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I figured that the best thing to do, at this stage in my academic profession, is give more advice to younger grad students. So, today I want to share some of the best tips that I can come up with alone with tips that I have been told throughout the 5.5 years while in grad school. I will try and make them different than my “hacks” links to that article here. These are tips that I feel will help you survive grad school as well as thrive as a graduate student.
Before we get into the best tips for grad school, I just want to congratulate you on deciding to even think about grad school. It is a very tough decision, but well worth it. I think one of the best things that I have done for myself and my future career is to dive right into grad school. I have already received a Master’s and (hopefully very soon) a doctorate. It’s tough, and I hope that does not discourage you from chasing your dreams.
Let’s get right into the 10 best tips for grad school
1) Go To Class
You would be surprised how many people just go to grad school to slip right back into their undergrad ways. You should be taking courses that will help you advance your career and studies. This can only be achieved if you actively go to class. Sure, skipping some classes might be essential, especially if you have to finish a homework assignment. But for the most part, you need to go to class. You will learn and retain so much more information. Also, going to class will ensure you pass the course and continue on with your degree.
2) Get to know your professors
The best resources that you have, besides the library, are professors. They are your gateway to a successful academic career by providing you with all the skills and help you need. They know the struggles of grad school and know how hard it can be and how demanding it can get. Fortunately, most, not all, are will to help you navigate your way through school. They are also great to have as references for jobs later on. Get to know your professors. They might get you a job or research position after college.
3) Take time away from studies to relax and have fun.
I cannot stress the importance of rest enough. Grad school may have you working your butt off. Some times I will be in y office for 14 to 16 hours just working away and forget to even eat. This can and probably will happen to you. You know what comes with working 14 hour days, 7 days in a row? I’ll tell you, it’s called burn-out and it is awful. Plus, grad school is going to be a sizeable chunk of your life, so do you want to spend the entire time working? If the answer is yes, well I can’t really help you lol. But most people will say no. By resting, you can reset your bidy and actually become more productive. Also, I find that resting is when I come up with my best ideas.
4) Stay active while in grad school
Join a club, join a sports league, just stay active. This helps significantly end your day and transition into your “non-academic life”. I joined a kickball league, so my Wednesday nights are dedicated to that. It takes me away from my work so I can interact with other people. Also, has helped me make friends, reduce my stress levels, and control my anxiety. It is also a great way to exercise. That’s another part of staying active, exercise! If you are hesitant to start, I say start slowly with a walking challenge. I, also, suggest taking a look at my fitness page for more ideas. Studies have shown the benefits of exercise on student’s. Take full advantage of that.
5) Learn how to cook
The fastest way to lose all of your money and get bad eating habits would be to eat out all of the time. I get it, fast food is convenient and tasty. Yes, but it is expensive and can be unhealthy. I do love buying McDonalds every once in a while, though. Eating out is good in moderation, just don’t do it all of the time. One really good tip is to learn how to cook and in bulk. Rice, chicken, and vegetables is a healthy and very cheap meal. I bought a rice cooker, like this one. Don’t get me started on how you need a rice cooker in your life lol. Anyway, I will make brown rice, cook some vegetables up, and add chicken. Get your favorite hot sauce and you have a cheap and pretty healthy meal. Make this in bulk and bring it to your office the next day.
Also, cooking is a great way to make friends too. You can invite people over for a dinner which will definitely impress them. Going out to dinner can be costly, but having a spaghetti dinner for 2 to 10 can be way cheaper and fun . You will impress the heck out of them.
6) Find a way to get to class other than driving.
If you live close to campus, the best way, that I find to get to class, is by walking. It is great exercise and gives me a time to just, be. Life can be quite much sometimes but all those worries tend to just subside during that 30 minute walk to campus. I wrote about the ways that grad students can get to class. You should go and check it out here. There are so many different ways to get to class though. Scootering is fun, walking, biking, running?, literally any way you want. But one thing I advise against, unless you live millions of miles away, is driving yourself to campus. There are so many resources available like busses to get you to campus. Use these resources because it will save you the hassle of buying a parking pass, finding parking, and paying for gas.
7) If you are having trouble, reach out.
One of the best parts of grad school is the amount of help you can get. I said above about professors helping, well, they are not the only resource. There are so many resources that can help you with any problem that you have. One of the things you will find in grad school is that you will need help with something. This can be with school, your health, how to cook, you need help with peer review, etc. There are resources for those. In fact, I can be one of your resources too. ‘
The best resource that I had was being able to see a therapist. This was included in my insurance. I hope this is included in yours as well because it is a great opportunity. If you are wondering what my experience was, check out my blog about it. But, just know that there are so many resources available and you really need to take advantage of them. They are there to help you.
8) Back up your computer and files often
I can not stress this enough. Have a back up of everything that you do. Accidents do happen and life brings a ton of curveballs. I have had work just disappear all of a sudden. My buddy had his hard drive crash and it was going to cost him $700 to extract what was on it. Back up your work!!!!! Honestly, this may be the best tip you see on this list. You will write a lot of stuff and have a ton of data. You do not want to lose months or even years of data because your computer died on you. Also, fun fact, coffee will absolutely destroy your computer if spilled on. So, please get a way to back up your stuff. It may save you years of work.
9) Write everyday!
I have written about the importance of writing. You can go and check it out here. Anyway, you will spend a ton of time writing and you should. Grad school consists of this huge thing called a thesis. It’s big, it’s scary, and you’ll have to write it. But, if you take my advice right now, and write everyday, you will see it’s really not that bad. In fact, you might even write it in much less time than you though. Writing is like practice. The more you do it, the better you get and easier it is. Many people in grad school don’t write enough which dulls their ability to write. Sharpen those skills by writing each day and it will make life so much easier later on. 1000 words seems so achievable if you have been doing it every day. It seems almost impossible is you haven’t written in a while, though.
10) Live in the moment, not the future
I want to finish this list with a favorite tip for grad school . I often find myself thinking about what needs to be done or what the next day has for me and often forget that all that I have guaranteed in my life is the moment that I am in. Sometimes the best way to reduce stress and anxiety is just focus on the now. Yes, there may be deadlines looming, but those aren’t here yet. Focus on what you can do right now and less of what needs to get done. My therapist told me to focus on the now. I spend a ton of time worrying about the future and don’t really take advantage of what’s going on in the moment. Take some time out of your day to just focus on what’s going on around you. You will find that anxiety subsides and you gain some clarity. You don’t know what the future holds, so why worry about it?
Here are some of the 10 best tips for grad school that I can come up with to help you in grad school. These tips have helped me a ton and I guarantee they will help you too. I really hope your grad school experience is great and let me know some other tips in the comment. As always, I hope you have a great day and week.