If I were to Redo my PhD

My doctorate is coming to an end. In a few months, I will be Dr. Ben and off on another adventure, this time in Miami. There are quite a few emotions that I have gone through in the last few weeks. Sadness, anger, extreme happiness, and also a ton of nostalgia. I will be leaving the one thing that I have known for the past 25 years of my life…school. But it is time that I move on to big and exciting things. I have a job lined up in Miami, so I will be heading off to do that next year. I’m very excited. Today, I wanted to discuss what i would do differently if I could redo my PhD. I have thought a lot about this and want to share with you what I would do if I were to go back for a PhD all over again.

redo my phd

The First 2 years

Let us start off with the first 2 years and what i would do differently. These years are crucial to your doctorate. Many people say that the last few years are the most important, but I strongly believe the first 2 are the most important. These are the years where you decide if getting a PhD is even worth it. You are getting valuable experience and are able to leave and master’s out if you want, at this stage. You also learn a ton about yourself. These years will test you to see if academia is the right fit.

So what would I do differently these years if I could?

First off, I would spend more time enjoying life and trying new things like playing sports or exploring the college. I would join clubs, build friendships, and just have fun. These years, I would treat school like a 9 to 5 job and leave every day at the same time. I wouldn’t go home to do more work, I’d go do things that I enjoy. Because these years are so crucial to your success, if you burn out, you probably won’t last very long.

For work, I would start small in these years. I would try and get into a few projects that maybe other students are doing. This would be good because then you can get an authorship on their papers. It would give a ton of really good experience too. The first 2 years are going to be a bit slower, so take full advantage of that but don’t work yourself to death.

During my Qualifying Exam Year

If I were to redo my PhD, I would focus a ton on changing what I did during this year. I worked myself to death and hit major burn out during my qualifying exam. If you want to read more about it, go check out my post (link HERE). I would definitely redo this part of my doctorate and work a lot less. My proposal turned out to be like 150 pages long when in reality, it was supposed to be like 30 pages max. I went overboard and that really led to a world of hurt when I couldn’t do work for a while afterwards.

During the last years

I am in the final stretch and, yes, there are things that I wish I could do differently during these times. The first, and most important, is talk more with my adviser on what I need to accomplish to finish grad school. Communication is key during these last few semesters and you really need to be on top of things. I was not which has caused some pretty difficult things to happen. I wish I communicated more and was on the same page about everything.

The second thing that i would change would be to relax more. It is tough. I have had many late nights and early mornings in the office and lab. This has led to some really mentally taxing and physically taxing weeks. I developed stomach pains, addiction to caffeine, and my weight began really fluctuating a ton which is not good. I pushed myself harder than I had ever done and I am here to tell you that it is not worth it. Hard work is good to an extent. Once you starting getting negative effects of it, you have gone too far. That is something that I would redo if I could.

Lastly, I would spend more time with my friends. I, honestly, haven’t been a good friend because I have put work above my relationships with others. I gave up kickball, my parttime job, and anything fun in order to finish this degree. It wasn’t worth it. Yes, you have to make some sacrifices, but I gave it all up. Do not be like me and give everything up for one more extra hour of work, or one more experiment. It really isn’t worth it.

Other things that I would redo

Ok, so lets talk about some other things I would do if I were to redo my PhD. I’ll start off with this, go to more conference. I have only been to 1 conference thanks to COVID…I wish I could go to more. Another thing I would do if I were to redo my PhD is apply to scholarships constantly. There’s so much money and funding out there. I wish I took advantage of that. Unfortunately I did not.

I would also take up more hobbies or learn more skills. I think learning coding would be fun or possibly learning how to play an instrument. Instead of focusing all of my time reading boring papers about lead, I might use that time to hone some skills. I don’t know, it sounds like a good idea.

Final Thoughts

I do not regret getting a PhD. This was one of the craziest, most exciting, challenging, times of my life and was well worth it. The effort I put into it was a bit much, but it all worked out. I will be a doctor soon and that is something that is pretty darn cool. If you are finishing up grad school, let me know what you would do differently if you could redo it again.

Feeling Dumb in Grad School

Hello to all of my favorite people. It has been a long time since I have written a post and i promise that won’t be the case here on out. I have been trying to finish up my thesis writing and have hit a bit of a road block that has now allowed me to focus on other things, rather than just writing. I will update everyone probably tomorrow about what is going on. Anyway, todays topic is about feeling dumb in grad school and how grad school will always make you feel dumb. Spoilers, it is not a bad thing and you should be ok with feeling dumb.

feeling dumb in grad school

Why you feel dumb in grad school

Let us start off with why we feel so dumb in grad school. The short answer is, because we are learning stuff that we are not familiar with. It is as simple as that. You are going to learn about subjects that you didn’t even know existed. On top of that, you are going to go into detail on those topics. Because of this, you you will be hit with a ton of new information, all at once, which can be extremely overwhelming.

feeling dumb in grad school is like playing sports

Imaging trying to learn how to play a sport and you are thrown into a professional league right away. This is very similar. You may have a background in something that is completely different than what you are going to learn in grad school. It’s like being good at baseball and being forced to play something like competitive pool. You may have the skills to be good at one thing, but you need to start from the bottom to be good at the next.

There are very intelligent people

On top of the new and difficult concepts that you will be learning, you also will feel dumb because you are around people that have been doing this for years, sometimes decades. You’ll probably experience our good friend “imposter syndrome” quite often. I highly suggest reading about that on my website (Link HERE). This is one of the major challenges that people will face, and it will make them feel so stupid. I promise you that it is part of the process and you won’t feel so dumb in grad school after a while.

Feeling dumb in grad school is good

So, now that you probably feel bad that you are in a program that makes you feel dumb, I’m sorry if I made you feel this way, we can get into why feeling dumb is great. And by great, I mean important. See, feeling dumb means that you are in a situation that you are not an expert in or know very little in. Grad school is all about this. What is the main reason that one goes to grad school? To learn how to do research, be a professional, and do the hard stuff. Each one requires doing work that not many people have ever done. You might get it wrong, but you get good at it and become a master. Because you work on things that make you feel dumb, you become the smartest in that topic. You can explore it all you want.

Dumb in research

For those that are doing research, feeling dumb should be the best possible feeling because you can learn something that no one has ever done. Not knowing about a subject is awesome because you now can learn about it and become an expert in that subject if you want to. I constantly feel dumb and that’s were my curiosity in grad school comes from. Yes, I look at papers all day and feel dumb because I can’t understand 90% of what is being presented, but that piques my curiosity and I end up looking into that subject. That’s where you learn a ton. Feeling dumb about something usually leads to the greatest discoveries.

Also, research is all about finding answers or potential answers to things. You do the research and the experiments to find out answers and sometimes those answers don’t make any sense, but at least it is out there. I constantly get data that really tests my knowledge and sometimes it makes me feel really dumb. But that’s good because it will give you motivation to find out what is going on. That could lead to some ground breaking knowledge that changes the world. I bet Nobel prize winners probably felt pretty dumb about their research.

feeling dumb in grad school

How to feel less dumb or cope with the feeling

Feeling dumb is great for a bit. Over time, it might get a little irritating, especially if you aren’t really used to it. There are a few ways in which you can feel less dumb. But ultimately, accepting that you don’t know everything is the best thing to do. So let us start with that, acceptance.

Acceptance

Ok, so this is probably the best way that I found to overcome the awkwardness of feeling dumb, and that is, just accepting that i know nothing. People want to be all-knowing, and I find that to be exhausting. Most people don’t know a lot of stuff. They may be an expert in their own field, but might not know a thing about anything else. Accepting that you don’t know everything is a great way to just get over the feeling of being dumb, or at least reduce it. Instead of getting frustrated by not knowing a lot, especially when talking to something that knows a lot about another subject, spend that time absorbing what they are saying. Use it as a learning experience. So, overall, accept that you don’t know that much but try and learn as much as you can and don’t be one of those people that thinks they know everything, I despise those people.

