you’re going to draft a patent application without going insane! I allow myself to make time for the run that I wanted to go on, the trip to the Grotto that I told myself that I would make, the weekend trip home to see loved ones, and of course: the night out with classmates to watch some Notre Dame March Madness! It’s all about time management, but also making sure that you are taking breaks to take care of yourself.

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