For much of my relationship, Grad School has been a present factor. First, there is the idea of attending Grad school to receive an MBA. Then come the months of studying for the GMAT, then the actual taking of the GMAT, then (possibly) the re-taking of the GMAT, then the endless school applications, then the waiting. And waiting. And finally, the acceptance letter. Then there is the prepping for Grad school, the student loan applications, the prep for the move back to school (for some). Then, finally, there is the school part. And its only just begun!
When I first met my boyfriend, the idea to attend grad school was small but present spark in his mind. Fast forward almost two years later, and he finally just started school last month. I have loved him through all the above stages and many more, but I wished there had been a guidebook of sorts that I could refer to every time the Business School monster reared its ugly head.
Unfortunately for me, no such guide exists. We had to roll with the punches and help battle whatever was in front of us as it came. But when I talked with other people who have helped support their loved ones while they prepped and then attended Grad school, a few commonalities were found. And while this may not be an exhaustive list, it might be a helpful start for how to support your partner through the challenging yet rewarding life even that Grad school presents.
1. Go in as a team. If you start the Grad school process with the mentality that you are both in this together, I promise you that things will become a whole lot easier for you down the road. Any tough decision or roadblock you face, you face it together. You simply cannot look at this as a ‘he decided to go to grad school’ situation. You’re a team.
2. Me, you, and the GMAT. Ah, the GMAT. Or the LSAT. Or the MCAT. Or whatever the hell the test is called that will haunt you in your dreams for weeks and months to come. And while you may not be the one studying for the test, you are definitely the one supporting the person who is putting in the tireless hours. Accept that the dreaded test is now the third person in your relationship and welcome it with open arms. If you are negative and dismissive of it, your partner will begin to resent it even more than he or she already does.
3. Accepting less time together. This is a fact. A fixed expense. Negotiating a few hours here or there does no one any good. My boyfriend really enjoys being well-prepared and has always been an incredible student. Trying to get him to blow off his plans of studying for 8 hours on a Saturday so that he could attend a pool party with me would just make him feel unsettled and crabby that he didn’t get done what he needed to do that day. Instead of encouraging your partner to have a more ‘balanced’ schedule, support whatever phase they may be in. They will come out of their study cave eventually.
4. March 25th. This date is stuck in my brain. For months and months, this was the day we so patiently waited for – the day phone would ring and someone would tell us he got in or ‘better luck next time’. It was important to me that my boyfriend not rely on the answer of this day to affect how he felt about himself. He needed to know that regardless of the outcome, he was an intelligent and extremely capable individual who can put his mind to anything he achieves – That if he heard a ‘no’ on the other end, it didn’t mean he was stunted from growth within his career. Be sure your loved one knows this about themselves, and work to reflect on the teamwork you two have produced thus far in this process – Before phone call comes.
5. Distance. Some of you may not have to go through a long-distance relationship while the other is off at school. For us, distance is the case. And while it’s not horribly far between Minneapolis and Chicago, it is distance nonetheless. However, I do have to admit to you that it is really not as bad as I expected it to be. Sure I miss him and sure I wish he was here or I was there, but in all honesty, it’s not that bad. I’ve been able to spend more time with friends and have been able to pick up more hobbies and interests, like being a writer for this blog for example! I visit when I can, but know that the thought of a long-distance relationship might be scarier than the actual thing itself.
6. Long term goals over short term fulfillment. This is such an important thing to remember… It can be easy to get caught up in the nitty-gritty and forget why you guys are putting yourself through all the stress, all the hard work, all the long nights and time commitment apart. But remember why you guys went into this process in the first place and how the career development and knowledge gained will all be worth it in the end. I promise, you will come out a stronger couple in the end!
Perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to CELEBRATE the victories! Deciding to trek down the Grad school road is a big decision for both of you. Might as well stay positive and enjoy this new path you are on!