Stay away from difficult subjects

You can always go back to your comfort zone where you know everything about the subjects you like. This is fine but the feeling of being dumb may never go away. I know people that hide in this little bubble and try and steer the subject to that so they can sound like a genius. I highly recommend not doing this.

Compassionate pep talk

I am going to tell you a secret. You are not dumb, I promise. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you this to help out. Sometime, you need to tell yourself this. In the morning, look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are smart, kind, funny, beautiful, and every other adjective there is to describe the amazing person you are. In fact, go do that right now. For real, go. I’ll wait………………………Ok, you’re back? How do you feel now? Hopefully good. Sometimes you just need a good pep talk.

Final Thoughts

If you want some more ways to feel less dumb in grad school, go check out this post by the Dive Thru (link here). You know and I know that you are a smart person. Feeling dumb is part of the grad school experience. It’s a hard one to deal with, but you will overcome the feeling. Just remember to be kind, and keep looking forward. You’ve got this.

Caffeine Use in grad School

Today is a productive day, and it’s only 10 am. Yes, I have been up, focusing on getting work done, and having the capabilities of being able to finish everything because of the wonderous effects of caffeine. Unfortunately, I am at a place in my doctorate program where I heavily relying on caffeine to get me just to 12 pm without falling asleep. It’s a blessing and a curse. So today, I want to discuss caffeine use in grad school. Kind of a new and weird concept. But, I think, it’s a very important topic. Let’s get into it.

coffee in grad school

How much is too much caffeine in grad school

I was reading a blog post about a grad student that has never had a caffeinated drink in his life. Here’s the article if you are curious. Of course, this is quite the anomaly in grad school. Many people are extremely dependent on caffein usage. I am one of those people, unfortunately. See, I made the mistake of drinking caffeine, in high amounts, as an undergrad. Because of this, I became extremely dependent on caffein consumption, just to get through the day. But as an engineering student, I really needed the extra boost or I wouldn’t have done as well as I did.

I hit the limits of caffeine consumption that one can get to. As I have written before, I am an avid gymgoer. My caffeine consumption came from preworkout to get me through those crazy workouts before class. The more I took, the more I needed just to get by. There were days where I would hit about 1g of caffeine. On average, a cup of coffee is about 100 mg. So I was consuming 10X that amount a day. The problem with this is not just the heart palpitations or the anxiety, it’s getting used to that amount and relying on that or else you get the worst headache of your life.

Why we drink so much caffeine in grad school

We all know that grad school is tough. It’s mentally and sometimes physically demanding and the hours are long. People don’t quite understand this sometimes and they don’t really understand the struggles that grad school brings. Caffeine us in grad school is high because we need it to get stuff done. Grad school does not have a schedule and you will have quite a few nights in the lab and have to wake early for class. Many times, I will come in to my lab at 6 or 7 am and not leave until 11 pm, then have to come right back in at 7 to finish an experiment. This is one of the reasons grad students love caffeine so much and rely on it.

Another reason why grad student rely on caffeine is because it brings clarity and innovation. Imagine, for a moment, you get results back from an experiment that you did. You are looking at all of the data and have to come up with a reasoning of why this is happening. What fundamental scientific principles are at play and do these results even make sense. Drink a cup of caffeine right before and you may just have a few “aha” moments. Most of my great ideas have come from either long walks around campus or moments of intense caffeination.

Caffeine use in grad school

Is caffeine good while in grad school?

I think the daily cup of coffee is actually quite good for grad students. It helps with productivity, learning, and just puts people in a better mood. I think when you become dependent on caffeine is when things get a little shaky. If you are able to limit yourself to less than 300 mg a day, I think that is a good amount for peak optimization of grad school potential. Any more than this and you may start feeling the negative effects of caffeine (headache, falling asleep at 1 pm, crankiness).

I think caffeine is a great thing in grad school. It has helped me significantly and given me the motivation to continue the long tasks that I need to do to finish my program. Having too much is bad though. Quite like grad school, you need to do an experiment and find out where you are most productive and what level of caffeine you need to hit this spot. If you have too much, you’ll be too jittery to do anything, too little and you’ll fall asleep at your desk.

What to drink in grad school

Coffee is the way to go. Sometimes I drink energy drinks, but those tend to make me extremely jittery and anxious. Both are very bad in grad school. Coffee has been my go to ever since I started. I try and limit the amount to 2 cups a day but often find me making a third cup. If you want to read more about coffee in grad school, go check out my blog posts about it. You can find one here and here.

Try and stay away from caffeine pills or anything similar. These can lead to overconsumption of caffeine which can cause some problems. I say, if you want caffeine, stick with tea or coffee. Some people absolutely hate the taste of coffee. In that case, tea is the way to go. You can find a billion different flavors of tea with various amounts of caffeine.

Final Thoughts

I want to thank coffee for the wonderful 4 years in grad school and the amount of motivation it has given me. It really is a wonderful thing, caffeine is. I always look forward to my cup of iced coffee in the morning and definitely look forward to my second and third cups. Let me know in the comments what your favorite form of caffeine is? Are you a coffee, tea, energy drink type of person? Let me know.

Now comes everyone’s favorite segment, grad school memes!!!! Today I want to give you two. I know I haven’t posted in a while, so I want to make it up to you guys and gals. Enjoy!

grad school memes
Chan Narula
Grad school meme
David Hontz

Fun Things to Do in Grad School

Why grad school experience is coming to an end in a few months. It has been a wonderful and exhausting experience, but one that I am very proud of tackling. Grad school was one of the best experiences of my life, and I will truly miss it. So today, I want to look back on all of the years of grad school and share with you the fun things that one can do in grad school. I promise you that grad school is not always about working and being stressed. In fact, it is primarily finding out who you are, what you want to do in life, and experiencing messing around with cool liquids and seeing how many reactions can occur (lol). So today, let’s dive deep into the fun things to do in grad school.

jumpshot photography of woman in white and yellow dress near body of water
Photo by Quang Anh Ha Nguyen on Pexels.com

Let’s discuss my favorite things to do in grad school

So, I want to list off a few of my favorite things to do while I was in grad school, then I will focus on some other things that are fun that I maybe did or I knew about. Grad school isn’t supposed to be a terrible experience. It will have bad times, but everything will have bad times. It is a time to have fun before you experience the “real world” I suppose. Anyway, here are some things that I found to be really fun while in grad school.

1) Going to sports games for free or really discounted prices.

You are a student still. Most colleges have it to where you can go to most sports games for free or at a really discounted rate. it is a great stress reliever and just a fun activity to do. You can grab a friend and just go to some form of game, almost every day. My personal favorites are basketball and football games. Those were just so much fun to go to.

2) Just going around the town and exploring what it has to offer.

This isn’t just for grad students, but I find grad students are more likely to do this. For me, while I was in undergrad, I wanted to party and spend most of my time at the bars, house parties, or literally anywhere that a ton of people were. The past couple of years, I have started to find value in not doing those things, exploring the towns around UF, and seeing what is out there. I have started to just walk around the blocks and see what shops and stores are there. You will be surprised to find that there I actually quite a lot for college towns that don’t have anything to do with the college itself. I found trails, parks, bike paths, cool restaurants, and even zoos that I didn’t know were there. Try it out. You just might find something really cool.

football player carrying brown football
Photo by football wife on Pexels.com

3) Going to free events on campus

There are shows, random events, talks, presentations, and various other things that happen all of the time on campus. I love going to presentations on subjects that don’t really go with my research. Things like talking about robotics, or AI, or something that I have no clue about. I also love going to the free events on campus that give out food. I couldn’t care less about the event, I just want the pizza that they give lol. The college will mostly likely have something going on every day that is free and gives food or t-shirts or something free. Take full advantage of these. I do and have gotten many free items, shirts, food, and met some friends along the way. Free events on campus are my go to when I am frustrated in the lab too. It’s a good stress reliever too.

