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Andi Black: Grad School is Actually Fight Club

The first semester of grad school is a lot Like Fight Club. No one wants to talk about it, and you can expect to get the ever-loving crap beaten out of you on a regular basis. But you know it’s making you stronger, or at least that’s what you tell yourself while you lick your wounds.

Before I started Graduate School, everyone told me to be ready to work harder than I have ever worked before. I nodded and diligently read everything I could get my hands on about how to survive grad school. As soon as one of my professors e-mailed out the syllabus I ordered all the books and read them. Twice. I was going to be prepared. I was prepared. I was ready.

When I walked in to my first class of the graduate program, I realized, I don’t have a clue what I am in for. The reading I had done over the summer flew out of the window and I was staring at these texts like I had never seen them before. You want me to tell you what a pantoum is? Uh… it’s the raft that goes down a river right?

I was totally pushed on my butt, knocked around and left dazed on the ground by the end of the first week. Never in my wildest nightmares had I imagined that I would struggle so much. I gave serious thought to dropping out, going back home and begging for my old job back.

But I’m a tough little munchkin so the next week I went back for more. I got knocked around some more, but I kept my feet this time. The semester kept on this way, each week I was scraping and struggling but keeping at it, I don’t remember ever reading, writing, and studying so hard in my life. Then midterm season came and the world came to a screeching halt as every ounce of my time and energy was sucked into studying. I made 204 notecards for a single class and studied them daily.

I went into the midterm scared to death and spent the entire time nauseous as I wrote furiously. When I got my grade back it was as though every single word from the essays I had written came through and kidney punched me one by one. My professor told me he was very worried about my ability to get through this class and to please go talk to him.

A stomach flu, family crisis and a forced move-out later and I found myself at the end of the semester. I wrote almost 70 pages over the span of a weekend, I went days without sleep or leaving my room. I recorded all of my notes and my poems and would listen to the 2 hour-long playlist at every moment of downtime.

In the end I survived with 2 A’s and B to show for my efforts.

But I’m stronger, I’m faster and I know what I’m doing now. I’m ready to kick grad school’s butt, or at least give it a run for its money.
So just know that if you plan on going to grad school… just be ready to get knocked down and know that the only way to move forward is to get back up and brace for the next hit because you know it’s worth every second of pain.

Thanks Andi for the great guest post! Andi is a writer/poet working towards her MFA. She blogs at and tweets as @JudyBlackCloud.


  1. Absolutely love this! My phd program is exactly like fight club too! Close to the finish line but still getting knocked around pretty badly, glad to know Im not alone

    1. I'm considering grad school, so this post makes me a bit nervous...Hang in there!


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