Every two weeks, The Graduate School asks faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill about what they wish they had known in graduate school. Our next feature is Tori Ekstrand, associate professor and the Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education at the UNC School of Journalism and Media. Ekstrand holds two graduate degrees: a master’s degree and a Ph.D.
The decision to pursue graduate work is obviously a marathon and not a sprint. You are, in many cases, signing up for a lifestyle as well as a career, and it is worth understanding the level of personal commitment to reading and writing that is necessary for it. My experience has also been that graduate students tend to experience major transitions to adulthood during this time — marriages, births, deaths, and illnesses — the normal events of life, but ones which can be very taxing while also pursuing advanced study. There’s no particular way to get ready for these events while in graduate school other than to know the likelihood of this happening is quite high during these early adult years when most students pursue advanced degrees. It’s a juggling act, and it’s helpful to have personal support around you and access to good healthcare before making the leap into advanced study.