Four Essential Things Worth the Investment for Grad School

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School is starting back up— eek! Funny how time flies when you’re having fun, er, I mean when you’re working hard to make research progress. haha.

If you’re starting grad school this year, congrats! If it’s another year for you, congrats as well. Because grad school. Spoiler Alert: this list is NOT going to blow your mind but instead I am writing this to make a case for investing in these items. That means spend a little money, don’t be cheap—which is opposite the advice graduate students hear. This post is inspired by Episode 74 Finesse & Fly Dress where I share all my school + style related tips for saving a little coin.

You can listen to it here.

So what’s worth the investment??

Let’s get to it.

#1 A nice pair of shoes for professional events.

Why?

Conferences and presentations are the building blocks to establishing your authority as a thought leader and subject matter expert. Let me say that appearance is not paramount, the knowledge you create and communicate is the most important contribution. I make the case for nice shoes really with your feet in mind. Conferences are typically at large convention centers which means you may find yourself walking far distances, up and down stairs all day as you attend sessions. Quality, comfortable shoes that complement your clothing at conferences will make for a much more enjoyable experience.

Rothys, $145. There are plenty on Poshmark for 20% off.

Rothys, $145. There are plenty on Poshmark for 20% off.

What should I get?

You should get what works for you. Personally, I bought some Italian leather loafers on Poshmark (FYI, I’m selling a few things check out my closet 😁). I decided to get a quality flat shoe because I know standing at a poster for 2-4 hours in heels isn’t the move for me personally but I still wanted to be polished and professional in skirts or pants. Loafers seemed like an easy choice. I also like Rothy’s.

How much should I spend?

Check your budget first but I’d try to keep the purchase under $200.


#2 A versatile bookbag you love

Why?

Now this may not be true for everyone but I have my bookbag within reach easily 80% of my waking hours. So, I wanted something I liked looking at. Something that didn’t scream student since I was 28 starting my PhD program and wanted to stand out from the undergrads. Am I the only one thinking these things?

There are other reasons to invest in a good bookbag beyond aesthetics. You want something with straps that will properly carry the load and comfortable on your body to avoid back issues in the future. It’s also worthwhile to invest in your bookbag so you aren’t spending time looking for a backpack every year because the last academic year was brutal. Just buy it one time and that bag can last beyond your graduate program.

Me with my Minkee Blue bookbag. 💗 it!

Me with my Minkee Blue bookbag. 💗 it!

What should I get?

I think comfort + style are the most important factors to consider in my humble opinion. In April 2018, I bought a bookbag from company Minkee Blue that to this day I absolutely love! It’s stylish, I feel comfortable wearing it to conferences, meetings, class, and even when I travel! It looks great with everything and has withstood my rough handling like a champ.

I know Herschel bookbags, and this beauty from Madewell are popular brands that have quality bookbags.

How much should I spend?

Check your budget first but I’d try to keep this purchase also under $200. Please note I did not buy all of this stuff at the same time but over time according to my budget.

#3 Nice School Supplies

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Why?

Yes there are cheap school supplies but you deserve nice things. Plus aren’t you just the teeniest bit more excited about getting work done when your have notebooks, pens and things you like?

What should I get?

This one is going to be some trial and error but once you find what you like it’s so gratifying. For example, I went through a lot of planners before I arrived at the Panda Planner. It works for me and comes in fun colors. I’m also a lefty so while I’ve always enjoyed marker pens, they often smeared until discovered Sharpie Pens LOVE THESE! I also have a lab notebook I use as my regular notebook and I am a fan because it’s big, comes in grid, dots, and lined and can last me an entire semester. I just order an academic years’ worth at the beginning of the school year (2 Panda Planners, one box of pens, and 2 notebooks) and I’m a happy camper!

How much should I spend?

Less than $100 for sure.

#4 Signature Look or Daily Uniform

Why?

So this isn’t a thing per se, but more of an idea to embrace. However, this is one action you can take to curb decision fatigue. A direct quote from our forever former president Obama,

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

If it’s good enough for him and research supports the concept, it’s good enough for you, friend. Every decision you make takes mental energy, save that energy to tackle class assignments, teaching, research, or to take some time off.

What should I get?

One’s daily uniform is a very personal choice and varies on the culture of your department. Personally, I’m mostly blouse & jeans but I am working on stepping my game up for what feels like the second half of this PhD. But I think it’s worthwhile to invest in staple pieces you think you’ll be wearing a lot. Some items worth investing in:

  • Blazers

  • Jeans/Pants

  • Winter/Rain Season outerwear

  • Everyday Accessories (earrings, watch, bracelet)

How much should I spend?

This is just as varied as your choice. But I like to challenge myself and spend as little as possible which is why do my best to find deals by thrifting, shopping on Poshmark and at Nordstrom Rack.


So what do you think? Sound off in the comments!