How to Win at Graduate School

So you’ve decided to pursue a graduate degree. Maybe you want to expand your job skills, maybe you want to do research on an important topic, maybe you feel like paying $60, 000 to be humiliated by mediocre academics who would rather be doing field research in El Salvador, maybe you are just hoping to get laid. Whatever your motivations (and I don’t judge) you have paid the deposit, taken the worthless campus tour, and have made an account on the inevitably unworkable campus email system, so you are officially a grad student. Note: Even if you just got your acceptance letter today and don’t start classes until September, tell your friends and relatives you are now a grad student. It makes your unemployment seem acceptable.

Fortunately for you, The Grand Inquisitor was a grad school rock star and is here to help you make the most out of the very expensive next couple of years. The rules for graduate school are not in any way related to how undergraduate programs work. In fact, the rules of graduate school are not related to any other human institution. It is its own very special version of Hell. However, it’s too late for you. So here are a few pointers to get you started.


  • Pick on students who aren’t as smart as you are. Grad school is a bit like prison. Establish your dominance early on. Also, it is one of the few places it is socially acceptable to mean to dumb people, enjoy it.
  • Kiss the department chair’s ass. Want that “research assistantship” where you collect punk records from the 80s. This is who you need to give the blow job to.
  • Bang the faculty. They are usually divorced and desperate, and they have more money than you so you can get a nice meal at that new Thai place.
  • Drink. This is the most important thing you will do in graduate school. As a grad student it is perfectly acceptable to show up with your classmates at the bar at 1 pm on a Tuesday and act like you are studying.
  • Attend functions with the department and faculty folks. They always have free booze because it is the only way your thesis advisor can stand to listen to how you are going to change the field with a theory that fell out of fashion in the 50s (you should have at least checked Wikipedia).


  • Ditch class all the time. Academics sustain themselves on the idea that you actually give a shit about what they think.  Show up and pretend they are fascinating so they will give you an A on that stupid narrative analysis you wrote about a Beyonce video.
  • Talk for 40 minutes of a 50 minute class. Yes dude, we get it. You really like Foucault and you have a deeper understanding of Fanon than any of the rest of us. If one of these people is in one of your classes (and there will be), it is perfectly acceptable to go to the library and check out every single book relating to their thesis topic for 9 weeks.
  • Get involved in academic politics. The only thing more sad than The Libertarian Party Convention is a student senate meeting. Pointless and needlessly shrill, student government meetings usually pick the worst pizza place to order from and rarely have beer.
  • Monitor the amount of debt you are acquiring. Just pretend that doesn’t exist. Otherwise you will panic and actually go find a job.
  • Stop drinking. Seriously, it is the only way you are going to survive the realization that nobody cares about your research and that you should have went with that MBA program.

Welcome to The Academy my friends.

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