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

bunderj

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Oct 15, 2010
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You could also consider adopting an adult dog from your local animal shelter, or by looking on petfinder.com

That's a win-win in my opinion. A doggie gets another chance, and you get an incredibly devoted companion without having to deal with potty-training a chewing, piddling, little terror (I have two dogs, so I am def a dog lover, but puppies are a LOT of work). Obviously you'd want to talk with the rescue/shelter staff to make sure you adopted a dog without separation issues (you are going to have to leave it at home from time to time) and that the dog was house-trained.

Good luck!




I have a dog in grad school and it's great. The cost is about $20/mo for food, (he's only 40 lbs) + ~$200/yr for the vet. I live in a big city so maybe vet costs would be lower other places. As for time I have managed to have a "work from home" day every week since starting grad school, but some days he will be crated for 8-9 hours a day. If you crate train as a puppy they should be able to handle that fine.
 
Mar 15, 2010
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I have a random but related question for you guys already in grad school.

Do you have any pets? I'm thinking of getting a dog when I go off in the fall for a couple reasons including the fact that I am going to be by myself so far from home in a new place. I think a faithful companion would be nice.

Are you able to take proper care of a pet like a dog considering the time & possibly financial restraints? I wouldn't want to get one if it'll be neglected & home by itself 20 hours a week. I would prefer doing my work from home when not in class or lab anyway.

Just curious how this has worked for you guys.
I didn't have a pet my first three years of grad school, but thought about it a lot. I recently adopted a 1 year old dog from a shelter and it has been great. I did need to find a pet-friendly apartment complex, and they charge me a monthly fee, which along with food/toys/vet/other dog costs is definitely a stretch of my budget. But it is definitely worth it now that I have more time to work from home, she is a wonderful companion! I think having a pet can be invaluable if you are going to be alone in a new place.

If you can wait to get the dog until after you move, you could see how many hours you will actually be at home vs. school/lab to make sure it will be feasible. It's also a little overwhelming to get a new pet, and it's overwhelming to begin school, so one transition at a time might be nice too :)
 

tpink

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Oct 1, 2009
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I have a random but related question for you guys already in grad school.

Do you have any pets? I'm thinking of getting a dog when I go off in the fall for a couple reasons including the fact that I am going to be by myself so far from home in a new place. I think a faithful companion would be nice.

Are you able to take proper care of a pet like a dog considering the time & possibly financial restraints? I wouldn't want to get one if it'll be neglected & home by itself 20 hours a week. I would prefer doing my work from home when not in class or lab anyway.

Just curious how this has worked for you guys.

I'm actually picking up my pup this weekend! :) I'm not sure if your going to have a roommate, but if so, it would be great to have one who has a dog of their own. If there are costs from your apartment, you probably can split the fee. Plus your pup will have a companion the times you're not there. Luckily, this is how it worked out for me.

Like a previous poster said, I would definitely look into shelters. That's where I was looking, but couldn't find the breed that I wanted.
 

TheOverachiever

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Aug 31, 2010
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I have a dog in grad school and it's great. The cost is about $20/mo for food, (he's only 40 lbs) + ~$200/yr for the vet. I live in a big city so maybe vet costs would be lower other places. As for time I have managed to have a "work from home" day every week since starting grad school, but some days he will be crated for 8-9 hours a day. If you crate train as a puppy they should be able to handle that fine.
Thanks for sharing your experience. Makes it sound feasible for me

You could also consider adopting an adult dog from your local animal shelter, or by looking on petfinder.com

That's a win-win in my opinion. A doggie gets another chance, and you get an incredibly devoted companion without having to deal with potty-training a chewing, piddling, little terror (I have two dogs, so I am def a dog lover, but puppies are a LOT of work). Obviously you'd want to talk with the rescue/shelter staff to make sure you adopted a dog without separation issues (you are going to have to leave it at home from time to time) and that the dog was house-trained.

Good luck!
Yea I am really leaning toward adopting. Like you said, it's pretty much win-win. I know exactly what kind of dog I'm getting and it gets a loving home.

