Dealing With “Why the Hell Am I Here?” Moment(s)

This post is in no way trying to discourage you from applying to or attending graduate school. If anything, this post will help you deal with certain moments in your current or future graduate school career. There is a clear misconception when it comes to graduate school that “once you’re in, you’re in.”

I’m sorry, that’s not how it works. Throughout your graduate school career, you will experience what I like to call the “Why the hell am I here?” moment – pretty self explanatory.

sb52Whether you’re stressed about balancing your personal life and academic obligations, or just trying to stay “above water” with all the required work, you will reach a breaking point. This blog post is about what you should do when that moment comes.

Remember Why You’re Here

Remember that you were accepted into the program for a reason- the graduate admissions staff believed that you could handle the work. You have the ability to not only make it in your program but to excel and become a leader among your classmates. When you experience one of these moments of self-doubt, try to reassure yourself that you’re in your specific program for a reason and the only way you got to where you are is through hard word, determination and passion. 

The Future Payoff of Current Frustration

Another common statement I hear from graduate students is: “Why did I leave my job to go back to school?”. After having this conversation with several of my classmates who have plenty of work experience, their moment comes from the  frustration of giving up a comfortable job with a salary and having to learn how to be a student again.

While I can’t personally comment on how this feels, I’d recommend that you remind yourself of why you left your job in the first place: to be able to negotiate your future and have options in terms of upper-level management and executive positions. While ditching the suit and tie for jeans and a backpack may seem like a terrible idea, in the long run it will provide you with the opportunity to grow both as an individual and a professional.

sb29Challenge Yourself

Whether you’re frustrated, doubting yourself or both – accept graduate school as a personal challenge. Think about it- you have already left your job and are committed to paying tuition and loans – make the best of it now. Think of this as one of the many hurdles you will have to face in life. You can chose to give up and go home or step up to the plate and do your best. You will experience the “Why the hell am I here?” moment- maybe once, every week or even everyday. Step back, look at the big picture and remember why you’re here. 


Johnny Schroepfer is a Integrated Marketing Communications Graduate Student at Northwestern University. He is currently the Strategy & Content Director at the Medill Vitamin IMC Blog: Connect with Johnny on Twitter @jbschroe or visit his website:

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2 Responses to “Dealing With “Why the Hell Am I Here?” Moment(s)”

  1. avatar Rachel says:

    I totally appreciate this post. Never in my academic career have I struggled until now. I am looking at one more semester of grad school and I this weekend I had my “why the hell am I here” moment. Thanks for your post!

  2. avatar Mandy says:

    I recently enrolled in college, and I’m already having this/that moment. I’ve rocked back’n forth trying to figure out what I’m going to major in- I’ve covered about 3 levels of nothingness so far because I have a husband and 3 children, and have no clue on how I’m going to pull this off because he’s attending college as well. This was encouraging, but it wasn’t the miracle I was looking for. Thanks for the post.

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