Self-Appreciation Saturdays

SAS: So, You Started Grad School… (9/9/17)

Hey guys, welcome back to TNTH!

As the summer came to an end for most of us college students, some of you guys are actually starting a new chapter in your lives; one of them may actually be grad school!

Before I say anything else, let me congratulate those who are deciding to jump back into school just months after finishing it. It’s not an easy decision to make when finishing four (or more) intense years of college and then shortly after start grad school.

Last year, I was starting grad school without any type of warning label or disclaimer about what to expect. I am the first of my friends and family to attend graduate school, so there wasn’t anyone telling me what to expect. Maybe some of you guys are in the same boat like I was; you start your grad classes in a couple of days and you’re stressed out because you expect it to be this horrible place of hard work, long novels, and novel-length pages.

Take a deep breath. Let me give you a little bit of a breather before you start regretting your grad school decision.

  1. Mentally prepare yourself without stressing yourself out. Starting grad school is an amazing accomplishment. You also know that grad school is known to be the advanced version of college. You survived four years of college work. You mentally prepared yourself for each of the years in your undergrad studies. This isn’t any different. The first day of school for anyone is intimidating and scary, but if you tell yourself “there’s nothing to be worried about”, “I will get used to this” or simply “I got this”, you will be okay. I didn’t properly prepare myself. I was assigned a presentation with two other people on my first day of grad school. After that night, I kept telling myself that I made it this far and that I was able to this… I read an entire book and finished my presentation three days after I was assigned the project. You just have to prepare for what’s to come, even if you aren’t sure what’s yet to come.
  2. Have a daily planner or personal calendar at all times. You are going to get tons of reading and assignments for your classes that you might lose track of as the weeks pass by. You may have a big project due two months from now in one class. You may have to read to page 50 in for your other class by next week. Sometimes, they can get mixed up in your head, especially when finals month comes knocking on our already busy lives. One thing that (I think) I mentioned in my What Grad School Taught Me post was that writing down assignments on a calendar makes it easier to see when it’s not just stored in your mind. You visibly see that your readings and assignments are due on specific days, you can write down what free days you are free to write a couple of pages of that big final paper that’s due in a couple of weeks. You can literally map out an entire school schedule on your calendar so that the work actually gets done and you don’t feel stressed out whenever you forget something. Seriously, my dry-erase calendar saved my life during my first year of grad school and I guarantee it will save me for my second and last one.
  3. Connect with the professors in your department. If you were blessed to be in a master’s program where they’re aren’t a lot of grad students enrolled, then this tip may come easier to you. The program I am in doubled in size from last year to this year, so having a one-on-one relationship with your professors aren’t as easy to get when 30 other students in the class also need their attention. Granted, there is always going to be that one professor that you will connect with in a class that you have. Luckily, I found that professor my first year of my grad studies. Professor Carlo is a Rhetoric/ Writing Professor at my college and her class was one of the many reasons why my first semester as a grad student went smoother than I expected. She was a professor that mirrored me; she understood what it felt like to be a writer in this world, let alone a shy, introverted woman writer who wanted to share the importance of writing as much as she could. I don’t know how it happened, but we connected on a student-teacher level throughout the duration of being in her class. A year later and she is now helping me work on my MA Thesis during my last year. Knowing that there is a professor who has your back is a good feeling to have. You don’t feel so alone when you have extremely important issues to handle and who is happy to work with you on their free time. You may not find that professor in your first semester, yet alone your first year – but everyone finds that professor who they really enjoyed having in class. It’s promised.
  4. Lastly, be yourself. In the field that I’m studying in, it’s very easy to come off as being a pompous asshole to everyone else just because you’re a grad student studying English. Trust me, it’s so easy to be like “I know what I’m talking about because I’m higher up than you.” Yeah, be proud of your accomplishment of being in grad school, but be humble that you made it this far. Grad school is not meant to be shoved in people’s faces. I will admit, I started out being one of those people. I thought just because I was a grad student and many of my other friends were still in undergrad, I couldn’t be bothered with them whenever they acted out. You’re still at the same school, just working on a different degree. That’s it. More people will like you when they can relate to you. If you’re the type of person who likes to be around douchebags that brag about how many books they read in a week, be my guest and hang around those type of people. Don’t surround yourself with people like that if you aren’t normally like that. your grad school experience will go much smoother and better if you connect with people you can relate to. My mistake the first year of grad school was that I surrounded myself with people that were not my type of people. Yeah, they were cool and nice, but I began to adapt to their tendencies and mannerisms that to me came off as being a bit mean and passive-aggressive. It’s bound to happen, but just remember that who you are and what you like makes you unique. It’s cheesy and corny and something that your mother tells you when you enter the 1st grade, but it’s such a universal message that it applies to a wide-range of people. Including those in grad school.

I hope these little suggestions help you out; of course, there will be more things about grad school that you will learn during your own path of your studies, but hey – maybe you’ll be writing your own tips to those considering grad school next year.

Have a great and adventurous school year everyone! (And a shout-out to all of my #Classof2018 babies! :D)

-Liz (:

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