Grad school survival guide (a.k.a. How to not live in a box)

Therapist4Chnge

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Half.com and/or from other students. NEVER EVER from the bookstore. I also use Borders + 30% / 40% off coupons I get e-mailed through being a "preferred member" or whatever with them. They may balk at "special orders" which are most of the books, but most managers want the sale. Sometimes Amazon 3rd party is cheaper, other times new through Borders + coupon is cheaper. I also get GC's from family for the holidays, which covers most of my books.
 

psychmama

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I've also had some success checking books out of the library. Obviously this does not work for every class, but it's worked well for profs who assign a book as an overview to a subject. Sometimes I've gotten the book from the school library, and they've been able to help me get it elsewhere through interlibrary loan.
 
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Ollie123

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I'll also add that:
1) A fair number of courses won't have a book - you'll just use articles.
2) Many textbooks suck and are a complete waste of your money and time. Ask other people in the program - many times they are happy to loan out books for a semester if its the same one they used when they took the course. Or they may just tell you not to bother with it.
 

Malachite

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thanks for the input! therapist4chnge, i looked into the borders and saved 30% on a pricey book this semester, which made me happy!
 

Quynh2007

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Regarding books:

see if there is an electronic version through your library. I've found several books that way, and with electronic version, obviously you can just open it and read.

For example: "Latent Variable Models" by Loehlin has an electronic version, and most schools should have the electronic version of the latest edition for you to peruse.
 

Brad S

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...create two weeks' worth of menus. Make a list of everything you need for these meals and save it on your computer. Print one copy, shop, and you are set for a couple of weeks without having to stop at the store.
Pure genius. Please share your list!
 

jclinical

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I'm in a master's program right now, applying to Ph.D. programs. I live in an on-campus apartment and my roommate and I keep the heat at about 63, and wear sweaters and socks all the time. However, even that won't keep your heating bill down if the windows are leaking and the heat keeps kicking on. Definitely invest in plastic for your windows if you live in a cold climate several months of the year.

What if the school/landlord doesn't let you? 1. Don't ask first, and use rubbing alcohol to remove tape when you move out. 2. Don't use the double sided tape that comes with a kit: use masking tape or scotch tape, but use alcohol to clean the surface first so it sticks better. 3. Hang a blanket or sheet (not as good, but still better than nothing).

Also, consider keeping a rolled up old towel or beach towel at the crack of your door (esp. if it's an exterior door/doesn't lead into a hallway).

Don't keep your heat below 60 if freezing pipes is a concern---paying for damages will definitely not save you money:)
 

jclinical

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Use it for everything: cleaning your kitchen, bathroom, teeth (not daily but a couple times a week is nice), add 1/2 cup to laundry to make your detergent work better/use less detergent, use it to add scrubing power to dishsoap, make a paste and use it as a stain spot treatment (especially good for sweat stains), use it in the rinse cycle as a clothing softener.

Basically, you can find probably 500 uses for baking soda online, it's very cheap compared to chemical cleaners you might buy and very eco-friendly, non-toxic, and great for sensitive-skin.

Add some plain white vinegar to your cleaning regime and maybe some lemon or orange and you've got a very low cost cleaning system. I recomemend rinsing and recycling your old cleaning spray bottles: fill one with a vinegar water mixture for all glass surfaces and use old newspaper to wash windows and mirrors (works much better than paper towels).
 

psydd

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here's a question that's sort of related:

how important would you say it is to have a laptop during grad school?
 
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Ollie123

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here's a question that's sort of related:

how important would you say it is to have a laptop during grad school?
I'd go with "vital", but part of that is a personal preference.

I hate paper. Too easy to tear, lose, etc. Notes get scattered if you bring the wrong notebook, etc. Plus it takes up space - I can fit everything (literally), from grad school into a backpack and refer back to my notes whenever need be, the same could not be said for paper. If I'm working on something, I can just keep it on my laptop rather than having multiple copies floating around between the lab, home, school computers, etc. Plus, school computers often suck and frequently don't have anything beyond the basics and IT doesn't let you install things yourself, so you need to put in a request forever in advance to get software installed, then they'll come over, install the wrong thing, break the computer in the process because knowing things about computers is not a prerequisite to work in IT, or just ignore it completely (can you tell I don't like our IT department?). If I need to use Matlab, programming suites, or other things that aren't always loaded on campus computers, its nice to always have that option.