I didn't have a pet my first three years of grad school, but thought about it a lot. I recently adopted a 1 year old dog from a shelter and it has been great. I did need to find a pet-friendly apartment complex, and they charge me a monthly fee, which along with food/toys/vet/other dog costs is definitely a stretch of my budget. But it is definitely worth it now that I have more time to work from home, she is a wonderful companion! I think having a pet can be invaluable if you are going to be alone in a new place.

If you can wait to get the dog until after you move, you could see how many hours you will actually be at home vs. school/lab to make sure it will be feasible. It's also a little overwhelming to get a new pet, and it's overwhelming to begin school, so one transition at a time might be nice too :)
You made a great point about one transition at a time. It would probably make a lot of sense to wait until after my first semester to get one.

I'm actually picking up my pup this weekend! :) I'm not sure if your going to have a roommate, but if so, it would be great to have one who has a dog of their own. If there are costs from your apartment, you probably can split the fee. Plus your pup will have a companion the times you're not there. Luckily, this is how it worked out for me.

Like a previous poster said, I would definitely look into shelters. That's where I was looking, but couldn't find the breed that I wanted.
I likely won't have a roommate but I'll remember your advice if I do. Good luck and have fun with your pup!!!
 
Jan 5, 2011
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Pre-Psychology
I lived there for 5 years, so if anyone has any questions on NYC stuff, please feel free to ask me via PM.

I'm just going to list points of advice that I feel as though would have been helpful to me when I started living here:


  • While public transportation is incredible, it does help even more to live as close as possible to a bus or subway line (though I prefer to have a little bit of distance to get away from the noise pollution and bus stop garbage)
  • It is common to have to pay in cash for your apartment/studio/etc. And it is common for that amount of cash to be three entire months' rent in one shot.
  • Be clear with your landlord as to the rent collection schedule. Many places are once a month, but mine is every three months (less stressful)
  • You will get fined if you do not recycle properly. You will get fined if you put out your garbage on the wrong day. You will get fined if you park too close to fire hydrants or in front of people's driveways. You will get fined if you forget to move your car during street cleaning day's designated two-hour block.
  • I cannot stress how important it is to live near a 24-hour laundromat. While there are plenty here, it's just nice to not have to lug your dirty laundry in public for very long. Also, stock up on quarters. Stock. Up. It costs me about 5 dollars to do one load of laundry (wash and dry).
  • If you decide to live in New York, do not be surprised at how expensive your place is. Many people could easily rent entire homes to the price you will pay to live in the Big Apple. At one place my rent was $1,400 a month, and that is a good price. I shared with two roommates, which meant that it was $470 + bills.
  • Ah, bills. Your electricity is precious. Don't waste it. Get along with as little light as possible if you can. If you can find a place with sunlight, that is even better. Typically you will have to pay for gas and electricity. The price for electricity and gas changes throughout the months. Keep in mind that cooking gas counts as gas. If your landlord says that you need to pay for water, find a new place because I have never heard of anyone having to worry about that.
  • Sure, there are places in the city that I would not live, but don't stick to the stereotype that the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens are scary and that the only place a person should live is Manhattan. That is completely ridiculous. Just do your research. I say that it is easier to get a feel for the area if you drive around at night, but not everyone would want to do that. It's made me realize where I don't want to be. Remember, you want to be comfortable 24/7, not just during the daytime.
  • If you find a place that you like, decide quick if you want to stay there. Landlords don't like to wait around for people so much. They want to see their apartments go.
  • Three locks - normal doorknob lock, bolt, and chain - are suitable.
  • You will probably have some kind of vermin. The chances are very high. I was lucky to find a place that does not have any mouse or bug problems. I find that this is a higher risk if you live closer to subways.
  • Everything that you need is in NYC. It's just a matter of finding the cheapest of everything.
 
Jan 13, 2012
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I thought I'd resurrect this thread since most of us will be thinking about these things soon (if we haven't already).

What cell phone plan do you guys have/plan on getting?
 
