Graduate School Tips for Your First Month
8/29/2019 by HIGHERGRAD
More college! The start of graduate school means more school but also new and exciting opportunities. The necessary, and often difficult, steps have been completed and it is time for day one. Adjusting to graduate school is not always easy, especially if you have taken time between concluding your undergraduate degree and the start of grad school. These five tips are critical graduate school advice for the first month.
The first month of graduate school sets the pace for your entire experience. It also is a huge driver of your overall success and completion of the program you have chosen. If you have prepared well, then you have reviewed many of the articles written on graduate school advice and tips for succeeding in graduate school. Great! These will all be extremely valuable in the next few years as you work towards you graduate degree. The key components, however, to meeting the multiple graduate school challenges ahead of you can be summarized with these five tips. Use these from day one and adjusting to graduate school will be much easier.
How to Thrive in Graduate School
Thriving in graduate school in not easy. It is a vastly different experience than you are use to from an educational standpoint. Tips like the five listed below are vital in getting your first month of graduate school started on the right foot. Additionally, these graduate school tips not only start you on the right path but also help you survive and thrive until graduation.
#1 - Graduate School is Not a Sprint
Many graduate students are so excited to start a new leg of their life that they go all in the first few weeks. They try to get involved in every aspect of research or their department while also going above and beyond in course work. Graduate school is not a sprint to the end but rather a long, steady race to a long and difficult end result. Excitement is great and being willing to do more is awesome. Although, you can get burned out quickly and jeopardize your entire graduate school program. Taking that first month like a cheetah chasing a gazelle will backfire quickly and you will never be able to recover.
#2 - You Are the Boss
Undergraduate vs. graduate is eye-opening different. There are no breaks and few, if any, second chances. Your adviser will help you as much as possible, but you are truly on your own. The expectations are that you are able to manage yourself whether it be between difficult classes, challenging assignments, outside work, and/or arduous research. And of course there are always going to be personal and other duties as assigned that will plague your schedule. One of the best pieces of advice for incoming graduate students is to be aware and act like your own boss. Take control and manage your responsibilities while not getting burned out. It is much like the real world where you are in control of what and how things get done. Just remember, the hardest thing about being your own boss is taking responsibility. You will have all the freedom and autonomy but you also have take responsibilities for all the consequences related to the decisions you make.
#3 - Set Priorities for Life
Graduate school is for most the first time where you will be completely asked to be responsible for yourself. Up to this point, many people have been available to help guide your education. From here on out, you are the boss and it starts with setting the right priorities.
Too often, new graduate students focus immensely on prioritizing all their school work. They spend countless hours before day one preparing for graduate school and just for grad school. They forget there is an entirely other aspect of their life that need prioritized. It is vital to make sure personal time is also a priority. Without setting aside time for yourself such as working out, spending time with friends or family, or enjoy a hobby, there is the real chance you will become overwhelmed and unsuccessful meeting the many graduate school challenges.
#4 - Lean on Your Advisor
Almost all types of graduate students have an adviser of some kind. Whether it be a professor or a general graduate school adviser, they have experience and knowledge that can help you get off to a good start. Don't be afraid to lean on them and ask questions early and often. Initially, they can help you figure out what is grad school like exactly and towards the end they will be able to assist in getting you a job after grad school. However, consider tip number two mentioned earlier. You are still your own boss and responsible for your own success. Don't think that you adviser will be able to solve all your problems. Use them strategically and come to them will clear and concise issues and questions.
Surviving the First Month of Grad School
The vast majority of new graduate students have no issues making the transition. Certainly, it is a different experience than an undergraduate program, however it should not be one that is feared or worried about. Take a calm approach and prepare well and adjusting to graduate school will be easier than you think.
Surviving the first month is only a small piece of the graduate school experience, although, it is an extremely important piece. The first month sets the pace for the entire program duration. Remember to slow down and pace yourself, devise priorities around not only graduate school, and communicate with your adviser and peer network often. These tips should form the backbone of your graduate school guide. Doing so will ensure you survive that first month and ultimately achieve success in graduate school.