Updated: Oct 2, 2018
We all wonder what it's like to pursue a graduate degree, let me share my infinite knowledge on the topic...
No, you’re not a teenager anymore and pulling all-nighters are not cool. Yes, the work gets piled on quickly and unexpectedly, but no one produces good work when they are exhausted. Make sleep a priority. It may not be the doctor recommended eight hours each night, but AC Online expert Aneesa Das suggests that with proper sleep patterns, students should show improved grades, healthy metabolism, increased retention and mood. Do yourself a favor and establish a schedule and try to stick to it. This will help with your memory, information retention and overall mood.
4. Get dressed every day.
This may seem like a silly gesture but at this level of education more is expected out of you. You are meant to participate fully in classes, be prepared to meet new people and always remember, you are likely going to be asking your grad school professors for letters of recommendation. While sweat pants are comfy, and in upstate New York warmth is everything, they do not project a professional image. Wear clean clothes, bathe regularly, use dry shampoo when needed and remember that graduate school is the final push before entering your dream career path. Practice makes perfect and that includes learning how to present yourself to potential employers.
As a future public relations officer, I understand the importance of creating an image as Gina Luttrell has mentioned, images are more powerful than words. This means your personal image can affect your public image and that of the company or organization you represent. While it may seem silly, always remember to put your best foot forward.
3. Budget, Budget, Budget!
This applies to your money most of all, so plan out what expenses you have each month and then allocate remaining funds to things like a rainy-day fund, social events and going out for food and drinks.
Money is important, but so is your time. By the end of your first week into a semester, you should start budgeting your time for all the class work. When possible, do your best to get ahead of the workload because it will pile up. In budgeting your time, make school the priority, but also allocate time to socialize or do something good for yourself like going to the gym, reading for fun not for class, exploring new places and even your energy because naps are always available to reboot your mental systems.
For more on time-management habits see Grad School Hub.
2. Be social.
Make friendships, these are the lasting relationships that alumni talk about. The people who go through the same, or similar, graduate programs understand the path you’ve chosen. While the path is long and hard, anyone who pursues graduate school understands that this will be a bumpy road and often lonely. Remember, you are not alone! Whether it is the cohort of students within your program or the general graduate student body across the world, these programs are not easy, but they are worth it.
Being social does not mean going out to drink every night, because, while that sounds fun, you have your priorities straight. You’re going to grad school, build relationships around important matters rather than artificial inhibitors. Making these friendships during graduate school is so important, to have people to confide in when things get rough or when you just need a day to vent about how stressed you all are. Much like going to see a therapist (which I also recommend, it’s a great source for venting and talking through problems), you need a person to be on your side and your cohort is in the perfect position to understand how you feel.
1. Focus on the end goal.
The road is long and tiresome, but you know the end date and you know exactly what you will need to do to succeed in your desired program of study. Calendars are my best friend, it helps me organize my to-do lists, manage my time better and affords me the ability to not panic over what assignment I’m forgetting to do. When you put things in lists, the change in perspective puts your mind at ease and can allow you to be more productive in the day-to-day rather than always focusing on what’s to come next.
Graduate programs vary in length, mine is a total of 13 months, whereas others can go on two to three years in length (and don’t get me started on PhD programs). Remember why you chose to go back to school and pursue a graduate degree, it isn’t an easy choice and you made it with the best intentions. Remember the end goal, getting that degree and walking across the stage, and you will be set to succeed.
Good luck, I hope this was a little insight into the life of a graduate student and let me know if you have any comments or questions about the post.