Grad School Shopping List

I started grad school this fall. I love it. I frequently find myself exiting my classes chanting to myself about how much I love being a student again.

Still, for someone such as myself who has spent quite a few years out of school before jumping back on in, the adjustment period/learning curve can be a struggle. If you are considering applying to grad school, allow me to share with you a shopping list of items you should consider picking up before you judge yourself ready to join the fray. You can find most of these at your local Target or campus bookstore.

  • Highlighters.

  • Gloves, because you won’t have the time or the energy to do your nails anymore. Things could get gnarly.

  • The most potent form of caffeine that exists. Consider consulting a drug dealer.

All that coke and you STILL can’t get started on this week’s reading.

  • Highlighters for your bag, because you will always leave your first choice of highlighters at home.

  • A new brain.

  • A stapler.


Because this.

  • A sturdy trash can/recycle bin for all of your discarded, useless work. And your pride.

  • Good walking shoes, because even if you buy that outrageously priced parking permit you will still find yourself parking a million miles away from your desired destination.

  • Some form of lorazepam. To combat the caffeine.

  • Candy. Best start eating your feelings now.


Grad students and Marlon Brando: both kinda okay with being fat. Not that most grad students are fat. But I’ve eaten my weight in goldfish crackers almost every night this week and I don’t even care.

  • 5 pairs of back-up headphones, for use in defeating the weird buzzing noises of coke machines, back-up generators in old buildings, that one guy that audibly hums his own study-theme-music, and the creepy dude at the library who always wants to talk to you about the merits of birth control (????!).

  • A stuffed animal to hug once you realize you’ve been on campus for three days and no human has touched you.

  • Humility. You think you wrote a good paper, do you? Well, you didn’t. You wrote a bad paper, Petey.


This may or may not be a direct quote from a conversation with my professor.

  • Extra phone chargers. You’ll need them when you lock yourself out of every available building and you only have 3% battery juice with which to call campus security.

  • Mace. The kind that clips onto your keyring, though, because good luck finding that mace in your huge bag of books and highlighters.

  • A study playlist. Make it NOW, because you will find yourself making one at 11PM the night before your proposal is due, and professors might not be inclined to accept that as an excuse for an incomplete annotated bibliography.

  • A playlist to cry to. I may or may not have a playlist called “Songs To Help Mourn Your Once Efficient Mind.”


My study playlist is called “is it safe?” because I’m a movie nerd and Marathon Man is one of few movies about a grad student. That’s how my brain works.

  • Tic-tacs, because you will inevitably bump into attractive people NOT on the days when you look put-together but rather when you appear to have climbed out of a garbage heap. There’s nothing you can do about this, it’s the cousin to Murphy’s Law. However, you CAN distract with your minty freshness.

  • A type-A personality. It’s the only way you’re going to keep up with your newfound Max Fletcher classmates/colleagues.

  • A type-B personality. It’s the only way you’re going be able to let go and find submitting that paper possible– you’re not Shakespeare, stop trying and be okay with being Marlowe. He probably wrote most of Shakespeare’s stuff anyways.


Marlowe: My hairspiration.

  • Some form of self-cleaning shower spray. Cleaning your shower will be the first of your once-important housecleaning tasks to go. Just make sure you have a nice shower curtain and it’ll be fine.

  • A guidebook of the latest non-offensive/socially acceptable terms for everything.

  • A really good under-eye concealer.

  • A really big bag.


Pretty much any conversation you will have with a normal person from now on.

  • Do they make camis that provide excellent back/shoulder support? Get one of those, especially if you’re like me and refuse to invest in a rolly-bag for all of those textbooks.

  • A ukulele, some putty, or a rubick’s cube. You will need something to break up your computer-staring time.


A window works too, but you’d be surprised how few of those you can find on campus. 

  • An umbrella. An insider told me recently that absence of umbrella traditionally denotes a new student, and you don’t want to signal vulnerability. Like bees, your colleagues can smell fear. Protect yourself from their judgement. Oh, and from the rain.

  • A floorplan/escape route of the buildings you will be spending the most time in. Especially if one of them has a single elevator that makes suspicious sounds and is renown for trapping people.


You will find yourself identifying with Radiohead’s “Creep” fairly consistently. 

  • Dignity. Always dignity. You’ll need it when you find yourself bumping into the same cleaning person at 4AM several nights in a row. Don’t judge me, cleaning lady. I just really needed to finish that bibliography.

  • More highlighters.

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