Aug 31, 2011
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Pick a hobby, interest, or goofy task- something not related to psychology. Spend at least an hour or two a week involved with and focused on that. For example: learn to knit; set a goal to find and identify 50 different birds native to the local area; go on a mission to sample and rate a different local or favorite food once per month (e.g. find the best pizza slice, burrito, chowder, maple syrup from a local provider); learn to fly-fish; set a goal of listening to every one of Rolling Stones top 500 albums by the time you finish grad-school; go ballroom or contra dancing. In other words, something simple, hopefully cheap, ideally social, that will give you something other than psychology to focus on. It really isn't normal for people to spend so much time focused on just one thing (e.g. school) and hanging out with just one group (grad students) for the majority of their time. Having some non-psych task that you can focus on can be invaluable.

Take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the local area. After all, this may be the only time in your life that you'll be living in Amherst, Lawrence, Tallahassee, Raleigh, Binghampton, Austin, Palo-Alto, etc. Walks in the woods are free. If you're from an urban area and are going to school in a more rural setting, take the opportunity do more outdoors stuff, like hiking or fishing. If you're from a warm climate but are in school somewhere cold, pick up a used pair of snowshoes and go out and freeze your butt off.

Pick some random local college sports team to follow. If you're at a big University, don't just go with the obvious (e.g. men's football or basketball). Often the women's teams or more fringe or regional sports (lacrosse, water polo) are just as competitive and enjoyable in their own right, and often the games are free or much cheaper, and they don't have that "drunken undergrad" fell to them.

In other words, challenge yourself to do something new and different outside the realm of psychology. You'll need the diversion, and may find something cool to do for the rest of your life.
 

PsychPhDStudent

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Sep 5, 2009
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I thought I'd resurrect this thread since most of us will be thinking about these things soon (if we haven't already).

What cell phone plan do you guys have/plan on getting?
Definitely ask current students in your program what provider they use. We can't get service from a major cell phone carrier in our offices.
 
Jan 19, 2012
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So at the suggestion of Therapist4Chge, I decided to create a new thread for this where current students can post advice for the non school-related survival skills you may need as a grad student.

These can include things like:

Inexpensive recipes/diet plans so we don't end up on McDiets until we have to biggie-size our doorways.

Advice for finding roommates/housing. What to look for in an apartment, what to be careful of, etc.

Those of you who did buy housing, how did you go about it, what kind of moeny did you have to lay down up front, etc. Do you think it was worth the hassle in general

Advice on necessities that people may not think of (for example, laptops, SPSS licenses for home computers, etc.)

Workout plans for those of us so inclined(i.e. how often/when during the day, do you work out at home or go to the gym, etc.)

And pretty much anything else you can think of regarding living a reasonable life off a grad-student budget.

I'm sure those of us who will be attending next year would appreciate any suggestions/advice from others who went through the experience of having their salary cut by 1/2 (or 1/4 or 1/8, etc.) and having to adjust.
So I see someone tried to revive this thread last year without any success but I thought it might be a good time to try again considering that people are at the point of making final decisions and there is that overhanging "now what"? A lot of threads right now are discussing the pros and cons of attending these programs at all but lets reserve this thread specifically for advice about general living for those who have already decided. Can't wait to hear some feedback from you guys :)
 

ClinicalPsyPhd

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Dec 21, 2011
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So I see someone tried to revive this thread last year without any success but I thought it might be a good time to try again considering that people are at the point of making final decisions and there is that overhanging "now what"? A lot of threads right now are discussing the pros and cons of attending these programs at all but lets reserve this thread specifically for advice about general living for those who have already decided. Can't wait to hear some feedback from you guys :)
Annnnd... no response. Well, I'm not yet in a grad program but I'll chip in. I hope to live off of Groupon/LivingSocial deals and ideas from Pinterest!
 