I think a decent laptop is a very valuable investment. You don't need anything top notch, so no need to spend $2000. Something with the basics and a good warranty should make your life much easier.
 

psybee

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Absolutely required. You can get work done in between classes, waiting for a meeting, etc.

I don't have one and I really feel the lack, but I can't afford to shell out $600 bucks. If anyone has any suggestions for trusty refurbished sites or other ways on getting a functional laptop for less, I'd be much obliged!
 

cara susanna

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I got a $900 laptop for $630 because it was the floor model (this was at Best Buy). I'm sure you can get cheaper than that, but it was a really good deal for me!
 

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I would definitely recommend getting an extended warranty on you laptop. I got Sony's plan (I have a vaio) and it totally paid off. You can get it for up to 4 years of coverage for about $400ish, and you don't need to invest it right away after spending so much on the laptop. You can purchase the plan anytime before your factory warranty expeires (12 months) and you can purchase 2 years at a time. It is really a good investment.

I don't know about other plans but their plan covers everything - from accidental damage from handling like spilling liquids or dropping it, to cracked screens and battery replacement (which is a $200 value right there). I've had mine for 2 years and I'm getting ready to extend it since it saved my life a couple of times. Just yesterday I called about my battery and today I received a brand new one in the mail. They will even come to your house within a day or two after you call and repair it right there. Can't get better service than that.

Just make sure you read exactly what's covered, cause each brand/store has a different plan. :)
 

Therapist4Chnge

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For good computer/laptop deals......

As for ways to save money...check out some of these sites. As a word of caution....PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read the FAQs and stickied threads on all of the below forums before asking questions. I'm an original member (not this SN) at a couple of them, and we are generally a jovial bunch.....but some get ticked at questions that have been covered in the FAQ threads.

Deals Forums
FatWallet: The original deal site, and my fav. Also some GREAT forums/threads on finance, car buying, coupons, etc.
Anandtech: Mostly Tech related deals
SlickDeals: A FW clone. Typically they cross-post stuff.
As for a warranty on a laptop, I'd strongly consider them if you are dropping $1k+. For the $400-$600 ones, I'd consider them "disposable" because the warranty cost will be 40-50% of the replacement cost. I have a Dell 700m that is still kicking, though I'm not sure I'd recommend it unless you get a great deal and a warranty.
 
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cara susanna

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I would check out ebay as well, though you have to be careful of course.
 

psykate09

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I don't have one and I really feel the lack, but I can't afford to shell out $600 bucks. If anyone has any suggestions for trusty refurbished sites or other ways on getting a functional laptop for less, I'd be much obliged!
My boyfriend's dad has this little tiny laptop that cost him $300, but I don't know where he got it! The screen is about half the size of a sheet of paper.
 

jclinical

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I've seen the mini laptops at Target (in fun colors). Also, I think Dell and HP both sell them (the ones at Target might be HP). My question about them would be how many applications can they handle at once. In grad school you will most likely constantly be multi-tasking: ie. your computer has to be able to run excel, word, a web browser, and maybe even SPSS (unless you just opt to always use it on school computers) all at once.

I think the smaller, cheaper mini notebooks would be an incredible tool to have with you to check/send emails, read articles online, do word processing etc. given their small size and light weight--but I don't know enough to put all my computer eggs into that tiny basket:)
 

psykate09

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I've seen the mini laptops at Target (in fun colors). Also, I think Dell and HP both sell them (the ones at Target might be HP). My question about them would be how many applications can they handle at once. In grad school you will most likely constantly be multi-tasking: ie. your computer has to be able to run excel, word, a web browser, and maybe even SPSS (unless you just opt to always use it on school computers) all at once.

I think the smaller, cheaper mini notebooks would be an incredible tool to have with you to check/send emails, read articles online, do word processing etc. given their small size and light weight--but I don't know enough to put all my computer eggs into that tiny basket:)

That's true, I know it does have less memory. But I guess when you are strapped for cash, a little computer is better than no computer.
 

psybee

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That's true, I know it does have less memory. But I guess when you are strapped for cash, a little computer is better than no computer.

I have big desktop monster-cheap, ugly, and powerful, and i'm thinking of getting a mini notebook for next year, just for reading articles and writing papers, powerpoints, maybe a smidge of spss if it can handle it (but if not, i have it at home and at school). i like having the large monitor at home and the all the extras you get for your buck with a desktop, but i do think i'd be more productive if I had a 'top.
 

Psych1212

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Regarding computers...

I have some techie friends who have given me some pointers over the years....