Other fun things to do in grad school

I want to add a few more things that you can do to make grad school a fun and exciting experience. Some of these, I have done, while others are just some fun things that I have seen or heard of doing while in grad school.

selective focus photography of paintbrush near paint pallet
Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

1) Pick up a hobby

I have written quite a few articles about hobbies in grad school. If you want to get some ideas, go check out my post about hobbies to take up in grad school (link here). You are going to have some free time in grad school. Spend that time doing something that brings you joy. Hobbies are extremely fun and will make those bad days turn into great ones. I took up wood carving (link here). Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to carve in some time due to how busy life has gotten recently. Many people take up cooking or going to the gym or really anything that takes their mind off of their work. I suggest you do too.

2) Join a club or sports league and meet friends

I have written about join intramural sports and clubs before. They are so much fun and will definitely make grad school much more enjoyable. Go check out my blog posts (link here) about doing both of these. This is a fun thing to do in grad school because you get to meet people, get active, and you are able to just an enjoyable time. I promise you that both of these are worth the time.

woman pouring cappuccino
Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

3) Go to cool coffee shops

This is something that I have not really done in grad school but t seems fun. College towns are notorious for having a ton of coffee shops. Go find as many as you can and maybe just sit down and do some work in each one. I think this is such a cool thing to do and I definitely want to try this before I leave. It definitely beats going to the same Starbucks every day lol.

4) Explore the local pubs and breweries

Something about going to pubs and breweries just really excites every grad student I have ever met. I think it’s the drinking but also the atmosphere. Breweries are cool places to go to unwind and grab some food and a beverage. There are a ton in Gainesville to go to and I am sure that other college towns have quite a few as well. They usually offer good prices on food and drinks and most even have games to play such as Bingo, Trivia, and board games. Bring your friends and go hang at the local pubs and breweries. They’re really fun and often not crowded.

Final Thoughts

These are just some of the fun things that I have done and others have done in grad school. Of course, there are a million ways to have fun while in grad school. Let me know in the comments what you do for fun. It doesn’t even have to be what you do for fun in grad school. Just let everyone know what it is you like to do for fun.

Now, it’s time for grad school meme of the day. Below is my favorite that I have seen this week. I hope you find it enjoyable as well. As always, I hope you all have a wonderful day and week. I will see you all in the next one. Peace.

Mark Olson

Is Grad School Harder Than Undergrad?

I feel like grad students want any reason to boast about being a grad student. We really want people to know how tough things are, why we are superior, and why grad students are better than undergrads. But is grad school harder than undergrad and is our struggle actually justifiable? Well, today I want to cover this topic and why I think that grad school can be harder than undergrad and also why it isn’t as bad as undergrad. Also, at the end, I’ll share a grad school meme with you. But promise me that you will read a little bit of this post before going directly to the mem. Anyway, let’s get into the super exciting, and super informative topic of….IS GRAD SCHOOL HARDER THAN UNDERGRAD?????????

stressed black male entrepreneur working on laptop in park
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Is A Master’s harder than Undergrad?

You might be asking this question as you start your grad school journey. You may have heard horror stories about grad school and how difficult it is. Yes, grad school can be pretty difficult but it can also be a cake walk. If you are one that is going into a master’s program, you will most definitely get into some very difficult concepts. For me, I went from undergrad engineering into a master’s in engineering. Was there a difference in material? Not really. Was it harder than undergrad? Absolutely not. In fact, my master’s was much easier than undergrad because I was taking the same classes I took before.

This is not always the case. You may get into a master’s program that has some pretty tough coursework. The main reason it is tough is because you will be learning about stuff that you may not have ever learned before. Many of your undergrad courses dealt with topics that covered a ton of subjects but didn’t dive too deep into one field. In a master’s program, you start learning more about one or two subjects in depth. This will bring up some very complex ideas and concepts that only a few people in the world have mastered. You get to learn about that and try and master it yourself! That is where things can get more difficult.

So is it harder than undergrad?

So, if you were to ask me if a master’s was more difficult than undergrad, I would say it really depends on what you got your BS degree in. If it was in something like engineering, a master’s is just a continuation and even easier than undergrad. If you are getting a master’s in finance and only took business classes in undergrad then yes, a master’s is going to be difficult. This is because you are diving deep into subjects that you barely covered in undergrad.

overworked adult female entrepreneur with papers in light modern office
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Is A PhD harder than Undergrad?

A PhD is just hard. It doesn’t come down to the concepts or the course load. It is hard because it is a mental stressor that will take you places that are pretty depressing. But more about that later. If you want to look at coursework then I would say a PhD is harder than undergrad. You are taking classes that are hyper-focused on the subject in which you are doing your thesis on. You may have to take multiple classes on very tough topics that are taught by professors that are the only people that can decipher the text book. Will you fail the classes? Probably not. Yes, you learn some very difficult concepts but you are not going to fail any class that you take. If you do then either something happened that semester in which you were not able to do the work or you tried really hard to fail.

So what’s harder? A PhD or undergrad?

The course work and work load are pretty rigorous but you learn quickly on how to make them less strenuous. The part that really makes a PhD harder than undergrad is the time spent with your thoughts. The beauty about undergrad is you have a ton going on, all of the time. You are probably taking 4 classes, going out each night, hanging with people, joining clubs, you get the picture. In a PhD program, you can do a lot of things but they will mostly be towards your research. You won’t be as active as you were in undergrad and you will spend a great amount of time by yourself. Not only by yourself, but by yourself in thoughts too. See, there are very few people you can go to for help with your research. You are on your own and that’s lonely. I truly believe this makes a PhD harder than undergrad. In undergrad, when you got stumped on a problem, you just looked at the back of the book. There is no “back of the book” in a PhD, because the problems are unique to your research.

brown concrete building
Photo by Czapp Árpád on Pexels.com

Is Undergrad Harder than Grad School?

So, I had to put this in here as well. There may be someone tat types in “is undergrad harder than grad school?” I don’t know why they would, but I am sure someone will. Undergrad, in my opinion was hard because it was such a life transition for me and so many others. It is the first time you really live somewhere by yourself. You will feel alone, homesick, happy, sad, overwhelmed, all at once. It can be scary and the best experience all at once.

You won’t be taking high school courses anymore. This means you actually have to study for exams and A’s are not given out unless you work for them. Undergrad, especially in the beginning can be harder than grad school. See, once you get to grad school, you’ve gone through all that emotional stuff and you know how the system works. When you first start out in undergrad, you are starting fresh.

I would say freshman year, or if you are a transfer, junior year, are the hardest years for a college student. You have so much to learn and really not that much time to master it. This can really cause problems and makes these years some of the hardest I’ve faced ever. Grad school was a piece of cake compared to when I transferred to UF. That first semester was the hardest semester of my life. So, in a way, yes, undergrad can be harder than grad school. In fact, I think undergrad is actually the hardest years of college due to the emotional transition and finding yourself.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to really say what the hardest years of college are because they are different for everyone. Grad school can certainly be a tough experience but sometimes undergrad is even harder. For me, undergrad was the hardest years of my college life. Grad school has been difficult, but I have a ton of tools in my academic toolbelt that have helped me along the way. People will find that grad school is more difficult than undergrad. Depending on the master’s or PhD program, you could be doing so really hard stuff. Either way, grad school will challenge you in a ton of different ways, but you are all ready for it. Don’t be afraid to do difficult things. I guarantee you’ll be just fine.

