Grad School Letter of Recommendation

I’ve been putting there types of posts off for a while but I have been getting emails about this very topic and similar ones. Students want to get letters of recommendation from advisers and professors, but don’t know how to go about doing such task. I am here today to give you some advice and helpful tips when it comes to getting a letter of recommendation for grad school.

Getting letters of recommendation is a huge and essential part of grad school. Yes, the school work and research and all is important, but getting into a program first is the most essential part. See, you can’t do the research if you don’t have a lab and funding lol. So, taking the time to go out and ask for letter’s of recommendation is a must.

grad school letter of recommendation

Grad School Letters of Recommendation for Master’s Students

Every master’s program has required to fill out an application, attach a resume or CV and also collect, I believe, 3 letter’s of recommendation. No, you can get Letters from family members, colleagues, your boss, etc. but if you are already in school, the best people to get recommendation letters from are professors that you know. Make sure that you have a good relationship with them or they may turn you away.

Build a Relationship with Them First.

If you know that you are going to go to grad school and need the letters of recommendation, make sure that you establish some form of relationship with the professor(s) that you will be asking. Go to their class, attend any lecture they give, and go to their office hours. I would suggest going to at least 3 of their office hours and talking with them. You don’t have to be best friends, but it is good to have them at least know your name.

After you sort of establish a relationship with them, ask them to write a letter of recommendation for you. Tell them that you will provide a resume, grades, anything to help them. 9.9 times out f 10 they will be glad you reached out and are happy to provide a grad school letter of recommendation. When they agree, they may ask for more than your resume or grades. They might ask you to write a little about yourself as well as maybe some other qualities that you have. Things that will help them write a very personal letter.

Why they are important

In a master’s program, you will need the letters of recommendation to get in, yes, but you might also need them in order to apply for scholarships and fellowships. More than likely, doing your master’s will not get you paid and you’ll be pretty poor. You may start looking for scholarships that ,may cover tuition or just basic needs. Every one tat I have seen has required at least 2 letters of rec. This is probably why many people don’t apply for those scholarships in the first place.

For these, I would suggest getting a grad school letter of recommendation from your adviser and maybe another professor close to you. Tell them that you are applying to a scholarship and that you might be applying for more. They will most likely write a letter of rec that can be used in many different cases. This is good because you can just keep asking them for letters of rec and they won’t have to take too much time to write you one.

Other reasons

Grad school also goes by really fast and the next thing you know, you’re looking for jobs. heck, even before that, you might want to spend your summers doing an internship. Some of these require letters of rec to apply for them. It always looks good when you apply for a research position or internship and a professor that is known in the field writes a letter for you. I have received many offers form people just because I have gotten letters from professionals that are well known in the water industry.

Grad School Letters of Recommendation for PhDs

So, this is a bit different when applying for a PhD. I have been turned away from professors when I was applying for a PhD because they did not feel comfortable writing a letter of recommendation for me. Why? Because they were not professionals in that field. When asking for a grad school letter of recommendation for a PhD program, you really need to ask the right people.

So, who are the right people? That is a really good question. The right people are those professors who work on the projects that you want to work on or one’s in similar fields. When applying to PhD positions, the letter’s of recommendation weigh a bit more than just a master’s program. A PhD is like a job pretty much and your boss, the lead PI, will be looking for individuals who can get the work done. A good letter of recommendation, from a well known professor, can be what lands you this position.

grad school letter of recommendation

How to Build These Relationships

I am a huge supporter of getting a master’s degree before going for your PhD. This serves a few purposes. 1) You can see if the academia life is for you 2) You get the master’s 3) You get time to build relationships with professors before it starts getting really hard. Ok, that last one was not a main reason why I want people to get a master’s, but it’s still pretty darn important. When doing your master’s you’ll have plenty of time to get to know a professor or a few. This will make it easier to receive letters from them.

Heck, they may even offer you a position on their research team and then you’re pretty golden. But, getting a master’s gives you that time to build those relationships with professors. Maybe do a little research with them. They will be able to write a fantastic letter of recommendation for you which includes your skills and research experience.

The Good About PhDs

So, unless you are doing research in a master’s, you probably won’t even know what a committee is. If you are doing research, there is a panel of professors that you pretty much defend your research too. They act as the peer review process of science. In a PhD, you will have a committee of 4 to 5 people. You will get to know them fairly well and they will all be top notch individuals in their field. When looking to get letters of recommendations for jobs or careers after your doctorate, these are who to go to. They will know you best and probably have some really good networks.

It’s almost cheating when you have a PhD. Why? Because the people on your committee will know a ton of employers or research groups that you can work for. Getting a recommendation letter from someone high in their field may land you with a job that makes a ton of money. So, get to know your committee and make sure to reach out to them for letters of rec. They will 100% be happy to help, I promise.

Final Thoughts

If you are applying to a master’s PhD, or just looking for more advice on getting a grad school letter of recommendation, email me at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I will be glad to help out in any way that I can.

If you are looking for how to write a letter of recommendation, I suggest checking these resources out.

  1. Indeed
  2. Coursera
  3. The Balance Careers
  4. Grammarly
  5. The Muse

These are all websites that will tell you how to write a letter of recommendation as well as give you templates. I’m pretty sure all professors do this when they first start writing letters of rec.

If you haven’t read my article on The Hardest Parts About Going to Grad School, I suggest checking it out. Link Here. As always, I hope you guys have a great day and I will see you in the next one. If you have an suggestions on what i should write next, send me an email. Heck just said me one to say hi. Also, send me some of your favorite memes too :). See ya.

Why is a PhD Important

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, “why is a PhD important?” No? Are you sure? lol Well most likely you haven’t really thought about that, but then again, how else did you manage to stumble upon this post? Hmmmm. Anyway, today I want to discuss with you why a PhD is important. This doesn’t mean that you have to go get one to be important. No, quite the opposite. In fact, I know a ton of very important people that are important and just have a high school diploma.

Nah, today I want to tell you the importance of a PhD and what it entails. There is a reason to go and get a PhD instead of just ending with a Master’s or bachelors. Yes, slaving away at your desk for years on end actually has a purpose and I am going to share some of the main reasons why it is an important title to have.

First Off, How do you even get a PhD?

Well, I am glad you asked. First off, you need to finish your bachelors degree. Next, you can either find a program that takes people straight from undergrad or you can do what I did, get your master’s first. I would say, if you really know that you want to do a doctorate, like really really really know, then go straight into the program. If you are unsure then probably do a master’s or at least get some job experience first.

So, after obtaining a bachelors or master’s, you start a PhD program. in order to get a PhD, you need to work on a very long project (check out my blog about the length of a PhD Here). You first need to pass a qualifying exam which makes you a PhD candidate. From there, you will work almost every day trying to solve some interesting problems, create novel ideas, and add to knowledge of humanity (weird phrase but works). At a point, you will go from student to researcher and you’ll know when that point occurs. For me, I think I hit that point recently.

Next, after years of research and learning, it is time to write your thesis and defend it to a committee of usually 4 or 5 people. This is the moment that you literally have been waiting for because after your defense, you’ll most likely get that coveted “Doctor” title. It purely states that you have learned the basics to do research. This does not mean you are the best in the field. No, you have many years to become that. This just means that you have the basic skills to do independent research. Fun, right?

why a PhD is important

So Back To Why a PhD is Important

So, a PhD is important because you have learned the skills to do independent research. You become the critical thinker. We need doctors to figure out problems that society has as a whole. Researchers and developers with PhDs are the ones that are answer public health problems, making sure your car works, developing the next cell phone, and figuring out how to make it to mars.

Those with doctorates have developed the critical skills that are needed to thinking outside the box and come up with ways to solve every day problems. They have learned how to pick out bad science and develop “good science”. All in all, PhDs are highly qualified to tackle the big problems and lead teams to tackle these problems as well.

Now, this does not mean that PhD graduates are superior. That is not the case at all. They just have been trained more dealing with research than those who have received a bachelors or master’s. They are kind of like firefighters of the science world. Yes, people can put out fires themselves, but you call up a firefighter to do it because they are trained to put out fires! Same with PhDs. You can do the science and research yourself, but you call on the ones who were trained for years dealing with these sort of problems. This is why a PhD is important.

So, should you get a PhD?

Ask yourself some important questions! 1) Do you love science or research or just something so much that you are willing to devote 3 to 8 years of your life studying that subject? 2) Are you ready to fail over and over and over? 3) Do you care if you develop an anxiety disorder? 4) Are you Ok with being poor? 5) Are you ready to be challenged beyond anything you’ve done before?

If you answered yes to all of these then you’re way better than me lol. Getting a PhD is a tough road but so was literally everything else in your life. Is getting a PhD worth it? Oh, totally. Would I tell anyone to go get one? Sure, if you think it will help you one day. A PhD is something that not many people get because not everyone needs it. If you think that it is something that you want and you are truly passionate about research, go right ahead. Go get yourself a doctorate. If you are ok where you are at and don’t need a doctorate for any reason, I would say stay very far away. It is not worth it in that case lol.