1) You can save a ton of money by avoiding Best Buy and similar stores, most of which sell you packaged computers that contain a ton of extras that you won't need....programs, hardware, etc...Instead, add new hardware to an existing laptop, or purchase a very basic model and upgrade it if you need to. I know it is a scary thought messing with a computer in that manner, but you can manage it...You're an intelligent grad student, right? :)

2) You can get good deals on deal-a-day websites such as Woot.com...Get in the habit of checking every so often. It works well if you are not in a big hurry to purchase a laptop.
 

psybee

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Regarding computers...

I have some techie friends who have given me some pointers over the years....

1) You can save a ton of money by avoiding Best Buy and similar stores, most of which sell you packaged computers that contain a ton of extras that you won't need....programs, hardware, etc...Instead, add new hardware to an existing laptop, or purchase a very basic model and upgrade it if you need to. I know it is a scary thought messing with a computer in that manner, but you can manage it...You're an intelligent grad student, right? :)

2) You can get good deals on deal-a-day websites such as Woot.com...Get in the habit of checking every so often. It works well if you are not in a big hurry to purchase a laptop.

both your points are really helpful--i'm doing that with my bulky desktop, but i've been more nervous to do so with a laptop, since everything is is so tiny and seamless looking. i'll def. check out woot. Thanks!
 

cardamom

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If you get a laptop, definitely also be sure to have a good backup system and use it because losing your data is a bad, bad scene. It's key anyway, even with a desktop, but all the more so when your computer is at increased risk of damage and theft. I have an external hd (you can find them for pretty cheap these days) and back up on to that.
 

Grif

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If you get a laptop, definitely also be sure to have a good backup system and use it because losing your data is a bad, bad scene. It's key anyway, even with a desktop, but all the more so when your computer is at increased risk of damage and theft. I have an external hd (you can find them for pretty cheap these days) and back up on to that.
Seconded! Even if you have a good desktop computer, this is essential.

I've got a Western Digital mybook 500GB that sits on my book shelf for regular backups.

I also recommend that you sign up for an online service that does automatic backups. Mozy is pretty good, you can have up to 2GB free (also hear good things about carbonite but I haven't tried them). That's a great insurance policy against theft/damage/fire/etc for your important work and dissertation.
 

Brad S

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...because losing your data is a bad, bad scene.
If you have a google account, under more> there is a link called 'documents' where you can store, read, and open documents. I use it to save journal articles relevant to current projects as well as research papers.
 

Grif

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If you have a google account, under more> there is a link called 'documents' where you can store, read, and open documents. I use it to save journal articles relevant to current projects as well as research papers.
That's a good point. :) The best thing about an online service is that it's automatic though. You can set it to save to the site every night if you want.
 

atbarnes

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I recently started using an online budgeting service called www.mint.com

This website basically allows you to set monthly budgets for yourself. It will track your expenses via a connection with your online banking (chase formerly wamu has great online banking options). You can set monthly budgets for yourself and you will be notified via e-mail if you have exceeded your budget. This service will also track your debt (i.e. credit cards, student loans:scared:, etc.). I know that when I started to track my spending with this service I was able to actually save money. I recently bought a car with money saved by simply controlling my spending on eating out, grocery shopping, and personal entertainment. I still live quite happily and even though my income is low I live comfortably. You all should check it out!!!
 

atbarnes

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Also, having read some of the posts concerning laptops and such, remember that grad school takes awhile, so you want something that will be faithful for a few years (at 300 or 400 every two years for six years, yikes!!!). In my personal experience you want a computer that is reliable, something that will last. My personal preference are macs. I've had a couple and I have actually resold an older one for half of what I paid for it after almost 3 years! Sure they are a bit more pricey, but go with the lowest model on the macs and they run about a grand. You'll have a reliable piece of hardware that is lightweight, compact, and altogether practical.
 

Wildcat06

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I have a question along the relationship line. I currently live a half-mile away from my boyfriend of 5 years and have been offered a spot at two programs. The first is a perfect fit for my research interests but is across the country. The second is a couple states over but is not quite as good of match.

I'm also still waiting to hear from a program 30 mins away from home that, while a great program, is not a great fit. (This program has not made offers yet as far as I know).

I am not very keen on long distance (we did that for a couple years in college) and while I don't know if we are heading the marriage route, I'm more torn up about the idea of leaving than I thought I would be.