MEME TIME!!!!

I want to incorporate more grad school memes into my work, so here’s today’s! If you want more, go check out my posts about my favorite grad school memes as well as my favorite comics/jokes (Here are the links 1, 2, and 3).

grad school memes
Amie Paige

What is Grad School Like

I don’t believe that I have dealt with this particular topic. I always dance around what grad school is like, but never quite make blog posts about it. So, today, that’s what I am going to do. I want to go over what grad school is like and how to prepare for it. I have been in grad school for 5 years now (dang!) so I have a god idea on what to expect during this time.

Now, if you are new to grad school or are thinking about applying and want to know more, I suggest taking a good look at my website (link here). Technically you are on my website now, but that link is for easy access. Take a look at all of the posts and I am sure you will find something related to your question. That will help to give you some idea of what to expect when you start your grad school life chapter.

What grad school is like

Let’s Get into What Grad School is Like

So, grad school is going to be a bit different than your undergrad years. At first, you will be in a similar situation as you were in undergrad, but that will eventually change. Each grad program is a bit different, though. You will not be doing the same things as an MBA student as you would if you were getting your PhD. Law students and Medical students do different things than someone getting a master’s in literature. Each program is designed a certain way to make sure that the graduates are prepared for careers in that field. So, like many on the internet will say, grad school is an apprenticeship.

What a master's degree is like

What are Master’s Programs Like?

A master’s program can be a harder and more challenging extension of your undergrad studies or it can be completely different. Depending on the path you take, you might just be taking classes for 2 years, or you might be doing research. If it’s the former, then a master’s program will just be like an undergrad degree. You may even find it easier than undergrad since you’ll be taking fewer classes. The work load will be tough, but nothing crazy. If you go research, it will be more apprenticeship than anything. you’ll have class work, but you will also be learning research skills on top of this.

It is also going to go by extremely quickly. Some people think that grad school will be very similar to undergrad and go by relatively quickly, but no, it goes by even faster. I found that the two years of my master’s almost seemed like 2 semesters worth of school. I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that I actually got into a master’s program and then it was over.

Luckily, I continued on to my PhD, so I got to stay on a bit longer. Trust me when I say it goes by fast. You will be plenty busy and have a ton of things that you are taking on all at once. If you are in a not-so-difficult master’s program, you’ll likely take on extra work, such as a part-time job, or you might just go have fun every day. Either way, you’re going to be busy regardless of how much work you have.

what a PhD is like

What a PhD is Like?

This one is my specialty. Ok, well only a PhD in Environmental Engineering, but from what I am told, many PhD programs are very similar. I’ll spend a bit longer going over what a PhD is like, since I have plenty of experience with this one. So, first off, a PhD is not an extension of undergrad. In fact, it is completely different than all of your previous studies. A PhD in an apprenticeship. You are learning to do research. You are not just getting “smarter” or “more educated”. In fact, you are learning how dumb you really are and how difficult/complicated life and research is lol.

It’s different

People often think that doing a PhD is just staying in school, taking exams, learning more about subjects, then doing a silly little project. In fact, a PhD is a journey where you learn how to do research, develop ideas, learn skills, and understand (and be ok with) that life is much more complicated than what our books have told us. No, it’s not just for smart people. In fact a PhD is for anyone that truly wants to learn a ton about one particular subject. I would say being smart won’t get you a PhD. It can help to some extent, but it won’t get you to the end. No, being tenacious will get you to the end.

It’s research

Anyway, a PhD is learning research skills, how to do independent research, and how to truly distinguish BS. It is definitely different than a masters because you will probably spend most of your day, buy yourself, reading about things that might be a bit difficult to understand. You will be by yourself a ton, both physically and mentally. Then mentally part is the most challenging to be honest.

You’ll be burnt out a bit and frustrated mot of the time. But, you keep coming back because you love the work you do. You start to crave the “failures” and start to see the world differently. A PhD changes you significantly. And trust me when I say this, it truly isn’t for everyone. I found it fitting for myself and will actually miss it a ton when I graduate. But, if you asked me if I would do it over again, I’d laugh, maybe cry a bit, and walk away.

What an MBA is like

What an MBA is like

Ok, for the next few grad programs, I am only speculating based on friends who have gone through the programs. From what I observed, an MBA is like a mini vacation. I have known a significant amount of people that have done an MBA and they all say that the work is extremely easy. The only difficult part is gaining the networking skills that an MBA is known for. Once you learn how to network, negotiate, just plain talk to people, an MBA becomes the easiest thing in the world. So, when doing an MBA, expect the course work to be fairly easy. Focus mainly on the other skills because that really makes you stand out.

what law school is like

What Law School is Like

I may get a ton of hate from law students for this or I might not, I don’t know. I had the privilege of experiencing what law school is like because of my girlfriend. So, I got to see first hand how it affects people and what they go through, though, I didn’t do it myself. Law school is a mixture of a master’s program and PhD.

You have the heavy course work throughout while also doing an apprenticeship. You need to learn a lot about a lot of things and learn how to be a lawyer at the same time. This can be very difficult for people because it is an overload of work and stress. Law school is not a “fun time” in the sense of being able to go out all the time and actually enjoy life. No, it’s fun because you learn to be a lawyer. I mean, you applied and got in to law school for that reason, right?

From my observation, law school is just a 3 year long test to see how well you can handle stress. You will be tired, extremely caffeinated, and probably still burnt out from the first year. By the time you get to the third year, you’ve considered dropping out at least 50 times, but you don’t because you already put in the work. You finish and take the Bar and become a lawyer. That’s how I saw it. I know there’s more, but I would need to have my girlfriends write that portion lol. She’s the expert.

Final Thoughts

Grad school is quite a different experience than undergrad. It’s not nearly as bad as people make it out to be, though. You may have some bad times while being a grad student, but you’ll have even more good times. I want to finish this post with a grad school meme. I have more of them (link here). I want to finish these posts with more of them to be honest. We will see. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this post about what grad school is like. I had fun writing about my experience lol.

by Benjamin Miller

How to Make Grad School Easier

It’s coming down to the end for me. I am 6 months away from graduating with a PhD in engineering! This is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. The exciting part is being able to call myself Doctor Ben. The scary part is having to write up my dissertation, present my data, and defend my thesis. These are all very difficult things to do. Thinking about the difficult things made me wonder “how could I have made grad school easier?” So, todays topic is how to make grad school easier so you don’t stress too much towards the end.

Grad school is all about learning to do research, or for master’s students, learning to do independent thinking. This makes it very tough because you are so used to a set way of thinking. That is, reading, learning in a classroom, and taking tests. Now they want you to actually do independent research and become a professional all by yourself? That’s crazy talk. It’s true though and that makes things a bit more complicated.

Make grad school easy from the beginning

As you go through the grad school process, especially in the beginning, there will be a huge learning curve. This can make things a bit more complicated and quite stressful. There are a few things that you can do from the start that will definitely help you get past this. Here are a few ways in which you can start off your grad school easier than other people.

1) Have a set plan and stick to it

If you are in a PhD program, spend a day planning out what you want to get done each semester. Write down a list of actually achievable things that you can do. Don’t put down something like “finish 3 chapters of my dissertation:. That’s not reasonable and quite difficult to do at first without data lol. No, write down things like “going to start writing my literature review” or something like “will read 3 papers a week that pertain to my research”. These are both very achievable and will definitely help in the long run. Just make sure to stick with it. Don’t come in every day trying to come up with work to do. Have something already planned.