Are you Ready to Do a Doctorate?

So, after reading all of my blog posts and articles on my website love-and-bean.com, have you decided that a PhD is worth it? If you have then that’s great! I would love to know that you are ready for that journey. If you are still on the fence about it, send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. We can talk about it and I’ll help answer any questions that you may have regarding a PhD.

Final Thoughts

I hope you found this post pretty enlightening. Getting a PhD can be extremely important and I hope I answered why. For my goals, a PhD is very important and that might be the same for you as well. It has been my life for 3.5 years so it definitely is important to me. Anyway, I hope you all have a magnificent day and I will see you in the next one. Also, I want to give a shout out to Maddy and her friends up north. Thank you for being fans of my blog.

If you haven’t read my post about doing an internship in grad school, I highly recommend checking it out. Link Here

Anxiety in College Will Come Back, Be Ready

This post about anxiety in college may contain affiliate links. For more information see disclosure at bottom of home page

Quite a title, isn’t it? Yesterday, I was reminded about something that I thought was over with. My anxiety flared up big time and so did the loneliness that I felt prior to going to therapy. Now, I am not asking for sympathy, in fact, what occurred yesterday was a good reminder that anxiety might be a life thing. Yes, you can do all of the coping mechanisms, all of the therapy, everything. But, in reality, it will probably always be there, just not as bad.

This blog was created with the intention of helping other’s in grad school (and now college) cope with the stress and anxiety that comes with school. It is also a time of transition in your life which may make these emotions overwhelming at points. It is normal and you are normal, remember that.

But back to what I was saying. Yes, yesterday I was overwhelmed with anxiety, probably due to the fact that I may have to move again. I was given the green light to graduate in December, which means that I need housing until then. So, I have been looking and haven’t really found anything yet. On top of that, money is a bit tight which also brings out a ton of anxiety. Enough so, that I had to leave my apartment and go on a very long walk to calm myself down. Don’t worry, I was able to calm down :).

anxiety in college

Remember to Keep Up Coping Mechanisms

Anxiety in college is a major concern and it will come and go. Many people will experience a ton of it in very stressful situations such as exams, projects, public speaking. Other people will just experience it during very normal and calm situations, such as walking to class, reading a book, or cooking a meal. It is tough but managing it and actually doing things to cope with the anxiety is a must.

If you are doing things to reduce the feeling on anxiety and possibly depression in college, keep doing them. You may wake up one day and feel totally better. This happens and it is great but that doesn’t mean that you can start slacking. I started slacking and the anxiety and feeling of loneliness hit me like a ton of bricks.

See, anxiety reduction is like a muscle. You go to the gym (coping mechanisms) to strengthen that muscle (reduce anxiety). When you get to a certain amount of muscle, do you just give up? No, you keep working to maintain that amount of muscle and physical fitness. This is like reducing anxiety. Once you feel like you got rid of it, don’t give up. You need to maintain the reduction of anxiety and keep going. It gets easier though. Some days, your anxiety will flare up but you will be ready. It might flare up for a bit but go away fairly quickly ad stay away for a long time.

Helpful Places For Anxiety Reduction

I want to share with you some more anxiety reducing techniques and a few sites and YouTube Channels that will help you along your journey to reduce anxiety in college. I use all of these ways. So, let me share a couple of free things that can help you with anxiety. Then I will talk about some not-so-free things lol.

Free

Guided Meditations

I use all of these different meditation guides to help reduce my anxiety and stress levels. The UCLA has some really great exercises that you can learn. The YouTube channels are good to use to help you meditate if you need a guided mediation.

  1. UCLA Heath Guided Mediations (link )
  2. Goodful 10-minute meditation for anxiety (link)
  3. How to Meditate -New York Times (link)

Therapy YouTube Channels

These channels will teach you ways to reduce anxiety in college and cope with those feelings. They will also give you many different ways to deal the the feeling and grow from them. I highly encourage you to check them out.

  1. Therapy in a Nutshell (link)
  2. Uncommon Practitioners (link)
  3. Barbara Heffernan (link)

Calming Music

Everyone needs calming music in their lives. If you have a stressful thing coming up, play some music from these channels. I always love the lofi music with rain included.

  1. ChilledFOX (link)
  2. Fantastic Music (link)

My Blog Posts

I have a few great posts about dealing with anxiety and ways to reduce those feelings. Go check them out and tell your friends about these posts as well. You’ll be glad you did.

  1. How to Handle Anxiety in Grad School (link)
  2. Helping Other’s Cope with Stress and Anxiety (link)
  3. Wood Carving Reduced My Anxiety (link)
  4. Let’s Talk About Anxiety Triggers (link)

Not So Free

Here are a list of therapies and apps that you can buy to help reduce anxiety and learn how to cope. I used Talkspace for my anxiety. I was matched up with a licensed therapist who was absolutely wonderful. If you want to know more about my journey through therapy., check out my blog about it (link here).

  1. Headspace
  2. Online-Therapy.com
  3. Talkspace.com
  4. BetterHelp.com

Final Thoughts

Learning to cope with anxiety is a skill that needs to be taught to all college students. College is super stressful and anxiety cases are increasing. Grad school is especially stressful and many student experience the negative effects of anxiety. Being able to control the anxious feelings and overcoming those feelings all together is difficult but essential.

If you have been dealing with anxiety and have learned how to cope with it, please continue to do those coping exercises. Better yet, teach others how to do them as well. Anxiety will most likely be with you your whole life. That does not mean that it has to run your whole life. Make sure to stay on top of it!

Anyway, I hope you found this post to be a good one. If not, let me know lol. I hope you all have a wonderful day and I will see you again very soon.

How many grad classes should I take while working full-time?

Time to answer another wonderful question. Yes, I have experienced working full time as well as going to grad school. It is tough, let me tell you. It is not impossible, though. Going to grad school while working full time is a great way to increase your chances at a promotion, get more money, gain more skills, and show off that you’re a smarty pants lol. There are many questions that you will have before starting a grad program and today I want to talk about a few very important ones, relating to classes and how many grad classes to take while working full time.

So, how many grad classes should you take while working full time? If you are an over achiever that wants to spend all of their life working, then 9 credits (3 classes) is a good start. If you are like me and don’t want to hit burnout, 2 classes or 6 credits is the max that you should take. 1 class is ideal for someone that wants a degree but doesn’t really care how log it takes.

During Your Master’s

Why choose 3 Classes

9 credits is a full time gig. 3 classes is usually the max amount of classes that full time students tend to take. I have never taken more than 3 classes at a time in grad school because there just really isn’t enough time in the day to complete classwork as well as research. Also, taking this amount of classes keeps you on schedule to graduate in 2 years without going insane. A typical course load for a master’s student is usually 3 classes your first and second semesters, 6 credits you last two semesters. For thesis driven individuals, the last 6 credits is usually your research.

When you are working full time, you probably won’t be doing research. Many full time workers are just trying to get their degrees to boost either their pay or their potential to grow in their company. If you want to move that along extremely quickly, you can do a full time course load and take 3 classes each semester. This is doable but not advised.

I would suggest staying away from this amount of work unless you are truly ready to be working every hour of the day. If you have a family or want free time, I would suggest taking fewer classes.

Why Choose 2 Classes

2 classes each semester (spring and fall) is a good way to finish your degree in about 2.5 years. This is assuming that you are taking master’s courses and not doing a PhD. Most master’s are 30 credits so 2 classes*3 credits = 6 credits a semester for 5 semesters or 2.5 years. This is what I did. The grad classes I took while working full time were engineering courses. So, taking more than 2 courses was going to be too much. There were many days where I would be working on course work during my lunch. Also, planning exams around your schedule is often quite difficult.

If you are working full time and in a hurry, I would suggest not taking more than 2 classes each semester. This is a good amount of course work to keep you busy, but not too much to make you slack on your duties at your job. Also, more than this amount of coursework may be detrimental to your GPA. Remember, you have to maintain a B in your course work.

Why Choose 1 Class

So there are plenty of reasons to only take one grad class while working full time. The main reason is because taking more than this may cause you to fall behind in your work at your job. You may also want to dive deeper into topics covered in your classes more and taking too many may have you stressing to pass instead of learning. Heck, you may only be able to afford 3 credits at a time. Grad school classes are pretty darn expensive and being able to afford only one class is something you have to consider.

Taking one course while working full time almost guarantees that you won’t stress yourself out and you can have a life outside of work and school. One class is also extremely manageable so you probably won’t fall behind. Unfortunately, it will take you much longer to finish your degree. So, I said it would take you about 5 semesters to finish a master’s with 6 credits. Well, double that time and that’s how long it will take you to finish with only one class each semester. 5 years! That’s how long it will take. This is one of the reasons why I would recommend taking 2 grad classes a semester while working full time than 1.

