Prepare for Graduate School
College was a cultural, social and academic shift from high school. Graduate school is another huge change. Most people who’ve been through it will tell you that it’s a lot of work and not as much play as college. On the other hand, you’re more mature and experienced and probably ready to take on new challenges. If you know what to expect and how to manage it, grad school is a rewarding and beneficial experience.
First of all, the work load may shock you. Consider graduate school like your full-time job—and then some. In other words, don’t expect to have the kind of social life you might have had in college. When it gets tough, remind yourself that you’re studying what you love, or at least what will get you where you want to go in your career. It’s also good to give yourself a break: Chances are, the amount of reading you’re asked to do isn’t humanly possible. So get done what needs to get done, skim the rest and take solace in the fact that everyone else is in the same stressful boat.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, seek out help. You were accepted to grad school, so there’s good evidence that you’re smart and have good study habits, but this is different, so don’t feel like you need to go it alone. Talk to your professors if you feel confused, stuck—or inspired. They’ll appreciate you showing initiative. Also, while graduate school doesn’t have as much built-in guidance as undergrad does, there are still resources that can help with things like time management, preparing for nerve-racking oral presentations or even making friends.
Which brings us to: Make friends in grad school. You’ll always have your Alpha Phi sisters, but if they’re not with you in this chapter of your life, branch out a little. Hit the gym—it might alleviate some stress and help you sleep well too—join a campus service club or simply study with your classmates. If you prefer to study alone, take part in study groups now and then, as these people are your comrades through school’s ups and downs.
Besides exercising, remember to eat well. You do yourself no favors by living on coffee and Red Bull. Remember what your mother told you and fuel up for the day with a healthy, protein-heavy breakfast, and drink lots of water. Resist going out to eat and ordering in, as you’ll probably spend too much and eat poorly. Instead, grab those newfound friends and cook together. Or make your own, healthy meals. You’ll only have yourself to blame if you work hard only to be down for the count when you get sick from unhealthy habits.
Another important part of grad school is the connections you’ll make. Talk to your professors because they are probably some of the bigwigs in your field. They have the knowledge you need, and they also may have the power to help you get a job.
Speaking of getting a job, it’ll help the process if you organize the work you complete in graduate school, starting earlier than later. Other than your thesis (which goes without saying should be organized), consider keeping digital folders of any academic papers, studies or research you do.
In the end, graduate school can boost knowledge, earning potential and your career in general, but it’s up to you to graduate with more than just a degree.