2) Develop an organization plan for data and papers and such

This is such an important piece of advice to make things way easier in grad school. Whether you are doing class work or research, have an organization plan. This means having folders for everything, keeping things consistent, and making sure things can be found easily when you need it. My suggestion is having folders on your computer for finished items, data, written reports and papers, and your dissertation. This will make it easy to fins when the time comes to use what you have.

3) Have weekly, if not biweekly meeting with your adviser

This is primarily focused towards those that are doing research. Schedule frequent meeting with your adviser to make sure that you are on schedule and doing what needs to get done. This is super important because they will be your guide through the whole process. You don’t want to have to stay multiple years or not hit milestones because you weren’t on schedule with what your adviser wants you to do.

Talk with them frequently, especially at the beginning. You are probably going to be working on their research so you want to makes sure you are doing it correctly. By not following directions, you may get set back a lot of time, which is never good.

How to make grad school easy throughout

I want to tell you a few ways in order to make sure the whole grad school experience is a smooth and easy one. The last thing you want is a situation where you spend 6 years of your life counting down the days in which you can leave. You don’t want to struggle through the whole experience. Grad school goes by fast, but slows down dramatically if each day is terrible. Here are a few things that will help make the whole experience way easier.

1) Stay on top of your writing

Write every single day. Do not put off writing until the end. Trust me. As someone who struggles with writing, I can assure you that putting it off until the last few months will only hurt you in the end. If you can, write at least a paragraph for something each day. Develop writing skills that will help you when you are writing a manuscript or thesis. I have found that blogging has significantly helped and has actually made me excited for the thesis writing portion of my PhD. I am not even close to being the best writer, but I sure have come a long way since I started.

2) Treat your PhD like a 9 to 5 job

There are a few posts online where a professor or grad student says you need to put in 80 hours a week in order to succeed. They say treating a PhD like a job will cause you to fail because you didn’t put in the time or effort. These people have one thing in common, well two. 1) They are miserable and trying to make you feel bad and 2) they are wrong. The best piece of advice I received was to treat it as a job. Put in the work during those hours and you will end up fine. Sure, you may need to work more than this, but not all of the time. A PhD is a marathon, not a sprint. Burnout is real (read about it here), and putting 80+ hours a week is going to lead to a bad time. The only thing that really matters is how productive you are. If you spend 90 hours in the lab but only 2 hours of that was productive then you didn’t do a good job lol. Focus on productivity. 3 good hours of productive work is better than 12 hours of fooling around.

3) Learn to be ok with failure from the get go

This is the last piece of advice to make grad school easy. Learn how to fail and learn to be ok with failure. Desensitize yourself to failure. Stop caring that you did fail. Fail over and over and over. What I don’t want you to do is beat yourself up over it. You are going to get kicked in the face, figuratively speaking, more times in grad school than you would like. You are going to fail over and over and think that nothing will work. This is the best thing in the world, trust me. Research is diving into the unknown and figuring things out. You will not solve all of your problems the first round, or the second round, or the third round of experiments. It’s the nth round where you will succeed. You just need to be persistent and get there.

If you learn to be ok with failure than that will open up so many doors. you won’t be afraid to try new things. You won’t be afraid to have to do experiments multiple times. And, the best part, you will learn so much more from failing than you could ever imagine. Learn to be ok with it from the get go. It will help reduce all stress brought on by failure and you’ll become a better researcher because of it.

Final Thoughts

These are a few things to make grad school much, much easier. What are some things that you did in grad school that made the whole experience easier? I would love to read about them in the comments. As always, I hope you are all having a great time this week. We are right in the middle of summer so that means vacations are on the way. Make sure to go check out my posts on vacationing in grad school (link here). I will see you all in the next one. Peace.

How Can I Have Fun in Grad School

Do you ever ask yourself, “how do I have fun in grad school?” Wait, you do? So, if you do, you’re most likely a grad student yourself. You have probably exhausted your resources and have come to this blog to get answers to the toughest questions that you have. This is a tough question, I won’t lie to you. It is one of the toughest questions that you can ask yourself while in grad school. Having a fun time while in grad school is essential to your success, and it helps you not hate every minute you’re here.

Having fun while in grad school is not rocket science. If you are one that is in grad school for rocket science, you may find it to actually be fun. So, in that case, having fun is rocket science. Sorry, I am getting off track. Anyway, there are many ways to make the most out of grad school and have fun while doing it. People often read the horror stories of going to grad school and how they had a terrible time. This does not have to be you. Sure, there may be some things that aren’t fun about grad school, but you can have way more fun and exciting things than not fun and unexciting things.

So today I want to talk about a few things in grad school that really makes it fun and exciting. These things can be related to your academics, but I want to kind of shy away from that and find fun things that you can do outside work that will make the whole experience so much better. So, let us get started with the ways in which you can have fun while in grad school.

ways to have fun in grad school

Ways to Have Fun in Grad School

There are a gazillion ways to have fun while going to grad school. Yes, even if you are going to law school, you can still have fun (after you read 15 chapters). Grad school is not supposed to be 60 hours of work a week, no life, and no happiness. No, it’s supposed to be a time where you learn how to do research or be a lawyer or be a doctor. It’s a time in your life where you are able to mess up, and learn from those mistakes without much repercussion. It is a tough time, but you will be able to have some fun, I promise you this.

1) Have a friends group to have fun in grad school

The absolute bets thing that you can do in order to have as much fun as possible is find some friends. Going through grad school alone is something that no one needs to experience. Just the feeling of being alone is sending shivers down my spine. Get a group of friends to just hang out with and talk to. They can be part of your research group, people from other places, or you can use a phone app to find friends that are similar to you. Heck, use tinder and meet friends that way lol.

Having friends can really make the whole experience of grad school so much better. You might be in school for 3 to 8 years, so having people to vent to, go to dinner with, or just hang out will make those years the best. If you are like me, and have had trouble in the past finding friends, go check out my post about how to get friends in grad school (link here). These methods helped me significantly.

Pets in grad school

2) Get a Pet

Probably one of the best decisions that I have made was to get a pet while in grad school. Coming home to a very loud kitty is a great way to brighten up my day. Sirius, my cat, loves to run around and play with toys, but he especially loves to play with the cat wand that I bought him. This means that I have to engage in his play. Have you ever not had fun while watching a cat chase after a mouse on a string? It’s so much fun and get’s you out of the work zone. He has truly made the grad school experience so much more enjoyable and fun because he forces me to have fun.

This is the same with dogs. Taking a dog to a dog park and watching them play is down right awesome. Bring a tennis ball and play fetch with them. What’s even more fun about taking a dog to a dog park is there are other dogs to interact with. if you play fetch, you might have your dog and 20 others chasing after the ball. You can’t be miserable watching all those furry animals chasing after a tennis ball. It’s just not possible.

3) Learn to Love The Journey

Did you know that you can make everything in your life not fun if you change your mindset to a way where you think of only negative things? Yeah, it can happen. Even going to a party with all of your friends can be terrible if you only think about the negative things. What I am saying is, the amount of fun you can have is solely up to you and the way you look at things. The journey to getting a degree is long, but if you have a positive mindset, the journey can be a fun and exciting one. If you thing negatively about the journey, all fun tends to disappear.

I found that counting my blessing each day and really focusing on the positive aspects of grad school has significantly made it more enjoyable and fun. I am in a good mood most of the time which really helps me to find all of the fun things that come with grad school. It’s easy to have fun at work when you are already in a good mood. Try it out and see if it works for you.