During your PhD

If you are crazy enough to work full time and pursue a PhD, then you are a more motivated person than me lol. I actually know people doing their PhDs while working full time. They usually have their master’s done already and only need to take a few classes before they get into their research. I would say that if you are only doing the coursework part of a PhD while working full time, 2 classes is the absolute most you should take. A PhD is a marathon and not a sprint. Plus, you’ll be in the program for a pretty long time so you don’t need to focus too much on the classes. The class work in a doctorate program is mainly there to help you with the research that you will be doing and less of being a requirement.

A master’s degree is mostly coursework while a PhD is learning to do research. This is why taking fewer classes and substituting the class time for research time is a must. Often, in PhD programs, research is pretty much it’s own 3 credit course. Treat it that way. So, take maybe 3 credits of a course and 3 credits of research each semester. You will likely only have to take a max of 15 course credits or 5 classes, so you can spread those out. The research credits will take up the majority of the total credits earned. Hopefully this makes sense.

So, if you want to do a doctorate while working full time, take a max of 6 credits, or 2 classes. You will be very busy for a very long time.

Final Thoughts

If you are thinking about doing grad school while you work full time, you have some hard work ahead of you. It is so rewarding though and 100% worth it. Honestly, doing grad school while working as an engineer was the best thing that happened to me. It introduced me to the wonderful world of research. Also, without going to grad school, there would be no love and bean :(.

If you have any questions taking grad classes while working full time, send me an email. My email is benswaringen@yahoo.com. I would love to tell you about my experience as well as help you with any questions that you may have.

As always, I hope you all have a wonderful day. If you haven’t checked out my blog about the hardest parts about going to grad school (link here), I suggest checking that out. Until next time, peace!

A Letter To Yourself

Today’s blog post is actually an exercise that I did in therapy. Basically, you write a letter to your younger self to let them know how you have grown and changed over time. It really helps to show you how mature you are and how you have changed the past few years. Today’s letter will be to my first year PhD self. That might have been one of the most stressful times for me because I left everything to pursue a doctorate. I moved away from family, loved ones, and started a life back in the town that I called home for 3.5 years previously. To say that I was scared and anxious would be an understatement.

A Letter to Ben

Hi Ben (I usually always start this way. Nothing formal)

Congratulations on starting your PhD. This is a huge step and one of the best decisions that you have made. I can’t thank you enough for making this decision and starting this journey. So, thank you!

As will all journeys, you will experience many different things. Some will be good, other’s, not so much. You have decided to take this path and it comes with it’s fair share of ups and downs, and you are going to experience both. You survive, though lol.

The doubts that you have are just thoughts. They are not real in any sense and all created by a worrying mind. Fortunately for you (and me), none of the negative thoughts ever come to light. In fact, life has a funny way of being extremely unpredictable and surprises you quite often. Many of the things you are so sure will happen never do. It’s hard to fully understand what I am telling you now, but some time around your second year, you’ll start to understand more what I mean by this.

Life, unfortunately will get a little harder for you. You are going to go through a very rough patch in your academic career that will cause you to question your whole PhD entirely. But you know how I said life has a weird way of being unpredictable? Well, you’ll find that life is unpredictable and quite helpful too. There will be many opportunities to help yourself during these times. Some that make you feel a bit uncomfortable at first. Take advantage of those opportunities. You will benefit so much from them.

Now let’s talk about friends. Yes, you make some really great friends and you will lose quite a few. People, just like in undergrad, come and go. Unfortunately, nothing really is permanent and that applies to your friends too. Do not take the time with them for granted. Your friends will greatly impact who you become and that is a good thing. Also, for those friends that are slowly drifting away, it is ok to let them go. Thank them for the time that you were able to spend with them and the laughs you had, but remember that they might only be a part of your life for a brief second. Their role in your life has come and gone.

I know for a fact that you are going to do great things. You were always one to really push yourself to be more than average. Be kind to yourself though. Some things may not work out as quickly or as well as you like, and that might upset you. It’s all part of the process and I promise you that things happen for reasons, though, those reasons may not be so clear.

You are ready for this wonderful, scary, adventurous, difficult, and downright amazing journey. You were born to be a researcher and help potentially millions of people. Trust me, you can and will do it and people will be there to help you along the way. Congrats again on starting your PhD. You are going to make an amazing doctor one day.

Ben (older version)

PS. Start blogging about your journey through grad school. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Final Thoughts

Writing a letter to yourself really shows you how far you’ve come. Just putting this together has made me really look back on the past 3.5 years and appreciate the individual that I have become. For those in grad school or senior year of college, write a letter to yourself, your younger self that is. It will open your eyes to how far you’ve come and the person you are becoming as well.

I hope you all found this post to be a bit different as well as entertaining. This is such a great way to boost your spirits as well ad a good exercise to do if you are feeling down and stuck in life.

As always, I hope you all have an amazing day and I will see you in the next one. Also, if you haven’t already, check out my last post about the best grad school memes (link here). Peace!

Best Grad School Memes

Today, I want to share some very relatable grad school memes. I have written about jokes and includes memes before. Go check out that post. (link here). The internet is an absolutely wonderful place full of ideas, creativity, knowledge, and, of course, memes. I am sure that your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, anything is full of memes. So today, I want to share some of my favorite memes that relate to grad school. These can be relatable in every day life as well.

Admit it, you love memes more than really anything on the internet. I love sending and receiving them. Heck, I have even made a few. They are amazing and definitely great to just get lost for hours on the internet looking them up.

So, let me share some of my all time grad school memes with you.

Favorite Grad School Memes

This one is highly relatable, especially this week

grad school memes
grad school memes

Time for a quick break because I am actually crying a bit. Not really because these are so funny, more so that I can really, really relate.

Ok, Breaks over, let us continue seeing more graduate school memes.

grad school memes
grad school memes
grad school memes
grad school memes

The one right above this is probably my favorite so far. Most, because I am in the process of justifying my research results with small scale experiments and I’m slightly losing it. It’s a wild, yet fun ride.

grad school memes
grad school memes
grad school memes

Time for another break. How’s your day going so far? So far, my day has been pretty good. Anyway, let’s continue on with a few more memes.

This next one is me during summer.

grad school memes
graduate school memes
graduate school memes
graduate school memes

The last one for the day.

graduate school memes

Final Thoughts

How does my collection of graduate school memes hold up? Did you enjoy them? Would you want to see more in the future? If so, let me know in the comments. If you haven’t checked out the rest of my blog, go ahead and check it out. I hope you all have a wonderful day and I will see you in the next one.

The Hardest Parts About Going to Grad School

I promise you guys that I will have a happier post coming soon. Some of my posts have been a bit negative. I know this because I was called out for it lol. Today, we are going to continue on this course of negativity dealing with the hardest parts of grad school. I wrote about whether or not grad school was hard (link here). This one is going to be about the hardest parts that you may not really know about now, just starting off. Give it some time and you’ll relate more to this post lol.

This post is for grad students (sorry undergrads). Undergrad students may not feel this way because their set up is a bit different. In undergrad, you really focused on how to pass tests. It wasn’t until senior year that I really knew how to apply anything that I had learned for the past 5 years. Grad school is a bit different so the struggles may not be relatable for undergrad years. However, if you are an undergrad thinking about grad school, primarily a MS degree or a PhD, then this post is for you as well.

Hardest Parts about a Master’s Degree

Lists!!!! Lists!!!! LISTTTTTTSSSS! Oh man do I love them. Today, we are going to see many lists, because it’s easy to just see the struggles in that form than reading it in a paragraph! So, for now, I want to focus on the struggles that you will have in a master’s degree then I will go into PhD and then we can compare them both. How does that sound? I promise you that I will make an article on the best things about grad school. There are plenty of great things. Today will be the hardest parts of grad school. So, let’s discuss the hardest parts of a master’s degree right know.

1) There will be more writing than you have ever done in your life.

Writing is a huge an important step in becoming an academic. Grad school is all about honing your writing skills and being able to take very complex ideas and tone it down enough to where anyone can understand it. Writing is one of those skills that you will learn in a master’s that will benefit you for a lifetime.

2) You will feel extremely dumb

Remember in high school when you were one of the “smart kids”? Well, now you are with the smart kids from every other high school/college. You may come across an individual who is just out of this world intelligent. It will make you feel a bit dumb. Also, the work you will be doing is much more complex than in undergrad. In science, the stuff that I was dealing with in my master’s courses were things that people still didn’t have answers for. This may make you feel really dumb, when in fact, you are actually very bright. Trust me, everyone feels dumb in grad school.

