Playlist: So You’re Panicking About Graduate School

Perhaps you are taking the GRE tomorrow. Perhaps you’re starting school in two weeks. Perhaps you’re 20 pages into your dissertation with a bajillion more to go. I sympathize with all of you. I fall into the first category, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand the heart-thudding, insomnia-inducing, gut-splitting panic that we all go through in the name of academia, regardless of what stage we’re in. This play list perfectly expresses the arc of emotion I feel every time I start saying, “HOLY FUCK I WILL FLIP BURGERS AT MCDONALD’S THIS WILL BE MY FUTURE FOREVER I JUST KNOW IT.” From songs that validate the panic to songs to soothe it to confidence boosters, I hope it applies to all your hysteria-causing school situations. And remember, you will do fine. We’re on The Edge of Glory and we’re Ready To Go.


I Wish I Could Go Back to College – Original Broadway Cast, Avenue Q
I’m Shakin’ – Rooney
Panic – Sublime With Rome
Panic – The Smiths
Do The Panic – Phantom Planet
Don’t Panic – Coldplay
Big Girls Don’t Cry – Fergie
Be Ok (Acoustic) – Ingrid Michaelson
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – The Beatles
Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
The Edge of Glory – Lady Gaga
Ready To Go [Get Me Out Of My Mind] – Panic! At the Disco

So You’re Panicking About Graduate School from Autostraddle on 8tracks Radio.


Tell me your favorite stressed-out tracks below!

Want to suggest a playlist theme? Hit Crystal up on Formspring and someone on the team will make it for you.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.


    • I’ve never heard this before but I love John K. I’ll always have a soft spot for The Weakerthans.

  1. I think this was just the kick in the butt I needed to tackle the other 800 million pages of my GRE prep book and sign up for the dang test. Playlist going on repeat.

    Good luck tomorrow! Just act like EVERY section on the test is the one that doesn’t count and you’ll be fine (side note: why am I paying lots of money to be a guinea pig and take extra test? NOT COOL.).

    This is how I feel about taking the GRE next semester! To keep calm and write on I listen to The Garden by Mirah. It has nothing to do with being calm but it is a strong song, and it takes strength to take a big scary test that will decide your future.

  3. so I’m moving tomorrow and will be starting classes in roughly two weeks. Even though I’ve been killing myself for years and years to achieve this I’ve done nothing but panic over it for about a month and a half. This is going to become the soundtrack of my life, I can tell.

  4. The GRE is easy peasy. No big.

    I need a ‘when one member of your committee thinks you’re an extreme failure but the rest think you’re fine but that one is super influential so you can’t piss her off’ playlist.

    • I know too many friends in grad school how are in need of this exact playlist you’re talking about. Boo to jerky committee members!

    • Marika, if you find that playlist let me know! I have a committee meeting coming up and I totally have “that guy” as one of my committee members

    • That right there is why I have a spare member on my committee. Keeps them all in line knowing that any one of them could be expendable.

      ‘Cept my advisor. It’d probably be considered bad form to kick him off my committee.

      (Also I picked a bunch of people who liked me. I figure I might as well play that game on easy mode, neh?)

  5. I’m not panicking about grad school yet, but this playlist is also relevant to my “moving to LA in 12 days to start grad school next month” panicking! Thaaaank you.

  6. I wish I had this playlist while I was still in Grad School. Now I need a Job Hunting with a Masters Playlist :p


  7. Garbage – The trick is to keep breathing
    The Smiths – A rush and a Push and the land is ours
    Elsiane – Mend (to fix, to repair)
    Queens of the stone age – Go with the flow
    The Smiths – Please please please let me get what I want
    Dandy Warhols – I am a scientist :p

    I have some exams in 3 weeks and I’m feeling super lazy. Good luck, ladies

  8. Ali, from another Ali, I cannot decide if I’m gonna go to grad school because I panicked too hard. WHERE IS THAT PLAYLIST, PRETTY LADY? WHERE?!?!?!!)#)*(#

  9. How the frick frack did you know I’m starting my PhD next month? Always so damn relevant AS. What kind of sorcery is this?!