Sports to have fun in grad school

4) Join a sports league

I currently am on a kickball team that plays every Wednesday. This gives me a lot to look forward to each week and a way to relieve stress. Plus, I get to have a fun time playing kickball against friends. Joining a sports league can be quite a rewarding experience. You get to stay active, meet people, and for at least an hour, the only thing you worry about is playing. Having fun is the ultimate goal (and winning for some) and you get that when you join sports leagues. If you are more competitive, there are always leagues that place really good players against each other. If you want to just go out and have fun, there are a ton of leagues that do that too.

Intramurals are also extremely fun and you get to meet a ton of people. Grad students love joining theses leagues and you are bound to interact with quite a few. I played flag football with only grad students and had a wonderful time. We lost every game but had so much fun playing.

Hobbies in grad school

5) Start a new hobby

You can start a new hobby or continue with the ones that you have now. I have a few hobbies that I actively participate in to make my grad school experience way more fun. One is wood carving. It is a great way to learn patience and you get to create some really cool things. Another hobby that I have is fishing. Unfortunately, I can’t do this as often because I am on a crunch to finish my doctorate. Fishing is my all time favorite hobby and kept me very happy all throughout grad school. Another hobby of mine is working out. This is great because it helps me stay in shape, reduces stress, and makes the day a bit more fun.

I highly suggest trying new hobbies while in grad school. One hobby that I strongly suggest trying is blogging. I started blogging in grad school and it has helped my writing skills, made the day more enjoyable, and I have been able to make friends from it. Whatever the hobby is, go for it. If it makes these years much more fun then it’s totally worth it.

6) Go to as many events as your schedule allows

One thing that truly makes grad school a great experience is the amount of things you can do for free at your school. You are still technically a student so you get all of the perks that come with being a student. One of those is being able to go to events for free or at a very reduced rate. During the semester, there are millions of things that you can do. During the day, take an hour or so and go to one or two of these events. It is a great break from work and it will make the day better and more fun. As grad students, we do sometimes forget that we can leave our offices and labs. Make it a habit to leave during the day and go enjoy a free event or something for an hour.

Final Thoughts

These are 6 ways to have fun in grad school, pretty much on a daily basis. Grad school is a great time to have fun and be active. You have a ton of freedom in grad school to be able to do wonderful and fun things. It does not have to be a harsh/negative experience. In fact, grad school may be the best time in your life. Take full advantage of that.

I hope you all are having a wonderful time in grad school. I certainly am and I truly give credit to all of the above things that I covered. Try some of them and see how well it makes the experience for you.

So this is it for the night. If you have any more things to add to this list, please comment below. Also, this post (here) is a really good addition to my list. Go check that out. Hopefully the comment section is working. I haven’t had many people comment on my posts lately, so I don’t know. I hope you all have a wonderful week and I will see you in the next one. Peace!

How Busy Are College Students

For those that have just started college or have gone to college and wondered, why are college kids so busy, this is the blog post for you. Well, hopefully it is and answers your question. So how busy are college students really? The answer is really busy. So, I was doing some research to see what the average amount of time student spend doing things during the day. I typed into good, “How busy are college students?” and a nice little snippet cam up with some valuable information.

The website was the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you are not familiar with that, get familiar with them. Anyway, the snippet said this “On an average weekday, full-time university and college students spent 3.5 hours engaged in educational activities, 2.3 hours working, 8.8 hours sleeping, and spent 4.0 hours in leisure and sports activities.” So, in other words, on average, a college student spends 18.6 hours a day either sleeping, engaged in school, or working and leisure.

attractive businessman busy clock
Photo by JÉSHOOTS on Pexels.com

What’s Left

That leaves them about 5.4 hours of time to do other things such as work more, blog, study even more, eat, and literally anything. This seems right and wrong to me at the same time. The numbers that is. When I was in undergrad, I was constantly busy throughout the week. I was working 33 hours a week as well as taking on a full time class schedule. One semester, I had a month where I worked every single day, for 16 hours to stay on top of work. I don’t ever recommend that. So that’s when it seems wrong but the data doesn’t lie. I have had many semesters where I had a ton of free time, so I agree and disagree with the data, depending on the semester that I am thinking of lol.

architecture auto automobiles bridge
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Some Are Super Busy

College students tend to be extremely busy. It amazes me how some people can hold multiple officer seats in organizations and manage to still take on a full course load. It almost makes me a bit jealous that they are able to balance 50 things at once without failing their classes but I can only take on one outside activity. I guess some people are just made differently. You will meet quite a few people in college that are just like this. They love to have all hours of the day booked up with things and are constantly running around. I have had friends, roommates, office buddies, lab partners, and coworkers just like this. During times of my undergrad years, I became this type of person. It is exhilarating, yet terrible for your mental health.

melancholic woman watching video on laptop at home
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Some College Students Just Aren’t That Busy

You will meet many individuals that spend most of their day lounging around, doing pretty much nothing. Yes, it will make you a bit jealous. In fact, it may make you really jealous. These individuals thrive off of not doing anything. They don’t get anxiety when there is a huge gap in their day where they can relax. I always find these individuals to be very happy, since they relax so much.

In college, you will have times where you can be just like these individuals. I guarantee that all 4+ years are not going to be crazy busy. You will have moments in your semester where you can spend hours just vegging out and not doing anything. So don’t worry if you are busy because you’ll have plenty of time to be lazy later.

woman holding smartphone sitting in front of laptop on table
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

They Are As Busy As They Want To Be

If you are concerned that you are going to be too busy while in college, remember this, you are as busy as you want to be. This is pretty much true throughout the semester. Maybe not as much at the end, but definitely for the majority. Towards the end, you’ll be busy with assignments and projects, so let’s remove that from the equation.

Being busy in college is completely up to you. If you want to spend 24 hours doing stuff, go right ahead. If you feel like you want to just take an easy semester, do that as well. Even with your school schedule, you have a choice. If you want an easy semester, schedule it out to be easy classes. You can look online and see which classes require very little work to pass and get good grades in. You don’t want to schedule physics and chemistry the semester in which you want to relax. Those semesters won’t be as relaxing.

If you want to schedule your life to be busy to make another semester easy then go right ahead too. I did this towards the end of my undergrad. My last semester, I believe, was 3 classes and all very easy ones. I specifically did this because I wanted to have a final semester of fun before I started working full time. Unfortunately, that was the semester where I had a huge panic attack, so it didn’t go as planned.

Final Thoughts

College is a very busy time for everyone. If you are in undergrad, you’ll have very busy semester. if you are in grad school, you’ll also have very busy semesters. It is up to you on how busy you make it though. Remember that if you are busy, take some time to actually relax though. You don’t want to burn out, especially half way through the semester. Take some time for yourself and say the work “no”. It is ok to take time away from your busy life to actually enjoy things. trust me, the work will be there when you get back. You’ll never really catch up or get ahead.

Anyway, today’s post is a bit shorter than recent ones. I wanted to get a few extra out this week before I start writing my next chapter of my dissertation. Things are getting busy for me because it is getting close to the end of school for me. I am also trying to get as much done before I leave for the Keys in 2 months. After that trip, you may not get many blog post put of me until after my defense. I hope you all have an awesome day and I will see you in the next post. Peace!

Is It Ok To Fail In Grad School

I have written before about failure in grad school. Today, I want to write a little more about my opinions on the term “failure”. Today’s topic is, “is it ok to fail in grad school?” The answer is, it depends, of course. I do think that failure is good in grad school and also encouraged. There are many ways in which you can fail in grad school, some that are helpful, and some that are not so helpful. So let us dive into what I think about failure in grad school and why it is a blessing and a curse.

fail grad school

Why is it ok to fail in grad school?

Grad school is all about failing. In fact, you should fail ever day until you eventually get it right. The thing that many people have a hard time with, especially when they start, is you are supposed to fail. You are supposed to find out what works, try different things, and explore the unknown. Research is failing until you eventually get it write. In undergrad or even the first few years of grad school, you’ll be taking courses and doing work that probably has a correct answer to it.