3) Chegg and online resources won’t help you now

As I mentioned before, you will be dealing with concepts and ideas that people don’t have the answers to. The classes you take will not have the answers online. Chegg and other online homework helpers were great in undergrad but are useless in master’s coursework. This may make things way harder for you because you won’t know if you were right or wrong until you get your paper or homework back. Heck, sometimes the professor doesn’t even have the answer lol. I have had classes like this.

4) Your friends will change

I think one of the hardest parts of grad school and, well college, is the fact that your friends will come and go. I started my master’s knowing a ton of grad students and became very good friends with them. Since everyone is on their own timeline, you will often lose many friends to graduation or moving to do a doctorate elsewhere. This will bring some very lonely times and it can definitely be hard. Plus, finding time for friends can be difficult in a master’s program which might hurt any potential relationships with people.

5) Still broke

You might not be making any money at all in a master’s program. This means more loans and eating ramen 5 nights a week. A master’s does go by fairly quick so don’t worry. You will not be poor for the rest of your life lol. Unfortunately, you will be a bit broke during this phase but that can be a good thing. You will learn how to manage money better. See, I can write nice things.

6) You may have to actually do research as well

Some programs require you to do a ton of research as well. These usually pay you, from my experience. Research can make things so much difficult. Understanding what is going on and helping to develop solutions to problems is a bit of a headache. This is one of hardest parts of grad school, in my opinion.

7) The work demand is insane for classes

As I mentioned above, you will be writing and doing problems that are difficult and may not have solutions. This will make your classwork harder. The demand from your professors is insane and stressful at times. Towards the end of the semester, you may have three, 15 page essays to write, on top of exams and homework’s. The homework’s in most of my classes were much longer than the undergrads . You may also have research on top of the classwork, so you’ll be extra busy.

Hardest Parts about a PhD

So, in this section, I will talk about the things that are hardest during a PhD. Some may overlap with a Master’s degree and that’s fine. Getting a PhD means you are contributing to research in a very very very tiny way. You are contributing a very small amount of knowledge to the world, but that’s pretty darn cool. Of course, a PhD is not for everyone and will be one of the hardest things you do, depending on many factors of course. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, you will feel dumb doing a doctorate. It is a learning experience and technically an apprenticeship. It’s not like undergrad where you pass classes. No, you actually have to contribute to the world. Anyway, Here is a list of the hardest parts of a PhD, from my experience.

1) You have to contribute to science

I am currently trying to contribute a very small piece of information to the overall knowledge of my field and it is hard. Holy cow it is hard because you are the one solving a sometimes very difficult yet simplistic problem. One of the problems I am trying to figure out with my data is why my pH drops. You can just say that it’s from an acid being added to the water, but I am adding base to my lead pipes. It is a silly problem but an important one, especially in the field of water chemistry. Contributing some small form of knowledge is what a PhD is all about. This is also what makes it difficult.

2) You will lose many friends

As I mentioned above in the hard parts of a master’s, you will lose friends like crazy, or at least not see your friends for a very long time. Graduation will take many of them from you and so will not being able to see them because your focus is on research. My friends have decreased each year since undergrad, but that’s life. The friends that I do still have are amazing and in my life for a reason. Don’t go thinking that losing fiends is a bad thing. it can be quite good but it is a hard part about grad school. You will definitely learn to live by yourself and be anti social. But afterwards, you’ll make friends again. I promise that.

3) Long nights in the lab and not really getting the results you want

This is definitely a hard part about doing a PhD. You will read papers on your research that points to an outcome that you are hoping for. You probably won’t get those outcomes. Then, You try again. You still won’t get the outcome you want. You’ll continue until the next thing you know, it’s 2 am and you’re just now leaving the lab after a failed experiment. Even the ghost that haunts the lab wants you to leave. This happens to everyone, even tenured professors. This is also exciting because you are able to learn how not to fail. You are becoming a researcher during this practice! It just is very hard when you have to put a ton of hours into it.

4) Advisers demanding much more than you can handle

You a cheap labor. Admit it, you are cheap labor in the academic field. This means that your adviser will take full advantage of this and work you hard. They may even give you more work than you can handle. It’s hard. In fact, it’s so hard that it’s on this list lol. All you can really do is talk with your adviser and voice your concerns. You can probably handle the majority of the work. But sometimes, they want you to do even more. For example, the other PhD student that I share an office with has to write 2, yes 2, literature reviews!! My literature review took me 2 years to do and she has to write 2? This might be too much to handle. Luckily, she just started her doctorate so she has a long time to complete both lol.

5) You’re very poor

Yes, you will get paid, but not much. If you happen to do the math and determine the amount you get paid hourly over the hours of work, you’ll see that you are paid less than minimum wage. You’ll be poor and this is very, very hard to deal with in grad school. Many PhDs take 5 to 8 years to finish. Imagine living paycheck to paycheck for that amount of time. That can be very stressful.

6) Peer review

Most doctorate programs have you publishing at least one paper and going through the peer review process. Many institutions have you writing multiple papers and going through the peer review process to get published. It is hard.. The reviewers will pick out every flaw in your research and make you reevaluate your life. I went through it once and have to go through it again. The first time was rough, the second might be rougher, but I am desensitized to literally all criticism now. It is a hard process to get through but a really important one. This process prevents “bad science” from getting out there. Of course, sometimes some bad articles squeak by, but not as often as you think.

7) The stupid qualifying exam

I have many choice words when it comes to what I think about the qualifying exam. If you want to read more about my experience or what your experience will be like, here are a few links to those articles. The qualifying exam was the most stressful and hardest parts of my doctorate so far. I had to come up with a proposal, write it, present it, and get tested on it. It took me like 2 months to see if I could continue my studies and do research. If I didn’t pass, I would have had one more try before being kicked out of the program. Not a fun time. This is hard because it is your first hurdle towards graduation. Once you pass this, you can call yourself a doctoral candidate. Things don’t necessarily get easier after the qualifying exam, but at least you know you’ll probably graduate.

8) Seeing your friends, colleagues, and literally everyone advance in their careers or go on vacation and you can’t

I have many friends that are making 6 figures. Some are starting companies, and other’s are enjoying their weekends in another country. All while I spend my weekends and days doing the same thing, over and over, making pennies compared to them. This is hard to see. You will feel like you are behind in life. Trust me, that feeling of being behind can cause you to want to leave. The hardest part about this is saying “I am in it for the long haul and will finish”. Yes, you probably can leave and have a fulfilling career. You probably will make a ton of money right away since you’ll have a master’s , but you have to tell yourself no. Don’t end it just because you see your friends doing things that you want to do.

9) No one understands what your doing.

I left this as the last one, for hardest things about grad school. You are going to go through a ton of hardships trying to et data and results that are pertinent to your research. You will celebrate your wins abut other’s really won’t know why. Most people don’t really relate to what you do in grad school and they don’t realize that a huge win is just getting the pH probe to work lol. Family members won’t understand the strains that go into grad school and your friends won’t understand it either.

Your research won’t be earth shattering. It might just be a very small project that is somewhat insignificant, but it means the world to you. You are the only one that really cares and getting extra support is almost non-existent. I find this to be one of the hardest parts of grad school and PhD. People just won’t understand, and you know what? That’s ok. Celebrate your small and large wins. Those will lead to bigger things later.

The 3 hardest parts of grad school

So let me break it down into 3 of the hardest parts about grad school. These are the hardest things that come from the overall experience. Many things will be hard, but these are the hardest that I , and my friends, have experienced.

  1. You’re very, very poor. Financial struggle is a hard part about grad school that we all face.
  2. You are a little fish in a very large pond, maybe even an ocean. You will feel tiny ad insignificant.
  3. Life will pass by and you will be doing the same thing. This has really affected my lately, but I am almost done!

YEs, grad school has been one of the hardest things that I have done, but not the hardest. There are many things that are difficult and you will experience most f them. Keep going, it is 100% worth it and you will have a degree after that is worth much more than you know. If you do a doctorate, you’ll be a doctor! That’s pretty awesome.

Final Thoughts

These are the hardest parts of grad school that I have experienced. Let me know if you agree or disagree with these and why? I am curious to know other people’s opinions on this subject. As always, I hope you all have a wonderful ay and week. I will see you all in the next blog post. Peace!

You ARE Good Enough (Round 2)

I want to apologize to everyone. before we talk about why you are good enough, I want to discuss something. If you have been reading my blog lately, you have probably noticed that I have become focused on key ideas and key words. If you are familiar with google (you probably are), you know about page placement and rankings. The more content or better, the higher my ranking on search pages. This is an SEO (search engine optimization) approach that I have been doing.

I want to say that I am sorry because I lost a bit of connection with my readers and was so focused on ranking high, but not for greed. I am hoping to get these ideas and tips out to the population and I strongly feel like I have helpful info for those but it is hard to spread that without focusing on ranking higher on the search pages.

This is why I started focusing on a different writing style. I may continue this, but I do want to get back to just blogging for you guys, and not only for the masses.

