Friday, April 06, 2007's Grad Skool Rulz

Fabio from Orgtheory gives the following advice for grad students: Make Some Friends.

Here's a truncated version, but you should read the entire post:

Your ultimate success in grad school depends on the creativity and effort
you invest in your work, but having a good set of friends is important. Here’s
what your friends can do for you, and what you can do for them:

  1. Offer emotional support.
  2. Offer information.
  3. Offer academic help.
  4. Start a project.
  5. Have fun.

You shouldn’t be a complete social butterfly and spend all your time
socializing, or pretend to be everyone’s friend. But do realize that having just
a few good, dependable friends can make a big difference in the quality of
your graduate education.

I agree completely with Fabio. I do, however, offer these caveats.

Graduate school (and law school in particular) is a very intense environment. Your cohort is likely to be small, many people go straight after college at the tender age of 21 or 22. If you go to a "national" school, most of the people in the program will be from other states or cities, and thus without an existing social network--and so the school becomes their social network and family replacement. You see a lot of each other and for the first year are likely to take the same mandatory intro courses and attend the same organized social events. Don't mistake daily interaction for emotional intimacy. Don't tell people everything about yourself, unless you want your future colleagues to know your most intimate details. Try to keep a separate life and a separate set of interests. Try to keep your private life private, and be wary of the impression you're making through your conduct and words. I'm not saying self-censor in the extreme, or that you shouldn't be yourself--but no matter how you conduct yourself, people will have their own interpretations and stories. There will be gossip, inexorably. You can only minimize the gossip, but you can't get away from it.

Make acqaintences first, and friends later. This relates to the "don't mistake daily interaction for intimacy" thing. It's just that you never know, till the end of the first year, and definitively until after you leave the school, who your real friends are. There are people with whom it will be pleasant to hang out, have lunch, chit chat amicably and superfically. But however you define "true friendship," wait and see if people can fit your definition. Indeed, it's often the case that the people you count as friends at the beginning may not be the same as the ones you have at the end. Sometime this is a sad, but necessary and good thing.

There are a ton of other rules rules about making and keeping friends in grad school. All sorts of things people say in favor and against dating in your program. All sorts of stuff about how to do damage control given the excessive drinking culture (hard to believe that I have seen future partners and judges piss-drunk). But that is a topic for another day.

I can say that I wish I had taken my own advice. I can say that.