It’s like math, there may be a few methods to get the answer, but you have to do them correctly or you won’t get to that answer. If you don’t do it right, you’ll fail an exam or paper. In research, no one knows the correct way to do stuff, that’s why you are doing experiments to figure out how to do it. You are bound to get it wrong quite a bit.

when it's ok to fail in grad school

When it’s ok to fail in grad school from the start

When you first start you graduate studies, you will be used to the question/answer life that you have learned to love your whole academic career. You’ll have a research question and you want to find the answer. You are programmed to look for a way to get that answer or look for someone who go that answer before. The thing is, your research question is unique and may not have a clear way to et that answer. It is up to you and maybe a select few to find that. This will mean that you are going to fail a ton of experiments trying to get an answer. That is part of the process and it is good for you.

Here’s another reason why failure in grad school is important. I overheard my adviser talking to one of our master’s students the other day. Apparently, the student was getting upset because they were having a problem with the program that was being used for their experiments. They were saying how it was a terrible thing to happen and how they failed. My adviser gave a really good piece of advice to them. He said “it’s good that these things happen because now you know how to fix it. Without having the experience of everything going wrong, how will you know how to handle it later on?” I thought this was perfect. See, if things always go the way you want them to, what happens when everything goes wrong? You won’t know what to do in those situations.

When is it not ok to fail in grad school?

Ok, so all failure is not the same. When you are in grad school, failing experiments, learning from your mistakes, and trying over is a plus. So when is it not ok to fail in grad school? That comes down to your course work and preparing for your qualifying exams. Course work is important. The first two years of grad school will most likely consists of just coursework. Failing these classes is bad and can get you kicked out of the program. The good thing about grad school courses are that they are pretty difficult to fail.

Yes, there are programs out there that are very difficult, and I am speaking on my experience. But, I have had many friends in grad school and they all say the same thing, grad school courses are easier in most cases than undergrad. This has been extremely true, especially with my degree in environmental engineering. I have taken some pretty difficult classes, but they were all in the years as an undergrad.

don't fail the classes in grad school

Don’t fail the coursework

Failing your coursework in grad school can really be hard on you. You need to pass in order to be able to do research later on. This is why it’s imperative to do well in these classes no matter what. The research will be there. If you are in the first two years of a doctorate and you’re prioritizing research over passing classes then you are doing it wrong. Research is important, but wait until you are only doing research. Pass the classes first.

The Qualifying Exam

This is something that is bad to fail, especially if you want to get your PhD. You have to pass the qualifying exam, and man is it tough. It is different for all departments, but if you are curious about it, go read my blog about taking my exam. (link here). It occurs usually after the third semester of your PhD, though it can be later. If you pass this exam, you become a PhD candidate and are welcomed as a researcher.

I know people that have failed this exam. More times than not, people will pass. It’s difficult, but totally doable. If you happen to fail though, you will have another attempt at it before they basically tell you to leave with a master’s. This isn’t all bad because some people start their PhD journey not knowing what they want. If they fail the qualifying exam then they can go on their way and get a job. It’s not bad unless you really want a PhD, then you really need to focus on passing.

learn to fail in grad school

You Didn’t Fail, you Just Learned What Not To Do

I often feel like a failure in grad school. It has taken me quite a long time to be ok with failure and accept that it is part of the process. I have learned so much these past 3.5 years in my doctoral program and I have to thank persistence for that. See, without me failing, I wouldn’t have learned anything. If I got everything right, I would have missed out on the whole learning process that comes with grad school. I tell new students all the time that a PhD is an apprenticeship. you are not here because you know everything. If you did, you would have 50 doctorates, a Nobel Prize, and probably be on Jeopardy. you are here to learn how to do research and learn how to fail until things go right.

Everything should be a learning experience. If an experiment goes wrong, write that down. Don’t repeat what made it fail. Brain storm and see how to do it better. This is what advisers want to see. Yes, they would love for you to get publishable data, but they also want someone that can do research and become an expert in their field. As long as you learn something from every failed attempt, you won’t be considered a failure. Remember, “a smooth sea never made a great sailor”-FDR.

Final Thoughts

It’s finally happening guys, my posts are getting ranked on Google. People from all around the world are reading my posts and I couldn’t be happier. I started this blog to help grad students and I think there are people out there that might be helped because of me. This is exciting. Anyway, I hope you guys are doing well and having a wonderful month. It’s summer so comment with any plans that you have for the next few months. If you have a post that you want me to write about, send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. Heck, send an email saying hello. Also, if you haven’t checked it out yet, go see my blog about grad school memes. Here is a link to that (link).I will see you all in the next one. Peace!

Goals for Grad Students

Today, I want to discuss with you some goals that need to be on you list of achievements in grad school. Overall, the main goal of grad school is to graduate, make a difference, and not go insane, right? There are some other goals that I truly believe are important to strive for that will benefit you as a student and professional. Honestly, the goals for grad students that I am about to share of some that I have been working to reach. Am I there, heck no lol, but I have learned quite a bit from trying to reach these goals.

What are some common goals for grad students that you know of? Publishing peer reviewed articles is probably a good start. Graduating is probably the next biggest goal. The ones I want to talk about today are probably goals that you might not think are important now, in the beginning stages of grad school, but oh man, you’ll want to try and hit these by the end. So let’s talk about goals for grad students!

6 Goals For Grad Students To Aim For Before Graduation

Yes, I have 6 goals that you need to aim for. There are many more, but I feel that these are the most important for all graduate students. If you would like to add some more, please comment on this post. I love when people comment.

goals for grad students: presentation skills

1) Being Able to Give a Presentation Without Having a Breakdown

Ok, so I think this is a goal that everyone has. Grad students have to give a ton of presentations and they are nerve wracking. One of the biggest fears that people have is public speaking. Grad school will probably lessen that fear. This goal is a great one to ty and achieve because of the amount of talks you are gong to have to give. You’re also going to have to present your research multiple times and having a mental breaking prior to presenting is not good. Presentation skills are essential to being able to graduate as well as being a very good researcher. This is why one of your goals in grad school should be focused on being able to give a presentation and be able to answer questions. If you can do this, you will be very successful.

2) Being Ok With Not Knowing Everything

I am going to tell you something that may hurt your feelings or make you uncomfortable. YOU DON”T KNOW EVERYTHING!!! Are you a bit uncomfortable with that? Good. Grad students tend to think they know everything until they figure out that they don’t. Usually around the second semester, they start realizing that they don’t really know much about their research and that can cause some anxiety. You are surrounding yourself with people that do know what they are talking about and you might not know much. The thing is, you’ll learn as you go and you’ll start knowing a lot more on the research subject, but you won’t know everything. Once you realize that it is ok not to know everything, then you can release a ton of stress and anxiety. Research is about finding why things happen which means that people don’t have the answers and it’s up to you to figure it out. Be alright with not knowing everything, you have a long journey to learn. Plus, if you knew everything, then you wouldn’t be doing research.

goals for grad students: deal with finances

3) Graduating Without Too Much Debt

One of my goals in undergrad was to go to as many parties and stay social as much as possible. I had loans that would cover my expenses. Yes, I know this is irresponsible, but that’s what you think about as a 21 year old. In grad school, your main focus is to learn to do research, get a higher education, and grow as an academic. You are also going to be pretty poor so taking on debt might be an option. In grad school, a really good goal is to try and limit your debt and live within your means.