You are good enough, repeat that 5X

Lately, I have been hearing a ton of “I’m not smart enough” or “I’m not good enough” from many grad students that I have been around. I have even said this multiple times recently, and that’s not right. First off, you ARE good enough! You have done amazing things and will do even more amazing things. Grad school and college are hard! This might be one of the reasons you feel this way. You have become a small fish in a big pond and it is terrifying.

Every single great scholar has been in your position. There are a select few that might not have felt like they weren’t good enough, but that’s like 4 people lol. Everyone else has felt bad at least a million times but they all turned out to do amazing things. SO, whatever you are going through right now, know that you can make it through this and you’re only growing from this experience.

Final Thoughts

I hope you guys have an awesome day. I know that this is a short blog but sometimes that’s what you have to write. Keep up the amazing work that you have done. If you want to ask me questions or anything (maybe send me some money lol), my email is benswaringen@yahoo.com.

What Should Your Major Be in Grad School?

Choosing the right major before you enter grad school can be a tricky one. There are a plethora of different grad school majors, degrees, specialties, and fields in which you can devote the next 2 to 8 years to. This is almost a completely daunting task and may cause a bit of anxiety just thinking about it. Hopefully, this blog helps you ease those feelings and potentially figure out what grad school major/degree/specialty you want to focus on.

Let’s Talk About Your Interests

What you choose to go into needs to be something that you can feel passionate about. For me, I love math and science. So what grad school major did I choose? Well, I chose engineering which encompasses both of those concepts. Honestly, it probably wouldn’t make sense to get a degree in, like political science, when my passions lie elsewhere. The only time that you might really focus on a different grad school major is when it will help your job out.

Look at what really interest you and also look at what your undergrad major was. This often is the main driver for what you will be doing later on. Many science majors stick with science. Pre med student go into, you guessed it, medicine. And many different majors for into law. It is not uncommon to see people from many different backgrounds in undergrad going into law.

In all of these cases, the vast majority of people were going with what they were passionate about. You don’t just start a PhD or a Law degree without being somewhat interested in it. I don’t know a single person who went into law just because they were bored and didn’t know what to do in life. If you know someone that did, please let me know in the comments lol.

Take a Look at Your Future, from a child’s perspective

There is a practice that I started using where I pretend that I am meeting my younger self. I pretend that little 10 year old Ben is standing in front of me and we are having a conversation. He asks me how things are, what my interests are, and what I became/did with my life. In this exercise I “tell him” what I did with my time in college and told him I went on to do this and that. I then hope that he approves or shows excitement. I always hope that my younger self will be proud of all that I accomplished and have done.

I suggest trying this. Have a conversation with your younger self and see if they would be proud of the person that you have become and are becoming. See what they would have to say about it and if you are on the right path that you laid out when you were younger. Did you want to be a world class doctor yet chose to be an investment banker instead because it was easier? Would your younger self approve of this decision? It might seem like a silly thing to do but it really makes you think about whether you are doing something because of money or because you thoroughly enjoy doing it and you are passionate about it.

Shop Around

Start this journey by doing a bit of research. First off, decide whether you want to pursue a doctorate or master’s. This probably needs to be the first plan because applying to those are different processes all together. Next, write out your interests and see if there are degrees in which you can get a master’s or doctorate in that subject. Say, you are really passionate about reef fish (like me). You may want to type in “graduate school programs in reef fisheries” or something fairly similar to that. See what pops up. I typed that exact phrase into google and this popped up.

It looks like there are many places that specialize in this particular subject.

Now that you know there are places that that will take you on in that subject, you need to do some more research on that school entirely. I think I will write another article about choosing a graduate school in a future article. That subject is just a very long topic. but I will go into some detail now. By shopping around, you want to look at where the school is, what they provide, and if it’s going to cost you a billion dollars to go there. Remember, financial stress is real in grad school and you don’t want to spend your life paying off debt.

Look at all of the perks and maybe even do a pros and cons list. I love making these. Really make sure that you have a really good long list of pros and cons, then repeat this for each college that you want to go to. If you want to know how many colleges to apply to, go check out my blog about that (here). I think it will help in this cases.

Will it Pay the Bills?

Lastly, you have to consider the return on investment when choosing what grad school major to take. Trust me, you can get a degree in Hogwarts History or something weird like this, but will that pay the bills later on? I mean, it could potentially, but that would require a ton of luck (or magic) to do. You have to consider whether it will advance your career and actually be a good investment.

Many grad school majors will be worth it. Many of them won’t It really is something you need to put some time and effort into looking i to. Say, you love science and are really good at science and math. Getting a master’s in engineering will guarantee that it checks off all of the boxes. 1) you are passionate 2) your childhood self will approve 3)there are plenty of schools to go to and 4) it will pay the bills. Consider all of these things when going to grad school.

So, back to will it pay the bills? Look into how much your degree will cost and how much it may boost your pay. If a master’s degree will only get you like 1 to 2K dollars a year more in your career and the schooling sets you back 100k, then maybe you need to reconsider grad school in that field. Make sure that it is financially worth it before you may any decisions.

Final Thoughts

I hope that this article has helped a tiny bit with the steps to go through in order to really decide what grad school major you should do. If you can check off all of these then I think you have a pretty good opportunity and you should take it. Once in to grad school, you can check out my blog love-and-bean.com to learn more about grad school life, how to survive and thrive, and just overall help with grad school.

Choosing your major can be difficult but I know it can be done. Heck, I did it and so can you. If you have any trouble trying to decide what to pursue, send me an email and we can talk. My email is benswaringen@yahoo.com. I am fairly certain that I can help you along your grad school journey and beyond.

Life at College: What it’s Like

One of the best things that you can do is go off to college. Life at college is a completely different experience, and one that you have never experienced before. That is, unless you went to college prior lol. It is a surreal experience where you will probably meet some of the weirdest, best, worst, and most interesting people in your life. You will grow as an individual, experience uncertainty, hardship, and elation. Today I want to talk to you about life at college, both from the perspective of an undergrad and then as a grad student.

Life at College for Undergrads

Let us start off with undergrad. This was one of the best 5.5 years of my life. Yes, I was in undergrad for that long, even though most people finish in 4 years. Everyone goes at their own pace, mine just happened to be a lot longer because I graduated with over 150 credits. Anyway the 4+ years that you are in undergrad will be some of the best and possible worst years that you have had so far. There will be ups and downs is what I am trying to say.

Freshman Year of College

This is probably the biggest transition of your life. You have probably been helped along the way until this point and now you are off to college. Many people are hundreds of miles away from family and friends. This can make freshman year one of the hardest years of your life. Life at college during your freshman year is a huge transition period. You will need to figure out how to live on your own, how to cook for yourself, how to make friends, and most importantly, how to pass all of your classes.

During this year, you are going to be juggling quite a few things. You are going to struggle a bit to make friends, but don’t give up. You’ll find people. You might do sports or join a club. These are all great ways to meet people and get involved. The primary thing that you want to focus on this year is being ok with being independent and learning to do stuff without the help of others. This is one of the hardest things you will experience. You’ll feel homesick sometimes and may need to go home to recoup. This is ok and totally accepted. Just try and easy your way into independency.

Sophomore and Junior Years of College

Life at college during these years will be a little or a lot different than freshman year. You will have experience being on your own, you will have learned how to pass course, and you will have grown quite a bit. You are still a baby in the academic eyes, but you have proven yourself so far. Sophomore and junior years are when you start taking courses that relate primarily to your major. These years might be difficult just for this reason. By the end of sophomore year, you’ll probably be done with all of your general education courses (think basic math, science, writing, and other courses that don’t really deal with your major). You’ll get into your major’s courses and this can be a lot.

These years are great. In fact, these were some of the best of my life and probably yours. You are more experienced, probably have some friends and are active in sports and clubs, and you are well on your way to graduating on time or at least know that you’ll graduate. Júnior year is also when you most likely turn 21, so party!!!!

Life at college during these years may include a ton of partying and doing fun stuff. You don’t really have to focus on finding a job yet and you are also not at a point where you really need to bring your GPA up (hopefully not). Make sure to make the most of this time those. Yes, it is two years, but let me tell you, two years will pass so quickly. Sophomore and junior years went by so fast and I really wish I took more advantage of those years. So, take full advantage of them. Senior year will be different for sure.

Senior Year of College

At this point, you are looking for a way out. You have put in your time and are so close from the end goal, graduating and making money. You might be poor at this point, if not so already, and ready to leave the college life for good. This is the year where you will be taking the rest of your course work for you major/s and hopefully graduating on time. It is also the year where you will be polishing your resume and hitting up LinkedIn.

This does not mean that you can’t have any fun. Life at college during senior year is amazing. In fact, your last semester might just be the greatest semester ever. If you are smart and put easy courses a the end, you can practically spend all of the time during your last semester partying, going to events, getting involved, and anything else that you want. This year might be the last time you actually have time to do all of these things so it is best to make the most of it.

