Graduate School Is Ruining My Life

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Graduate school is ruining my life. Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but at times it does feel that way. I became interested in completing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) due to getting a promotion at work and feeling I need the education to excel at my position and make future advancements (Hello, imposter syndrome like no other). As I already have a terminal degree, a Doctor of Pharmacy, I always said I would never return to school. Never say never hit me hard with this one.

I surprised myself and others when I took the leap to enroll in an MBA program. I enrolled at Ball State in the fall of 2023 while continuing to work full-time. I have two young children, a marriage, and relationships to maintain on top of school and work. The other problem is I like to do all the things. I like to take my kids to the Children’s Museum every weekend, participate in two book clubs, binge-watch TV shows that are recommended to me, travel to see friends and family, and follow sports teams. I met with an academic advisor and decided to take two classes per semester, feeling this was the most I could manage. The dread of the length of the program at this pace was daunting from day one, August 2023, through December 2025, but I still took the leap.

When I enrolled in graduate school, I understood that there would be extra work on my plate. However, I did not realize the extent to which my other hobbies and interests would suffer. Soon after starting the program, the stress of it all was almost too much to bear. Luckily, my insurance covers eight therapy sessions per year at no cost, and no referral is needed. I turned to TalkSpace to help me cope. I ended up using six sessions over the course of about 12 weeks, and I learned multiple techniques that can be applied to many stressful situations in life.

Communication is key

Communicating expectations and feelings is important for ensuring you are on the same page with your partner, your children, and the other people in your life. Simple communication in advance, such as “I need to work on homework for a couple of hours tonight” or “This week, I would like to work on homework on Monday and Tuesday; how does that work with your schedule?” has made a positive difference in our communication.

Organize your time

Your time will become even more valuable, and finding the best way to organize it is crucial. You may need to test out different ways to organize your time, such as handwritten calendars, to-do lists, electronic calendars, planners, planning one week at a time, one semester at a time, or any and all of the above!

Organize your space

Having a place where your brain can concentrate is important. For myself, I learned that depending on my assignment and mindset, I can adjust where I am working. I was doing schoolwork in my office, but then I felt trapped in the same room for 12 hours a day. To change my environment, I can do some schoolwork at the kitchen table, still feel involved with my family, or at my husband’s work desk instead of mine. Small changes in the environment can make a big difference.

Adjust your expectations

Life is going to look different, and it is likely temporary. Give yourself and others grace as they adjust to what life looks like now.

Choose your priorities

When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Give yourself control of choosing your priorities, not the other way around. What are your must-haves versus your like-to-haves?

It’s ok to ask for help

Lean on your support system, if you have one, or expand your support system. Therapy can be used to navigate new and difficult times and chronic mental health conditions. Expand your babysitting pool, join a YMCA with childcare services, call on family members, use meal prep kits, and finally say yes to having a housekeeping service. You don’t need to do it all yourself.

Be proud of yourself

You can do hard things, even if this is the hardest thing you’ve had to do so far. Positive affirmations are a great way to boost your self-image. The verdict is still out on whether graduate school is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I know I will be proud when it’s completed.

I am about halfway through my second semester, and although there are still tears, moments of panic, and being overwhelmed, I feel better prepared to handle the stress. I encourage you to take on the things that scare you because diamonds only form under pressure. You will come out needing a polish, but you sure will shine. Enrolling in graduate school may not be ruining my life, but it will be a different life for the next two years.

Here’s to hoping I report back in December 2025 that I made it through!


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