  10. I move this weekend and start law school in a few weeks. Stressing because I still have a ton of stuff to finish.

    Most of this playlist was made in 2011 when I was getting motivated to take the LSAT:

    Eminem – Lose Yourself
    Justin Bieber feat Jaden Smith – Never Say Never
    Survivor – Eye of the Tiger
    Rebecca Black – My Moment
    Bon Jovi – It’s My Life
    R. Kelly – I Believe I Can Fly
    The Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive
    Miley Cyrus – The Climb
    Sleigh Bells – Riot Rhythm
    Mariah Carey – Hero
    Robots in Disguise – Turn it Up
    Eminem feat. Nate Dogg – Till I Collapse
    Europe – The Final Countdown

      • Indeed, but maybe this would have been a better order:
        “It’s My Life”
        “I Believe I Can Fly”
        “The Climb”
        “Staying Alive”
        “Till I Collapse”

        The Bee Gees and Eminem belong together.

  11. I’m the second thing, about a month away from starting grad school… D: Yesterday I started singing Queen’s “I’m Going Slightly Mad” very quietly and creeped myself out.

  12. Two weeks until I start my phd. I really want to create a “Graduate Straddlers” group on Facebook, but at&t sucks so I won’t have internet at my new apartment for another week and I can’t figure out how to do it on my phone. Anyone else wanna step up?

      • That was supposed to say “insert reminder to go donate to the indiegogo campaign here”, but the website decided that it didn’t like that text and stripped it.

        So there’s another reason right there to support the new website project.

  13. Argghhh, so relevant to my interests. Going to grad school in Canada, so didn’t have to take the GRE, but I’m still quaking in my (vegan docmarten) boots! What if I’m the youngest and the dumbest? What if I’m not cool enough for the big city queers? How will I stay organized and on top of my game after all those undergraduate years of gay sex, drugs, and rock n roll? You know?


  14. The panicking part of this is very relevant to me right now. Found out a couple hours ago that I start my internship (final year of grad school) tomorrow… and I thought I started Monday. I am ready to be done with this grad school and paying tuition shit.

    Reapplying for grad school the second time around isn’t as scary, but it’s definitely equally as stressful.

  16. I literally took the GRE yesterday. Good luck and remember that if the questions are getting harder you’re doing it right!

    Also don’t be surprised when they won’t even let you take your Chapstick into the testing room

  17. Wonderful! Exactly what I needed for my half hour dinner/check autostraddle break.

    I’m done with the GRE but I have quals (prelims) tomorrow and Friday.

    Good luck everybody!

  18. oh wow thank you for this. tonight, this is my “I just flew to Oakland today to try to find a place to live in the next 4 days so I can start grad(ish) school next month and I don’t even know where to begin” playlist.

    • OMG ME TOO. I just moved to Oakland two weeks ago for grad school starting next week. MEEP.

  19. i took a practice gre, thinking that if i did well enough i’d take it this month

    my math score was so abysmal i immediately signed up for a princeton review class

    i blame the patriarchy

  20. Taking the GRE in 6 days & I’m more worried about how often I’m going to be allowed to use the bathroom than the actual exam. Is this normal? (I know this isn’t normal) ((I know I’m panicking))

    • ahhh! PhD Comic is the best! the whatshouldwecallgradschool tumblr is also a lot of fun, ahaha.

  21. Good timing! I just got out of grad school orientation, and classes start TOMORROW. Also I can’t yet move into the room I’ll be renting and have been living in a tent for a week.

    Yup, totally panicking here.

  22. I quit grad school to flip (vegan) burgers. (Or to be more precise, to become a cook.) And I’m still alive. I’ll try and think of songs to accompany this.

  23. What about a finishing my dissertation playlist? Sigh. Gotta admit, most of my playlists involve stuff from the ’90s … only thing that makes sitting still for long periods of time bearable is chair-dancing to Hanson.

  24. All the top hits by The Bloodhound Gang. One of my favorites when I’m screwed- Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo

Comments are closed.