Life at College for Graduate Students

This is going to be a bit different than when you were in undergrad. Grad school is about work, research, and become a professional. Of course this doesn’t mean that you can’t have a little (or a lot) of fun. Grad school can be entirely fun and a great experience. You may find that grad school is even better than undergrad.

Life as a Master’s Student

This track is going to set you on a coursework only path. Well, you can do research too, though many people don’t go this route unless they intend on going for a doctorate. Life during these years will be almost like your senior year. You’ll do your work, get involved in clubs and organizations, and polis up your resume. a master’s might only be a year long, so you have to be prepare for what comes next.

You will likely be on campus during this year or years. You may even be lumped in classes with undergrads. The only difference really is you will have fewer courses and a ton more coursework. I found that ,y life during my master’s was just like undergrad. I did a lot of time working on assignments, I focused a lot on my health and physical appearance, and I enjoyed all of the perks of being a student. Life at college during my master’s was amazing, and it helped a ton that I was getting paid for it too.

Life as a PhD Student

If you are crazy enough to go for a PhD, you will find that it is nothing like undergrad or your master’s. In fact, it is more like having a professional job. You will spend a great bit of time in your office, writing papers, grading work, reading papers, and sending emails. You will also do some experiments as well. Well, if you are a science doctorate, you might be in the lab 50% of the time.

Life at college during these years will be a lot less exciting than they were in the previous years. You will be working. Though, you probably expected to just be working anyway. You don’t really sign up to doing a doctorate if you just want to party all of the time. Yes, you an still party, but you’ll find that you are probably much older than everyone else and you value your hearing a lot more. I tend to just going to quiet places now to “party”.

These past 3.5 years of my doctorate have been a time to grow. I am finally getting out of my 20s (I had a love/hate relationship) and starting to experience the life as an adult. Honestly, it is more scary than leaving home for the first time. This is when you are truly an independent induvial.

Life on campus tends to be a bit different as well. You spend less time joining undergrad organizations and you’ll start joining grad school ones. This may limit you on what you can join, unfortunately. Joining sports teams is still the same. There are plenty of grad students that doing intramural leagues. Remember that you are a busy grad student and might not always have time to do these things. Be careful not to over schedule yourself.

Final Thoughts

Life at college is an amazing and one-of-a-kind experience. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will grow into the the person you always wanted to be. These are amazing years of your life and you should cherish them. After college can be fun, because money, but I don’t think they will match up to those years in college.

Let me know your favorite and fondest memories form college. Also, let us know what life was like for you at college. I am sure everyone would love to read about it. Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful day and week, and I will see you in the next one. Peace.

College Student Motivation

College student motivation! Oh what a wonderful topic. Staying motivated in college can be tough. In fact, it can be down-right impossible sometimes, especially towards the end of the semester. Early semester is a completely different story. Motivation is high and productivity can just be as high. After a few weeks in college, you tend to lose all motivation and this can be extremely stressful.

Today I want to talk about how to stay motivated in college. I have written quite a lot on the subject, but primarily for grad students. If you want to read more about that, take a look at those blogs (link here, here, and here). Today, I want to discuss college student motivations. Now motivation is almost impossible to have all of the time. There might be a select few individuals that seem to be motivated by literally everything. For the vast majority of us, we will have just about the same amount of little to no motivation as we have motivation. Today, I would like to go over ways in which we can increase motivation so we can get the most out of college.

Why Motivation is High at the Beginning of the Semester?

You may ask yourself, “why am I so motivated to do so much at the beginning of the semester and not the rest of the semester?” I literally ask this myself ever semester and I have the same answer each time. I usually have the most motivation to tackle everything right after taking a very long break. Each semester begins after some form of vacation. Spring semester starts after winter break and fall after summer break. There is even a mini break after spring semester to prepare you for summer classes. But let’s face it, summer classes are super easy and the whole semester is still a vacation lol.

After a long time away from work, you tend to feel extremely refreshed and rejuvenated. For me, and many others, I spend this time sleeping a ton and eating my body weight in food. Breaks are a great way to just wind down and not be on the fast track to burnout. So, when you come back from these mini vacations, you are really refreshed and ready to take anything on. This is why taking vacations is so important. Taking time off to relax is one of the best ways to get the initial motivation to get things going. Continuous work will lead to a lack of motivation in the end.

Why am I not Motivated towards the End of the Semester?

I wish I had a scientific answer. One that would blow you away and get me that PhD. Unfortunately, I only have a simple answer for you. You are stressed, tired, and overwhelmed. You might even have hit burnout. If you did hit burnout, go check out my blog about it and ways to combat it (link here). Honestly, the lack of motivation may just come from the fact that you are just so tired. I remember when I was taking classes (seems so long ago), the end of the semester was always the worst because you have to act like you cared, but I really didn’t. I would calculate the lowest grad to pass a class just so I didn’t have to study that much. If there is ever a lack of college student motivation, it’s during finals week.

Being worn down by the work during the semester can definitely put a ton on your motivation. At this point in the semester, you’ve pretty much ran out of that extra motivation from stress or anxiety. You don’t care if you hit a deadline and you really don’t care what grades you get as long as you pass. College student motivation is usually at the lowest and gets even lower the closer you get to your break, whether a winter break or the amazing, summer break!

How Can I Get Motivated Throughout the Semester

There are plenty of ways that I truly believe can keep your motivation high throughout the semester. So, like I love doing, let me create a list for you of things you can do when you need motivation throughout the semester.

1) Make sure to rest

As I said above, you are more likely to stay motivated when you rest or take a vacation. Rejuvenating your body is essential so you don’t wear yourself down. Make sure to schedule down time to do something other than work. The work will always be there and you can end up burning yourself out if you continue. To hit all of the goals you set for yourself, you have to have some strength to be able to do them, right?

2) Get started on a goal or project, even if you don’t want to.

So I put this after rest. When you are just relaxing, getting motivated to accomplish stuff is quite hard to do. I get it, relaxing is better than work. If you find yourself in this predicament, don’t think about the project or goal, start doing it. Just make sure not to put too much on your plate all at once. Motivation is a circle. You actually create your motivation by doing whatever it is you need to do. So throughout the semester, if you need motivation to do something, just start doing it. The action of doing whatever it is will give you more motivation to accomplish it. Check out my blog about motivation cycle for more info about this particular subject. (link here).

3) Get a buddy to help motivate you.

If you are brand new to the gym and want to work out, what is one thing you usually type into google? That’s right, you type in “how do I get started?” Usually when you put this into google, there will be adds for personal trainers. Personal trainers are just buddies that help motivate you to accomplish your goals and stay motivated. Just like a personal trainer, a friend can help you get motivated and stay motivated. Find someone with similar goals and you can actually keep them accountable as well. They will help motivate you and you will help motivate them. This is extremely helpful come exam time because you will both be unmotivated to work, but if you help them a little, they will help you out a it too. It’s always more difficult o motivate yourself than having someone else motivate you.

4) Focus on the Successes of Today!!!!

The only thing you have is now. The future is in the future and the past already happened. So, if you only have now, why do we focus on the future so much. Yes, goals are in the future, but the way to get to those goals is by accomplishing things in the present. Any movement towards your goals is progress. Progress is a driver that keeps us motivated.

So, college student motivation is amplified by focusing on the small things you do today. One of the best motivators is seeing progress, no matter how small. In fact, one of my goals is to reach 1000 daily readers. I am at like 20, but every day I am motivated by maybe one or 2 extra people reading my blog. I don’t focus on the future, I focus on today and how many people have read my blog since yesterday. The small growth gives you so much motivation.

5) Exercise

As stated above, one of the biggest reasons why people don’t stay motivated is because they are tired. Why, then, do I say exercise? Won’t that make you more tired. Yes and no. You will be tired, but you’ll start noticing that you are more energetic the more you exercise. The exercise will increase the blood flow and increase hormones that give you energy. With the extra energy, you won’t feel so lethargic and that will help you actually be able to do stuff. College student motivation can be increased with as little as 30 minutes of exercise a day. Instead of riding the bus to class, walk. Get 30 minutes of walking and it will put you in a great mood and get you motivated to tackle all of the difficulties of the semester. Trust me.

6) Focus on the progress and not the goal.

Like #4, focus on the small wins. I like to have a big goal to achieve each semester. Instead of focusing on obtaining that goal as fast as I can, I break it down into very achievable goals. Motivation is pretty much dried up if you see this herculean task and try and accomplish it all at once. A 1% increase each day will accomplish much more than giving it all you have at one time. This works.