What should I do/consider in making my decision? Has anyone been in this situation before? :(
 

saribou13

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I have a question along the relationship line. I currently live a half-mile away from my boyfriend of 5 years and have been offered a spot at two programs. The first is a perfect fit for my research interests but is across the country. The second is a couple states over but is not quite as good of match.

I'm also still waiting to hear from a program 30 mins away from home that, while a great program, is not a great fit. (This program has not made offers yet as far as I know).

I am not very keen on long distance (we did that for a couple years in college) and while I don't know if we are heading the marriage route, I'm more torn up about the idea of leaving than I thought I would be.

What should I do/consider in making my decision? Has anyone been in this situation before? :(
I'm guessing your b/f wouldn't consider moving with you? I am in kind of the same situation, but when I started looking at schools, we discussed it and I wasn't willing to apply to schools that weren't anywhere he wouldn't be able to move with me if I got in, and neither of us wanted to do the long distance thing, or break up obviously, since we are hoping to get engaged soon.

It's a tough call, because you don't want to sign up for a school that you'll be miserable at b/c it's not a good match for you, but at the same time, you may be miserable away from your b/f. Of course I can't say for you how serious of a direction your relationship may or may not be headed for... but hopefully things will work themselves out :love:

p.s. your username -- any chance you graduated from Northwestern U in 2006??
 

saribou13

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I guess my name's a little transparent ;) Are you an NU alum?

I think we were both just hoping that the school nearby would work out because it is such a strong program. I think i underestimated how important it is that you also have a good fit with a mentor so now it's not at the top of my list.

I guess in we just need to have "the talk."
haha yeah, the dreaded "talk"!! yea i graduated from there in '06 also!! i doubt we know each other but you never know. you can PM me if you want :)
 

cspkbehave

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Sure, don't sweat it. A lot of people get the Sunday paper and go out that day to see places. It goes with the territory of being a landlord. I also think it's a good idea for you to scope out the neighbourhoods (I spelled it all Canadian-like!) before you book appointments, so you don't waste your time.

Good luck! What an adventure! :D
If I don't have the time or resources to go to the city before moving there, how do you find out about the good or bad neighborhoods?
 

psybee

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Also, having read some of the posts concerning laptops and such, remember that grad school takes awhile, so you want something that will be faithful for a few years (at 300 or 400 every two years for six years, yikes!!!). In my personal experience you want a computer that is reliable, something that will last. My personal preference are macs. I've had a couple and I have actually resold an older one for half of what I paid for it after almost 3 years! Sure they are a bit more pricey, but go with the lowest model on the macs and they run about a grand. You'll have a reliable piece of hardware that is lightweight, compact, and altogether practical.
i love macs--most of the students in my program have them and we have an mazing mac desktop. in fact, i had thought for my first semester "oh, i don't need a laptop-i can use the computer at school and we have such a nice one at home." then i started school. yes, you can do it without one, but i recently got one and oh my goodness life is so much easier and more productive. taking notes, working on research in between classes, oh my goodness it makes life so much easier. if it is at all affordable, even used or refurbished or a netbook, i would totally rec. it.
 

kh1264

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Here's a quick question:

How's your social life in grad school????

I will be moving to the Big Apple and although I'm a native New Yorker (born in Queens but raised upstate, now in school in PA while family moved to NC...sigh), I am worried about moving to such an overwhelming city and starting a Ph.D. program and not really knowing people in the area. Basically, will I be completely lonely the first few months as I pour into my program. How did you all manage social v. school?

~kh1264
 

psybee

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Here's a quick question:

How's your social life in grad school????

I will be moving to the Big Apple and although I'm a native New Yorker (born in Queens but raised upstate, now in school in PA while family moved to NC...sigh), I am worried about moving to such an overwhelming city and starting a Ph.D. program and not really knowing people in the area. Basically, will I be completely lonely the first few months as I pour into my program. How did you all manage social v. school?

~kh1264
honestly, i think in some way's it'll be a lot easier than if you already had your whole life here. at least for me, it's hard when you have friends that life 2 neighborhoods away, folks that back in the day you;d see very week, and now you can't because you only have time to see one friend a week and this one is having a break up or that one is getting married or this one is the one that calls you a lot...

your classmates will be as busy as you so hanging out outside of class may be hard, volunteering at other school activities, or getting a roomate situation with classmates will increase your socializing time, but honestly, and i know i'm struggling with the whole work/life balance so i'm not the best one to judge, but i think fitting people into school will be easier than fitting school into people, if that makes any sense...
 

