As a current graduate student, I feel the most important thing any graduate student should know before knowing anything else about their program is, when and where the free food will be served. This is no joke. Having this information saves both time and money.
One of the things I have come to enjoy the most about my graduate experience thus far is the free alcohol and free food. For those who are living the graduate student life, every second you are not doing anything mentally of physically draining is more important than your research. With this in mind, at least for me, free food on campus is 30 minutes to 60 minutes in which I do not have to spend in the evening cooking. That is time I can spend doing something else, or simply enjoying something on Netflix.
In addition to gaining a few extra minutes to your day, taking advantage of the free food at school keeps a few dollars in your pocket. The money you would have spent on food for that day can now either go in your savings or be used for something else that makes you happy.
The key is to show up at each event with absolutely zero shame. Whatever being served, have your fill, and do not show any remorse taking more than you can eat in one sitting, because whatever is left is for the next day. If you do this right, you can secure yourself enough food for up to three meals. My former mentor actually used to come the guest lectures with containers. At the end of each lecture she would confidently fill up her container with the left over food. I watched other wait for the left over food to be taken to the student lounge. Before it even gets there, there would already be a group of student waiting for its arrival.
So the alcohol. This is something I just recently began to think about. The graduate experience is tough. It is tough mentally, and emotionally and nothing is more relaxing that a cold beer or a glass of wine on Friday evening after a long week of work. The best part it’s all free.