Say you want to ace your first exam. Instead of pulling an all nighter, why not study for like 30 minutes each day? It’s a small progression but makes all the difference. Yes, anxiety will be a great motivator more towards you taking the exam, but you will crash. All of the motivation you had prior to the exam is gone now. If you focused on studying a little bit each day, you will see that there isn’t any crash and you can continue on with the other classes.

I have been working on my doctorate for 3.5 years now and it is the small progressions that keep me motivated. Towards the end, here, it is more just plain stubbornness that is keeping me here lol. But for those 3 years, the small achievements each day and the 1% increase kept me going and now I am months away from being a doctor.

Final Thoughts

College student motivation is created by, you guessed it, the college student. I have laid out 6 different ways to help you stay motivated and I know for a fact that these work and you can see that for yourself. I have used these methods for 11 years now. Yes, I have been in college for 11 years, so I know what I am talking about. If you have any more suggestions on how to stay motivated, let me know in the comments. Also, if you juts need to reach out to someone for advice, email me at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I promise you that I will reply.

For those that have been following this blog for a while, I am starting to branch out to college students as well. Yes, i will still write about grad school, but I have seen a ton of undergrads having the same troubles as grad students. I feel like it is a good idea to branch out to them and help them with the transition from high school life to college life. I hope you are all ok with that?

If you haven’t already, check out my other posts seen below.

Best Gifts For Graduates and Graduation

This post about gifts for college graduates may contains affiliate links. For more information see disclosure at bottom of home page

If you are stumbling upon this post, it probably means that you are looking for some gift ideas for your graduate. Gradation is an exciting time and a bit stressful because you want to get them a thoughtful gift, but that might be a bit hard to do. Today I want to give you some ideas for gifts for graduates. These gifts are great for undergrad graduates as well as those graduating from grad school. If you want more ideas for grad student, check out my blog about gifts specifically for them. (link here)

I usually focus my attention on grad students and their needs but graduation gifts can include undergrads as well. The best gifts are usually heart-felt and useful. Though, a gift card can be just as good lol. You are not here to just find a gift card for your graduate. No, you are here to find ideas on what to get them. You have come to the right place.

Gift ideas for your graduates

The useful Gift For Graduates Idea

Graduation is a special time for an individual. It is also a very scary one. Just being there to show support as they leave the safety of academia and traverse into the working and adult world is huge. This section if for the “useful” gifts. These are things that they will probably use in their job or next journey to help them achieve their goals. These are items that might be less fun and more work related, unfortunately. They’ll still appreciate them, though.

1) An Engraved Pen

This is a gift that really stands out to me. Getting a really good pen is always a treat, but getting one that someone can’t steal because it has your name on it, is way better lol. I haven’t personally received one of these gifts but I have given them to graduates. They still use them to this day. It might not be the most fun, but they will appreciate the pen every day that they use it.

2) Single Serve Coffee Maker

I have an addiction and so does your graduate. We all love coffee. According to a published article by the National Library of Medicine, 92% of college students drink coffee!!!! WOW. This means that your lovely graduate probably drinks a ton of coffee. They will probably continue this habit even into the next phase of their life. Why not help them out and get them a coffee make . I think the gift of coffee is an amazing one and much appreciated. If you want to know more about coffee and my favorite coffee brands, check out this blog (link here).

3) A Cast Iron Pan

This might be the most useful gift you can give them. I received a cast iron pan for my birthday and OMG it is the best gift that I think I have ever received. Make sure to get the Lodge seasoned skillet. Also, give some instructions on how to keep it seasons. Here is a link to seasoning instructions for your convenience. Something about cast iron just makes your food taste so good and they are so easy to clean up. This is something I use every single day, and your graduate will definitely use it just as much.

The WOW Gifts for Graduates

The gifts that I am going to post in this section are usually the more expensive ones. These gifts are fun, expensive, and will leave your graduate saying WOW. I like these gifts because they are a combination of fun and useful.

1) A new Laptop

Your graduate has probably been using their computer for the past 4 to 5 years and it might be time to upgrade. Laptops are getting cheaper, though some tend to get more expensive, and they are almost necessary in this technological age. Getting them a new laptop will leave them saying WOW as well as going a bit crazy. It’s not everyday that you receive a gift as great as this. Here are a few to look at from Amazon. I would recommend going to a nearby computer store and asking them what computer is best. They will ask a ton of questions and give you an honest answer.

2) Apple Watch

I won’t lie to you, I did get this as a graduation gift for my girlfriend, when she graduated form law school. She wears it everyday and it is one of the most useful items she has. Yes, it was a bit expensive, so that’s why it is in the WOW category. If your graduate doesn’t have one, and they have an iPhone, then an Apple Watch is a must. It will help them in their career, in their next chapter, in their life. I don’t have an iPhone so I recieved a Galaxy Watch. Both of these watches are amazing and almost necessary.

3) Help with Student Loans

If you are able to, donate some money to them and help them out with student loans. On average, students owe $36,510. That’s like a $300 a month payment for 10 years! Paying for even one of the payments is a great gift and highly appreciated. I had many people send me money to help pay off my loans. Luckily, they are deferred for now as I am in grad school, but I was able to pay off a good chunk. This is such a great idea and one that any graduate would love.

The Fun Gifts For Graduates

So, lastly, I want to share a few fun gifts for graduates. These gifts may not be too useful for everyday life, but they are fun. I love recieving these because it gives me something to do that doesn’t relate to any of my work or stressors. These gifts are meant to be mindless and just plain fun. I hope you find these gifts for graduates ideal.

1) AeroGarden

This is by far one of the coolest gifts for graduates that you could ever get. It doesn’t require them to have a green thumb either. AeroGardens are awesome and extremely fun to have. My family had one and grew basil, cilantro, rosemary, and thyme. It is extremely easy to set up and maintain and a wonderful addition to any kitchen.

2) A6 Razor Scooter

Gas prices are through the roof and probably won’t be coming down any time soon. Instead of a bike, why not get you graduate a scooter. They are light weight, inexpensive, and just plain fun. I have one and have written about it extensively (link here). This is a great gift especially for someone who lives close to work. They can ride it to the office and home without really getting sweaty. It is great exercise as well.

3) Astronaut Light Projector

This is a silly gift but man is it cool. The astronaut light projector is by far one of the coolest things that I have bought. Yes, I bought one and currently have it in my room. I can honestly say that it makes night time so much more relaxing and fun. Take a look at the pictures in the reviews and you can see what rooms actually look like with the lights. They are fairly cheap to buy as well and I guarantee that everyone will love them, no matter who you buy it for. This is a gift that I wish I received at graduation lol.

Final Thoughts

Here is a pretty decent list of 9 gifts for graduates that I think will steal the show. For my graduation., whenever that may be, I hope someone get’s me one of the gifts on here. Honestly, if someone helps with students loans, that would be amazing lol.

What types of gifts have you given graduates? I know gift cards are always popular but is there a gift that you gave that was different than what I posted here. If so, put it in the comments. I hope you all have an awesome day and say congrats to your graduates for me!

Essential Skills For Undergrad Students

For those that are fans of the this blog, you may be scratching your head and wondering why I am writing about undergrads. You may be saying to yourself “why would Ben want to write about undergrad skills when he is a grad student?” The answer is simple, all grad students were once undergrads and the skills that I bring up today will help them later when they do become grad students. I feel that the best grad students are those undergrads who were prepared. Plus, I wanted to just help some undergrads out with a bit of advice. Many of my fans are undergrad students preparing to graduate and go to work full time or grad school. They need love just as much as my fellow graduate students.

There are many grad students that are trying to hone basi skills that would have been good to have in undergrad. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and tell you these right away. These grad students might have had a better time if they developed these skills in undergrad.

Essential Skills that All Undergrads Students should have.

To my undergrad friends, I want to discuss today some very important and essential skills that every undergrad needs to have in their tool belt. These skills are some that I wish I had in undergrad and some that maybe I acquire that I feel are important. Undergrad can be as difficult as grad school. If you want to thrive, let alone survive, I feel like you need to at least start working on these skills. So, without further ado, let’s get into the essential skills for undergrad students.

1) Learn How to COOK

I want to start off with one of the single most important skills that you can have. Learn how to cook meals. Don’t rely only on eating out all of the time. Eating at restaurants and getting takeout can be unhealthy and down right expensive. Yes, you may have a bit of money thanks to loans, but the thing about loans are, you have to pay them back with interest. Later on down the road, you’ll have to pay back all of the money you borrowed. If you ate out all of the time, you’ll probably be paying much more. Learn to cook. Buying groceries for the week can be a much cheaper alternative than eating at Chipotle everyday. Heck, you can make your own burrito bowl for a quarter of the price.

Cooking is also a great way to impress friends and make friends. Everyone loves food, and if you get good at cooking, you’ll be invited to more things because people want to eat what you make. If you don’t want to learn how to cook, at least try learning how to bake. Everyone loves baked goods.

