I would like to know what is graduate school supposed to be like? I started grad school for mathematics 2 months ago and I find myself studying all the time with no time for anything else (except activities of daily living). Is this typical?

Some notable advantages that I have:

I commute from school to home. I am a U.S. citizen and obviously did not have to venture outside of home for any of my schooling.

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    It should take up a lot of your time, but not all. Be sure to get regular exercise, and find a way to socialize with people outside your department at least occasionally. – academic Oct 13 '13 at 4:00
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    How far along in the program are you? I found the first few semesters the hardest because I had to spend a lot of time on "foundation" skills (e.g., using LaTeX). If you moved to a new city or country, that also makes it harder -- you suddenly don't have friends and family around to rely on and you may be suffering from culture shock. – user6782 Oct 13 '13 at 12:40
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    I would further like to support the point made by @FrankThorne about exercise. Attempting to be healthy through various activities outside of work is both, a sanity check as well as a stress reduction tool for me. – Shion Oct 13 '13 at 18:11

Graduate school is an experience and like any other experience, it differs for different people.

You may or may not let your work overwhelm you. That is entirely your choice unless you have to catch up with your cohort. Time management is one of the most important skills to learn in graduate school and as I understand, it carries over to real life significantly later on.

Therefore, specifically in response to your question, your current experience is typical for certain graduate students but not all graduate students.

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    "That is entirely your choice" -- I disagree. Good time management skills certainly help, but even David Allen is limited by the number of hours in the day. – user6782 Oct 13 '13 at 12:22
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    That is a different premise in my humble opinion. Hours/day is also a relative time scale. One of my advisers always tells me that if you cannot do all that you need to do during the time you set aside for work, then you are not doing something right. – Shion Oct 13 '13 at 18:10

Most graduate schools take a "firehose" approach in the first semester or two, so a heavy workload is to be expected, although it's certainly not desirable. That said, however, it should not be all-consuming—but it's also true that it can eat up all of your time, if you allow it to happen.

One of the things that I tell all of my students is that time for relaxation and non-study based activities is just as important as finding time for classes and preparing for examinations. In fact, not having the "outlet valve" can make you less productive overall; mentally and physically such behavior is not sustainable over a long period of time.

Therefore, I tell my students—as well as undergraduates that I mentor who intend to go to graduate school—that they need to schedule relaxation time into their week. What they do and when and how they do it is up to them; but there needs to be something to balance the stress of being a graduate student.

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Short answer: Yes.

Grad school is an extremely time intensive activity. Depending on where you went and what you did for undergrad, you may feel overwhelmed. Rest assured that grad school is designed to eat up all your time and you are expected to dedicate your life to it. That said, it should eventually be somewhat enjoyable.

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    I disagree. Graduate school is not designed to eat up all your time. Time management is key. – Shion Oct 13 '13 at 1:49

I have had a slightly different experience that what is mentioned here - I have worked full time while completing my PhD. That means a lot of time management, as well as stress management is required.

Break up each task into smaller manageable subtasks and allow yourself rewards and most of all, as has been mentioned, time to enjoy some hobbies and recreation. This is critical - you'll potentially burn-out other wise.

Having a job (volunteer or paid, full or part time) is also a good way to force you prioritise tasks and deadlines, the job also provides a break from study and vice versa - this is a mindset that develops over time.

You will be busy, but be sure that you are doing something that you enjoy, it won't be a chore, it will be something to look forward to.

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In addition to the other good answers, "Yes." It is a situation in which there's no such thing as "being too good", of course. People who've been easily top-in-their-class are now "average" in the population. Very disorienting. Also, as noted, there is a pretense that people "catch up" at super-high-speed by doing 30 hours of homework each week, etc.

So, yes, the pretense, the hype, the mythology, and the disorientation seem to tell people to spend every waking moment "studying".

Among the bad/silly side effects or versions of this is the one wherein one merely frets all day, rather than doing anything constructive. Or "obsessing" about small things, individual homework problems that are of dubious significance, etc. Pointless.

Also as noted, it is important to get sleep, exercise, and reasonable food, to say the least. Chronic sleep deprivation (and dubious diet) is all too typical in the relevant age-group in the first place, and having added seeming-motivations to sacrifice sleep, exercise, and diet just makes everything worse.

As many people have said on many occasions, getting a PhD in mathematics is not a "career choice", because it's waaaay too much work in comparison to the (extra-mathematical) rewards. It only makes sense if one is fairly obsessed with math in the first place, and can continue to have that degree of irrational interest despite workload and temporary loss of self-determination.

That is, by normal standards, it is not reasonable to aim for "a normal life", whether in grad school or thereafter, because it's maybe not possible, any more than performing musicians have "normal lives", whether classical or jazz or pop or... The idea is that it's a hobby that, quasi-miraculously, pays a living. (This is different than engineering, apparently!) If one can keep that feeling, then it's fine!

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Short answer is yes. Grad school can be very time intensive, especially if you are coming from a small undergrad program into a large grad program, as your background knowledge may not be up to snuff.

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