Entering grad school is scary. Not knowing what to expect about the experience and adjusting to the new way of life as a grad student is tough. The workload changes and the expectations shoot through the roof. As a grad student hard work, no social life, and sleepless nights become the normal way of living. Here's eight tips to help you survive your first month of grad school.
1. Buy a citation manual.
In grad school you will need to become accustomed to citation and you will need to learn, memorize and utilize the proper way to cite all claims you will make in your writing. Do not trust the internet because some of the popular sites have inaccurate information on citations. All of the rules you need to know are in the book. Put it in your bag and use it often.
2. Learn the art of skimming.
The useful skill of proper skimming is learned with time and practice. Teachers will push you to your limits until you really learn and know your field like the back of your hand. They assign tons of reading and most of the time don't expect you to read every word. Practice skimming over the important bits, highlighting and underlining keywords and learn which fluff needs to be skipped over. Skimming allows you to grasp onto the key concepts of the article and save hours of wasted time reading each bit.
3. Don't act like you're still in undergrad.
Something that irritates fellow grad students and teachers is students who come in thinking they are still in undergrad. It's really, really different and a lot of hard work. Thinking you can rush to finish assignments, procrastinate, and party constantly on the weekends is a horrible mindset to come into grad school with because it will set you up for failure.
4. Accept that stress, panic, confusion and tears are all part of the job.
Once you get a handle on what grad school is like, it's normal for stress and panic to set in. Confusion sets in when terms you have never heard of get thrown around in group discussions and assignment instructions leave you flustered. That's totally normal to be lost and confused in the beginning, grad school is a learning process for everyone. Don't sweat it if you feel lost sometimes and don't be afraid to ask questions. We all started right where you are too. Sometimes emotions might get the best of us, even the most impassive individuals and tears might roll occasionally. It happens to all of us at one time or another.
5. Learn to chip away, not procrastinate.
In grad school, it's nearly impossible to procrastinate if you want to do a great job on assignments because many assignments take a long time to complete. Due to this, it's easy to get overwhelmed. The tactic that must be implemented is learning to chip away at the workload every day. By working on assignments, reading and research a little bit each day, you're implementing a strong work ethic that will set you up for success. One of the biggest differences from undergrad and grad that I've noticed is that procrastinating works in undergrad school, and totally fails in grad school. Don't do it.
6. Accept that you're always tired and the work never ends.
Grad school begins a new journey where you will really test your self and be pushed to your limits to become your best self. Juggling work, class, research, writing, reading, family/kids, significant others, household chores, paying bills and managing life become overwhelming. Being in grad school means you're probably going to be tired all the time from juggling all new educational responsibilities. Starbucks is your friend. It will feel like the work will never end. It doesn't. That's why it's important to chip away a little bit every day. Everything you learn will push you to become your best self. You are becoming an expert in your field,
7. Carve time for a de-stressing hobby.
This is really important. Find a hobby that helps de-stress. Whether the hobby is music, art, playing with your pets, reading, watching movies, going on walks, playing sports, meditation, video games, find something you love that lowers stress levels. Read my Grad School Funny Pinterest board only grad students can truly resonate with to help let off steam. You will need hobbies to help maintain balance and sanity.
In through the nose, out through the mouth. You got this. Focus on the bigger picture and remember why you enrolled in grad school in the first place.
Remember these eight tactics on how to survive your first month of grad school as you traverse unknown terrain and you'll be well on your way to making a dent in your master's degree. You will get through this.