2) Learn how to manage money

One of the best skills that I learned in undergrad was how to manage money and not get into too much debt. Undergrad is a great way to learn what to buy, how to look for discounts, and how to live within your means. You will most likely be very poor. This pretty much forces you to be mindful of how much money you are spending.

Being frugal is a wonderful life lesson that will definitely be beneficial to you in the long run. Learning how to be frugal, yet live comfortably will help you especially when you start your very first job out of college. Yeah, those 6 figure jobs that you think you’ll get straight out of college don’t really exist. You’ll be at the bottom of the ladder and making just enough to be able to shop at Publix lol.

3) Learn how to communicate

This doesn’t just mean talking, this also means writing. Learning how to communicate effectively is one of the best skills that you can learn. It will get you that first job out of college, I promise you that. Also, You’ll move up the ladder real fast in a company if your communication skills are top notch.

For those in academia, communication is often a skill that many people lack. You may be hyper intelligent yet you can’t communicate these ideas in a way in which someone that is not an expert will understand. If you can manage to find ways to make complex ideas simple, and communicate well, then you’ll definitely be highly prized and probably big companies will seek you out for awesome career opportunities.

4) Learn to say “No”

Undergrad was one of the busiest times in my life. For some reason, it’s a badge of honor to be busy at all hours of the day. I knew people that were in 4 different organizations, worked full time, and then managed to get decent grades. These individuals went on to be successful out of college, for a limited time, then they all hit burnout. If you don’t know what that is, go check out my blog about it. Link here.

In undergrad, I didn’t really focus on my mental health. I said yes to everything and stayed busy. I continued to do that even after college and that led to some very troubling times. By saying “yes” all of the time, I got overwhelmed, overworked, and unmotivated to do anything. My work started to decline, my mental health was gone, and I was slightly depressed.

So, don’t be like me, say “no” sometimes. You don’t have to do a million things each day, In fact, you probably would benefit from doing less. Hustle culture is toxic and will lead to burnout 100% of the time.

5) Learn how to seek help

You will find times when you will need help. Learn when to seek it out and who to go to for help. In undergrad, you have a million different people that are there to help you with whatever it is you need help with. It’s often extremely difficult to go to them because you might be a little scared, or stubborn lol. It is Ok to ask for help. You do not need to go about everything alone.

Seeking help from someone will not only help you achieve your goals but it will get you to those goals without completely going insane. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I wish I did sooner.

6) Learn How to Deal With Stress

Have you ever seen an individual that is smiling during finals week? If so, then you probably saw a student who either 1) just finished their finals and is leaving for break or 2) they know how to manage he stress and are ready for whatever comes. Stress is a real and dangerous thing in undergrad. I was in engineering so stress was even in our problems that we had to solve lol. OK we are talking about two different stresses, but still. College is just stressful.

If you can learn ways to manage this stress, you will notice that your grades will improve, your overall demeanor will improve, and you won’t be so run down by school. You’ll have more energy, more free time from not worrying and stressing about things, and you’ll be healthier. If you want any methods on stress relief, check out my mindfulness page. I have posts about all different ways to reduce stress. Here is a link to that. This is a really important skill that undergrad students should have. It will help you a ton.

7) Learn how to study effectively

This skill will be forced upon you, don’t worry. It took me 5 years to learn how to effectively study. It would have been nice if I had learned it sooner. Studying effectively is a skill that only you can master. Everyone learns differently. Some are visual learns while other’s may listen to someone talk and then go off and do advanced calculus (my brother).

School is like one big game, and you want to find the easiest way to win. Learning the best way to study for classes is that key component that will allow you to win. Once you figure out how to study effectively, you’ll start having more free time (due to not spending hours rereading everything), your grades will increase, and you’ll find that college isn’t that bad. All very helpful things lol.

Final Thoughts

Here are 7 skills for undergrad students that I wish I had back then. I wish I had all of these prior to coming to grad school. These skills would have helped me tremendously in the first 2 years as a PhD. What are some other skills for undergrads students to have? Leave a comment at let us all know.

If you are an undergrad that is seeking some advice, please do not hesitate to contact me via email. My email is benswaringen@yahoo.com. I promise you that I will respond! Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful day and enjoy the beautiful weather.

How Many Hours a Week Do Grad Students Work?

Congratulations of going to grad school or just getting in to grad school. Let me first tell you that grad school is definitely a fun time and was 100% worth the time and effort that was put in. I think I actually enjoy grad school more than undergrad, but that is a different post. Today, I want to talk about how much grad students work. You may wonder, “how many hours will I work in grad school?” Also, while you’re in grad school, you’ll also ask yourself, “am I working enough hours?” Both questions are important and I will discuss them further.

Realistically, how many hours do grad students work each week?

So, How many hours a week do grad students typically spend working? A good range would be between 30 and 50 hours a week with an average of about 40 hours. This includes classwork, TA duties, research, and anything else that they have to do. Many grad students, especially PhD students will treat their grad program like a job. They will come in around 9 am and leave around 5 pm. Some overachievers may show up earlier than this and stay late into the night. I highly recommend not doing this or you’ll probably hit burnout. I wrote all about burnout and ways to prevent it. You can check that blog out here.

How many hours do grad students work:PhD

So, I mentioned overachievers, I really meant PhD students lol. Actually, we might not be overachievers, just individuals trying to make sure we catch up on the pile of work that was given to us. So a PhD is a full time job. In fact, PhD students ,may even work more than a full time job. The whole 9 to 5 deal might be ok for the majority of your doctorate, but I guarantee that you will have moments where it’s more like 9 am to 12 am. I have had weeks, especially close to my qualifying exam, where I put in maybe 70 to 80 hours in of writing. My qualifying exam period was only writing and that was about the same as before, when I was writing my proposal.

The breakdown

For the most part, a PhD student will probably spend about 30 hours a week in their lab or working on their research and another 10 to 20 doing other things such as classes, TA stuff, homework, or writing. If you don’t work in a lab, replace the 30 hours of lab work with 30 hours of writing and research. This can vary significantly though.

When it is slow and when it is not

Usually in the first year or two, you’ll be working primarily on classwork and some basic lab stuff. This may mean that your day may only be like 4 to 6 hours long. My first year in my PhD program was only about 5 hours long. I would get home relatively early each day and just watch movies, play games, or workout. Now, it’s a whole different ballgame. For me and many other grad students, we get to our offices around 8:30 and leave around 6 pm. Depending on the day, I may spend 12 hours in my lab. Usually at 8 pm, no one is here, other than a few grad students and the lab ghost.

The sweet spot

So, for PhD students, I would say your range of work each week would be around 35 to 70 hours. More towards 70 when there is a deadline. That’s usually when you have the most motivation to actually work. I would say a good average amount of work would be around 40 hours to 45 hours. Of course, this doesn’t mean you’ll be working that entire time. This includes breaks, lunch, dinner, and the occassional few hours where you put on Netflix and binge watch a few shows.

How many hours do grad students work: Master’s

Getting a master’s is a little different than getting a PhD. If you are in a non-thesis track then you’ll only be focused on school work. For a full time master’s student, 9 credits is usually the amount of coursework you take each semester. They say that for each credit, prepare to put in 3 hours of work a week. So a 9 credit semester looks like 27 hours of work. Depending on the subject, this can vary drastically. Quantum mechanics may take you much longer to work on than say a course on technical writing.

Non-Thesis Based

So, your weeks may vary a lot. I would say that you’ll probably put in about 25 to 30 hours for a non-thesis master’s a week. This is fairly close to a full time job but also gives you some room to actually enjoy your time in grad school. Since you won’t be dealing with research, you’ll only have to spend your time doing school work. This can vary a lot depending on where you are in the semester. Towards the end, expect to increase your hours so you pass your exams.

Thesis Based

For a thesis based master’s, the first year is pretty much the same as the non-thesis master’s. You’ll work on your school work until probably the last semester and then you do a research project. This semester will be probably close to what you experience in a PhD program when you get close to you defense or qualifying exam. This semester or two will be 40 to 50 hours of work so you can finish your degree and lab work.

Overall

A master’s may not be a busy as a PhD but you will definitely be plenty busy. Some master’s are fairly easy and you work a little, other’s you will be working as much or even more than a PhD. Don’t think that a master’s is easy, it’s not. Also, depending on how busy you are, you may pick up even more things to do. Some master’s students will tend to pick up other projects or even help TA classes. They definitely find ways to use their free time.

Final Thoughts

Grad school is a great time. I promise you that it is. It is, however, a busy, busy time. You’ll be working a lot, but you’ll be working on things that make you a better scholar. The projects that you will be spending hours and day, and even years on will be what you are interested in and they will be worth your time. Don’t be afraid of a little hard work. In order to succeed, you’ll have to work a lot.

For those that went through grad school, how many hours a week did you work? Let us know in the comments. I hope you all have a great week and hopefully you make time to do something that you love.