Grif

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If I don't have the time or resources to go to the city before moving there, how do you find out about the good or bad neighborhoods?
If you'll be living in the city you'll be studying in, then ask Student Services, an Advisor or talk to Enrollment about it. If you can talk to a current student, even better. You may have to be a little pointed and ask where to avoid if they get evasive.
 

cara susanna

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Edit: N/m, decided against it :D
 
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Hi everyone...I'm not sure if anyone else is in my shoes. I've been out of school (undergrad) for almost 8 years. I've been working the whole time, making a decent living, but I've been so focused on paying off debt that I have no savings to speak of. I don't qualify for any federal grants and my stipend is not going to be enough to live on...seriously. My rent, car, and insurance alone add up to more than my monthly stipend. I will have to take out a significant amount in loans...at least for my first year....the majority of which will be unsubsidized. I'm freaking out about it. I'm not sure what my question is...I think I just want reassurance that it's a good investment. Any thoughts?
 
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Grif

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Hi everyone...I'm not sure if anyone else is in my shoes. I've been out of school (undergrad) for almost 8 years. I've been working the whole time, making a decent living, but I've been so focused on paying off debt that I have no savings to speak of. I don't qualify for any federal grants and my stipend is not going to be enough to live on...seriously. My rent, car, and insurance alone add up to more than my monthly stipend. I will have to take out a significant amount in loans...at least for my first year....the majority of which will be unsubsidized. I'm freaking out about it. I'm not sure what my question is...I think I just want reassurance that it's a good investment. Any thoughts?
It' definitely a good investment! Because you have a subsidy, loans should not be an issue as they'd be smaller than if you were going without a subsidy. :thumbup: You will make a ton more post-graduate than you have been with a bachelor's.
 

cara susanna

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Can I just say that off-campus apartment hunting when you're like 10 hours away is really not fun?
 

Therapist4Chnge

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Can I just say that off-campus apartment hunting when you're like 10 hours away is really not fun?
I'm doing it now (for internship). I had a rental advisor that works for a number of different properties....but she was hit and miss. I did enough digging and talked to enough people to feel okay about where I'm going, but it is far from ideal.
 

Wildcat06

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Can I just say that off-campus apartment hunting when you're like 10 hours away is really not fun?
I just looked for places online using Craigslist and my university's housing website. I then took a weekend trip cross-country and checked out all the places in 2 days. It seemed a little overwhelming but turned out to be a super fun vacation for me and my SO. :D
 

cara susanna

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Hey, guys, I have a question: what is better for grad school, a messenger bag or a backpack? I saw a thread about this on a grad community and was wondering if there was an overall consensus or if it just depends on individual opinions and needs.

Thanks!
 

cardamom

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I would imagine it's no different from in general--depends mostly on your personal preferences. I like messenger bags in theory, but in practice I find backpacks/bags that go on both shoulders infinitely more comfortable, especially when carrying my MacBook. I have a backpack from Crumpler that wasn't cheap, but I love it and it's held up excellently for years. Has a removable laptop pouch, and plenty of room for other things, plus it's cute and comfy. Many of the grad students I know have backpacks as well, again especially those who carry laptops.
 
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Ollie123

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I have both. I personally think messenger bags looks more professional, so I use it in situations where that may matter.

Between the laptop and the 10 million articles I am always lugging around, I'd be permanently bent into a 90 degree angle if I used the messenger bag all the time. The backpack is good for the typical day.

Alot of it depends on your setup though. My lab is off campus so I have to do a lot more hauling stuff back and forth. If you never have to leave the psychology building, it might not make as big a difference.

Beyond that, I don't think it matters.
 

Therapist4Chnge

Neuropsych Ninja Faculty
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I prefer the ManBag/ManPurse/Messenger bag. I like the style, and depending on the style it can hold a decent amount of stuff. I used to use a Gucci portfolio bag/briefcase, but that was a bit too "snooty" for academia...and I couldn't stand knocking around some office bling I bought to celebrate a big closing. :lol:



My most recent messenger bag was a grad student steal at ~$100


LINK

It fits my laptop, power cord, a couple folders, small umbrella, etc. It is incredibly well made....4 years in and it has an awesome distressed look and still works like a champ. I'd suggest going with well established leather makers, as the textiles they use tend to be superior to cheaper knockoffs from overseas.
 
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krisrox

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I used a messenger bag for 3 years in undergrad and messed up my back so bad that now I'm paying $60 a week for chiropractor appointments : ( Backpacks are much better for your body!