This time last year, I was a week into my first semester of graduate school. My program was 10 months, and I went in straight after undergrad. Over the last week or two, I’ve seen Facebook posts and tweets from my friends talking about their first days as grad students. It’s a bit nostalgic, because I remember feeling similar things.
If you’re a new grad student, whether you’re fresh from undergrad or coming back to school from a job, then keep reading.
An Open Letter to New Grad Students
So you just started grad school. You might be a week in, or a day in, but you’re in. Maybe you’re coming back to school after working for a year or three (or ten), or maybe you’re braving it right after undergrad. I did the latter; I know how it goes.
Raise your hand if you’ve already asked yourself, “Why in the world did I do this again?”
I remember sitting in my theory class, at 9-something in the morning, the first week, while our professor explained our literature review that we’d spend a majority of the semester writing, and asking myself that same question.
It won’t be the only time you ask it. It will be the first of many times.
Grad school is tough. It’s not just like another year or two of undergrad. It will test you in ways you never thought were possible. You will lose sleep and start eating and/or drinking things you’d never put in your mouth before. You’ll question your sanity. You might develop a twitch from spending so much time in front of your computer.
Grad school is hard, but grad school is not unmanageable or unconquerable. As you go forward, remember these four things, and life as a grad student will be much easier.
Manage your time wisely. Once you get behind on deadlines, whether for projects, lit reviews, smaller assignments, job applications or anything else, it’s hard to get back on top of them. To-do lists are magical. If you’re a planning-type person, find a planner you like and use the heck out of it. I had several friends in grad school who lived and died by their planners (looking at y’all, Kendal and Emily). Leave yourself little reminders to pay your bills, go grocery shopping, etc. Basic adulting, here.
Eat well. When you eat well, you feel and function better. I know that it’s easier (and sometimes cheaper) to reach for foods and snacks in bags and boxes, and from the frozen section, but keeping your diet full of healthful whole foods will be much better for you, in so many ways. Brain food is a real concept, y’all.Grad school is hard, but not unconquerable. You can do it. Click To Tweet
Take short breaks when you need them. I’ve mentioned the 50/10 rule on the blog a few times, and I’m going to mention it here: For every 50 minutes of work you do, take a 10-minute break. This short break lets your brain rest and refocus for your next task. When I spent hours and hours working on assignments, especially my thesis project, this rule was my savior. If I got tired of a particular assignment, I’d switch and work on another. Or write a blog post. The point is, know when your brain is on the verge of fried and let it rest.
Know what it takes for you to operate and function the best. As I said, there will be times when you lose sleep for any number of reasons (procrastinated on a project, got sick, stress or anxiety over an assignment, finding a job, etc.), but staying rested is key to getting through long days and hard weeks. Make time for naps if you need them. Also make time to eat, but remember to eat healthfully (see above). Your physical, mental and emotional health are important, too.An open letter to new grad students: you'll make it. Click To Tweet
If you’re in grad school, props to you. I’ve been there. It’s tough, it’s overwhelming. But it’s not unbeatable. Be smart with your time and food, and listen to your body. Everything will be okay.
That Master’s degree will look great in your hands.
Have you been through grad school? What advice would you offer to new grad students?