Mar 10, 2010
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im too tired to read the whole thread to make sure this isnt a repeat but has anyone mentioned food stamps? in my state you qualify if you a) work 20hrs a week and b) are still really effin poor. I get $200 a month for groceries, which rolls over too! and since there is never ne time in grad skewl to eat much less cook (despite what some of the earlier posts here indicated), I tend to have between 400-500 available at any given time.

if only i had the time, that's enough to throw a party. but who would come, we r all too busy :)
 

paramour

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Don't go to grad school. Problem solved. :thumbup:
 
Jan 25, 2011
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im too tired to read the whole thread to make sure this isnt a repeat but has anyone mentioned food stamps? in my state you qualify if you a) work 20hrs a week and b) are still really effin poor. I get $200 a month for groceries, which rolls over too! and since there is never ne time in grad skewl to eat much less cook (despite what some of the earlier posts here indicated), I tend to have between 400-500 available at any given time.

if only i had the time, that's enough to throw a party. but who would come, we r all too busy :)
Where I am, my stipend alone (less than $1K a month; Master's program) is too much monthly income for Food Stamps, Medicaid, etc. for a family of four. For those who think, "Oh, I'll just live off of food stamps," (BTW a first-year grad student in my lab had this thought) I would suggest taking a good look at the income requirements for your state. You may be surprised; the aforementioned first-year student certainly was.
 
Nov 21, 2011
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I had a colleague who made extra money by being paid for "donating" plasma weekly for a few years. Apparently it was enough to pay for rent (fully or mostly). You might be able to combine the donation process with reading articles for extra efficiency.

When looking for housing, I would recommend getting a place close to campus to minimize travel time and costs. I made the mistake of choosing a place that was a 20 minute drive from campus because it was in an area that I liked and had a lot of stores, restaurants, parks, etc. I later realized that while it was nice having those things close by, I spent a lot more time and money traveling to work practically daily. Doing it again, I would have switched it around so that I lived closer to campus and traveled a bit farther to places I might spend time at on the weekends. On internship, I made sure I lived close to my site, and it has been great having a short commute.
 

PhDMiss2014

Pre-Doctoral Intern
Nov 12, 2012
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I agree with HomeworkHelper...live close to campus. My first year I biked to campus which saved so much time and aggravation, especially in the parking situation.
 

Jeina

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Aug 30, 2010
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Psychology Student
I agree with HomeworkHelper...live close to campus. My first year I biked to campus which saved so much time and aggravation, especially in the parking situation.
I think this is a matter of personal preference. I live about 25 minutes from campus and really appreciate the distance. When I'm on campus, I'm there for an extended period of time and work diligently; then I go home and give myself some space to unwind from that environment. If I lived close by, I think I'd be tempted to sneak home for little breaks all the time! ;)
 
Mar 10, 2010
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Psychology Student
Where I am, my stipend alone (less than $1K a month; Master's program) is too much monthly income for Food Stamps, Medicaid, etc. for a family of four. For those who think, "Oh, I'll just live off of food stamps," (BTW a first-year grad student in my lab had this thought) I would suggest taking a good look at the income requirements for your state. You may be surprised; the aforementioned first-year student certainly was.
1k a month? whoa, thats like rich ppl compared to my stipend. the household income max to still qualify that i was talking about is about 12,000 a year. since i easily make less than 12k a year, i qualify. but certainly good advice to verify ur eligibility before you start planning on having them.
 
Mar 10, 2010
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Psychology Student
If I lived close by, I think I'd be tempted to sneak home for little breaks all the time! ;)
i tots go home for lil breaks all the time and hate myself for it. all of those 30 minute breaks at my house could add up to a nice chunk of work done over the course of the day if i didnt keep going home in between everything (its about a 10min drive home)
 

Doctor Eliza

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Jul 30, 2010
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I agree with HomeworkHelper...live close to campus. My first year I biked to campus which saved so much time and aggravation, especially in the parking situation.
Perhaps this varies by university, but my apt complex was on the edge of campus and was much more expensive due to this. I hate commutes, so it sort of worked for me, but if I wanted to be completely economical, I would have lived 10 minutes away.

Dr. E
 
Feb 26, 2011
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Psychology Student
I am about to graduate (hopefully in 2 months) and start postdoc. I can definitely say that graduate school was the most trying time in my life. It can only get better from here. I wish I could have my 20's and early 30's back instead of working 60+ hours per week and not having weekends.

One thing I would recommend is selecting a supportive, responsive and sane dissertation committee. This is actually more important than the topic itself. I thought I had a reasonable committee, but they proved to be a nightmare (egos, nobody getting along, not responding), and it was too late to get out of working with them. Your dissertation committee will make a big difference in your ability to graduate and in your overall happiness.