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Is it possible to have a social life in physics grad school?

  1. Dec 8, 2008 #1
    So I like physics a lot and think that I would probably like to get my PhD but I have some concerns. One of the big ones is being able to have a social life while working on my PhD. If it was a degree that only took like 2 years to get I wouldn't be so concerned but considering that if I do decide to go for my PhD that I'll be spending most of my 20's in grad school this is a major concern for me. I like to be able to go out and have fun and have a social life. I do love physics but I'm not sure if I'd be able to spend like 6 or 7 years not caring about anything but physics. Being able to go out and let loose on the weekends and have fun is something that I really value. Will I still have time to go out and have fun most weekends and at least a small amount of time to do stuff other than study during the week? Despite how much I love physics the prospect of spending most of my 20's doing nothing but studying physics really scares me. After all, you only get to be young once. So what's life in physics grad school really like? If I decide that going to grad school isn't for me what are my options with just an undergrad degree in physics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 8, 2008 #2
    It depends a lot on your department. Some departments are very well knit and do a lot of socializing. Other departments do not. It really depends on the school how social the grad students and faculty are.

    Where I went to grad school it was very social. Every Wednesday all the grad students went to lunch together- every Friday a group went out for a fish fry and beers. Saturdays we usually got together to drink beer and watch a movie or something. Often times, there were even non-physicists there (this is a joke... there were always friends of friends, girlfriends, wives, etc. along for the fun).

    At other schools I have worked at, the grad students have been extremely anti-social (this is both first and second hand knowledge). It really just depends on the school and the students as individuals. In the end it all depends on the person. There were people who loved to hang out and do non-physics stuff, there were people who wanted nothing to do with other students, there were quiet ones, loud ones, etc. Hell, there was even a guy who kept his bartending job at a jazz club.

    When it comes down to it, grad school is a lot of studying. But you are always free to make your own decisions. After my first year of busting my butt and sometimes putting in 80 hour weeks, I made a decision that if I was going to finish grad school with one ounce of sanity left, I would always take one day off a week from physics. I needed the mental break to maintain some level of humanity.

    If you do not go on to do graduate studies, software is a very popular choice for ex-physicists.
  4. Dec 9, 2008 #3


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    No social life for you! You will be chained to a desk and forced to solve general relativity equations for arbitrary conditions until you are thirty-seven.

    Seriously though, grad school, like anything else, is what you make of it. For me the work often came in waves. When preparing for exams (defences, candidacy, etc.) or preparing journal manuscripts there were a lot of long, late hours. But in between, the hours were reasonably regular (9-5ish) and in general I had most weekends off. In all, but my final year I had a part-time job (~20 hours per week), I had a steady girlfriend whom I eventually married, I got out to the gym and played a number of sports on a semi-regular basis.

    I have to admit, at times it did feel as if I had no time for anything outside of school, but I think overall, I found a good balance.
  5. Dec 9, 2008 #4
    Just need time management...
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