Over a year ago now I wrote a blog post called 5 Things You Should Know Before You Go To Graduate School. Since you know that I recently got done with my MA degree, I wanted to add a couple of more tips to that list that I made back then. Also, to mix it up, I decided that I should add a few fashion photos here too. Let's get started.
For this article, I really wanted to focus on the keeping yourself healthy side of the graduate school experience. While the last post I made on graduate school was true, it was also very rigid and study oriented. Today's five things are equally important, it just took me a little while longer to realize that they were.
1. Self Care Is Key
Graduate school is tough and even when you are surrounded by people who love you it will often feel like you are doing it all alone. During this time you need to take care of yourself. It's okay to be a little selfish with your time, skip a class every blue moon (if your teacher allows it), and just pamper yourself. You are worth it!
I had to definitely learn to take care of myself and learn how to take a step back for my own sake. Graduate school can often feel like a competitive rat race but you have to learn to sit back every blue moon to relax.
Obviously, if you are falling behind, you may not want to go full on vacay mode, but finding ways to relax here and there is key.
- Watch a movie
- Cook a nice dinner for yourself
- Go on a weekend trip to a nearby city (it's not full on vacay mode!)
- Treat yourself at the spa (with a Groupon of course :))
- Have a photo shoot with your besties
Whatever you decide to do, freaking relax!
You Need To Find A Hobby In Graduate School
More than any of the one-off treat yourself moments, you need to find a hobby in graduate school so that you aren't stressed 100% of the time. For me, that hobby was writing on this blog, Amanda Cross Blog, and the countless others I contributed to during graduate school. I also loved to try new recipes, listen to a lot of music, and make fun digital designs on Photoshop.
Whatever your hobby is, find it, and commit to doing it a couple of hours a week.
2. Graduate School Is More Complicated Than College
This is something that took me forever to understand, but it is true.
Even though a lot of the same professors teach both college and graduate school courses, graduate school manages to be a million times more complicated.
When you are in college you may get to know professors on a deeper level, but chances are it's still pretty surface level stuff. In graduate school, you tend to work with your professors on projects a lot more and if you are a graduate assistant/research assistant like I was, you will work with them even more.
With the added relationships you get in graduate school come more complex relationships. You will get to know what professors are actually like more, and sometimes that's not a pretty sight.
I am still processing my graduate school experience and I am not sure if I will ever chat about these particular experiences at length, but I will tell you this, professors are human. Extremely smart people, but humans nonetheless. They lead complicated lives, and as a student, you have to be aware of that.
Update: I recently wrote a post on Living In Full Bloom that delved into this a bit more titled, “College Real Talk: When Your Mentor Lets You Down.” I still didn't go into a million details on this post, but it gives more context.
3. You Are Going To Make Some Mistakes In Graduate School
Just a few weeks or months ago you were in college making all the mistakes in the world so there is a pretty great chance that those mistakes will carry into graduate school. Especially if you made the jump straight from high school to college to graduate school like me. I am still learning, I am just entering my mid-20s.
Obviously, don't use this as a crutch or excuse to mess up everything and not try, but know that mistakes are sometimes inevitable. Sometimes professors overestimate our abilities or don't know how to best work with us to achieve the things they want to achieve. Whatever the issue is, you will make a couple of mistakes as a graduate student or while working as a graduate assistant or research assistant.
The main thing you need to do if you make a mistake is own up to it and work hard to fix the behavior and continue to progress. Don't get caught up on a mistake you made in the past. Dust yourself off and get back to work!
4. Making Friends In Graduate School Will Be Harder Than In College (But Not Impossible)
Graduate school can definitely be lonelier than college.
I think we are just way more prepared for college because it is such a known territory. We are often expected to go to college and there are a million and one books on how to survive college. On the other hand, there aren't the same number of books on how to survive graduate school and therefore we aren't usually as prepared to hit the ground running.
So, yes, making friends in graduate school will be much more difficult than it was in college, but it's not entirely impossible.
You just need to go out of your way. Revisit your freshman year self. How did they make friends? Be that person, but probably a little more forceful, because the older you are the more you try to shut down new friendships.
If you go to graduate school in the same place you went to college, congratulations! You probably won't have as hard of a time making friends. If you are like me, though, and you had to go away to get your graduate degree, don't fret. You can make friends in graduate school too!
We All Need Somebody To Lean On
Graduate school is tough, y'all. Don't hesitate to find your encouragement squad. That might be just your family for the longest time, and that's okay, as long you have someone to lean on during these moments. Try to find a number of different people that you can vent to during this time period.
One of the hardest parts for me was learning to open up and vent to other people. For the longest time, I felt like I was just there for other people to vent to. If you feel the same way, you have to learn to confide in other people like they confide in you or you will constantly feel like you are fighting a losing battle.
5. You Got This, You Just Gotta Get It
So, what the hell does this even mean?
It means you got this.
Inside your body there is an awesome graduate school student who can balance the whole messy process and graduate with a degree.
You won't think that, trust me, I know but you are pretty amazing.
So buckle down: grab your encouragement squad, your hobbies, and all of your graduate school work and get ready to conquer the world (or at least get your degree.)
I have learned so much since I published the first part of this post in March 2016. I stand by what I said because those were more practical tips that help you survive the academic side of graduate school, but I also think it's important to acknowledge the more human side of this whole process.
I hope that you have learned a lot from this blog post and I would love to hear your thoughts about this post in the comments below!