Don’t be like me in undergrad and spend a ton of money partying lol. This is a great goal to tr and achieve because it teaches you how to manage money. With a grad degree, you’ll probably make a bit of money when you graduate. The good thing that happens is you learn to live on very little money and not spend it all at once. I thing grad school really forces you to be financially responsible.

goals for grad students: handle stress

4) Be able to Handle Stress

Grad school is stressful. I write about the stress all of the time (check out the links here, here, here). One goals to aim for is being an expert in stress management. If you can control stress and anxiety, you can rule the universe. Seriously, people go their whole lives without being able to handle stress and anxiety and it makes things very difficult. Finding the best way to manage stress in grad school will be one of the biggest goals that you need to try and achieve. Not only will this help you graduate on time, but you will not end up with a mental health problem. Grad students are prone to being affected by mental health issues. One of the main reasons this occurs is because of stress. Finding a way to handle this stress and overcome it is one of the best things you can strive for.

5) Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfotable

I wrote an article about doing something that makes you a bit uncomfortable every single day. Here is a link to that post. A goal that I am trying to achieve is being comfortable with thigs that bring me out of my comfort zone. As I say in the post, this is where the magic happens. Growth occurs when you decide to branch out and leave what makes you comfortable. In grad school, you will have to do a ton of thigs that you would rather not do. Conferences, presentations, writing, talking on the phone, emailing about reference letters, etc. If you can become comfortable with doing things that originally made you uncomfortable, you’ll be unstoppable.

Think about all of the things that are stopping you from advancing in your studies. You might be afraid to ask questions or email your professor. You know that doing such things will help you but it makes you feel uncomfortable so you don’t do it. Be ok with the feeling and do it anyway. Eventually you’ll get to a point where you won’t feel weird asking questions, talking to people, or anything else. It’s a bit of exposure therapy. Check it out.

goals for grad students: Being able to say you had a good experience

6) Aim to Be Able To Say “I Had A Great Grad School Experience”

People love to complain about their grad school experience. It really isn’t that bad. Of course so people do have a bad time, but collectively, it’s really not that bad. I think a great goal to achieve is finding all of the good things about grad school and remembering those when you get to the finish line. Really focus on the good that comes from your time in college. We need more people going online and encouraging people to go to grad school. There’s a ton of negative Reddit posts that discourage grad school. Trust me, if you focus on the good that came with grad school, you’ll have a better time. Aim to reach this goal. It’s very important.

Final Thoughts

We have come to the end of the post about goals for grad students. I hope you found this information informative and helpful. If you would like to add some other goals, please comment them. I know that this post is a bit late in the week. Yes, yes,I know, I haven’t been posting as much because I’ve been going hard on job applications. I have had a few interviews so far and I think I will write a post about that. Getting a job after a PhD is quite an interesting process. Anyway, I hope you all are having a wonderful day and week and I will see you in the next one. Peace.

Graduate vs Undergraduate: Who’s Better?

We have a battle going on. It’s a battle of graduate vs undergraduate and who is better. Place your bets now! Ok, now that you have your bets down, let us talk about graduates vs undergraduates. First, we need to define what each one is. I’ll start this segment off by showing the difference better graduate students and undergraduate students. Then I will go into who I think is better. Well, maybe not who is better, but definitely what each entails and maybe the level of difficulty that each has. So, hold on tight everyone while we go head to head in Graduate vs Undergraduate (queue cool music that they usually play in moments like this).

Graduate vs Undergraduate: undergraduate student

What is an Undergraduate

So let’s start off defining what an undergraduate is for those that are not too familiar with the term. An undergraduate, according to the dictionary, is “a student at a college or university who has not yet earned a bachelor’s or equivalent degree”. So, an undergrad is just someone who is in the first 4 years of college. They are the babies of the campus. Think dorm room living, dining hall eating, partying every night individuals lol. These are the ones that are in the beginning stage of their learning as well as getting ready for either grad school or job searching.

Undergraduates are in the exam and paper stage of their college careers. Usually undergrads are doing coursework only which requires passing a ton of exams. At the end of the semester, there are usually projects that come with most classes. Some undergrad degrees even require doing an internship in order to graduate. But, primarily, their job is to go to class, pass exams, and move on to the next course. Undergrads usually learn a lot of information about a lot of subjects.

Graduate vs Undergraduate: graduate student

What is a Graduate

Grad school is a bit different that undergrad. A grad student is one who has finished their bachelors and is trying to obtain a master’s or doctorate. This also includes the professional degrees like medical and law. Grad students will take courses and many will also do research. You usually go into a specialty at this point and study a lot about one particulate field. For me, grad school is learning a lot about water systems. My master’s was all about water and my PhD is even more niche and deals with lead in water. Undergrad was all about environmental issues which included air, soil, water, solid materials, and climate. Way mor broad than what I deal with now.

Grad students will primary conduct research. Either this or they will be in an MBA program or a professional program. For those in the research field, the classes the take are there to help them do the research and understand wat is going on. Grad students are less focused on passing the class and more focused on learning the material so they can benefit some way from it.

Graduate vs Undergraduate: whos better

What is the difference better Undergraduate and Graduate

So the main difference between graduates and undergraduates, other than having a bachelors, is really the focus of their studies. Undergrads will primarily focus on a very broad topic and graduates will hone in on a very niche topic and study a great amount on that particular subject. This makes both graduate and undergrade studies very difficult.

Another key difference is length of the degree. An undergraduate degree is usually 4 years while a graduate degree can be anywhere from 1 all the way up to 7 or 8 years. Class load is also a difference as undergrads will usually take 12 to 16 credits and grad students will take a maximum of 9 to 12.

Graduate vs Undergraduate: what's harder

Which is harder

So, when comparing which is harder, it really comes down to what your major is. I found that undergrad engineering was much harder than getting my masters. In some cases where undergrad was easy, grad school might be wayyyyyy harder. If you are comparing things like getting a degree in underwater basket weaving to law school, of course grad school is going to harder.

I think undergrad might be harder than grad school. This is my opinion, if you think otherwise, let me know in the comments. Hear me out. In undergrad, you learn some complex ideas about a whole bunch of things. You will be constantly busy, broke, exhausted, and pushed to the limits. You have to pass courses in order to get your degree and you have a very limited amount of time to accomplish this. In grad school, you do have to pass courses, but the classes are much easier because you have conditioned yourself already to passes exams. The research is the hard part. In a master’s program, usually you are working on a research project that your adviser knows will work. It’s mostly there to get you introduced to research.

A Doctorate is Different

In a doctorate program, you may have a project where no one knows the outcome, but you don’t really have a set time to complete it. In fact, if you have enough funding, you can be in the program for a very long time. The hard part about a PhD is being independent most of the time while working on this project. You will probably be the only person in the world that knows anything about what you do. This can be super tough.

So when it comes to graduate vs undergraduate and which is harder, I think undergraduate takes the cake. This doesn’t not mean that all undergrad degrees are harder and this doesn’t mean that all graduate degrees aren’t harder. I just find that getting an undergrad degree, overall (well at least in the STEM fields) is more difficult.

Graduate vs Undergraduate: So Ben, Who is Better

When it comes to graduate vs undergraduate, I have to go with graduates for this because I am pretty biased lol. I love my undergrads, but I think they are still a bit immature. When in undergrad, I was the immature one. I did not have any experience whatsoever and thought I knew the how whole world worked. Once I started working full time, I realized that I knew nothing. Grad school is where I learned how to actually be a scientist and an engineer. I learned about my weaknesses and my strengths and I have grown into the person I am today because of grad school.

Undergrads, I love you all. I have so much respect for you and what you are going to accomplish. Undergrad was an amazing 5.5 years of my life and I know you all are having a great time. Those were some of the best years of my life, and some of the hardest. Enjoy the time you have because life gets tough and it is nothing like college. I guess another reason why grad school is better is because you can put off post grad things as well. Yes, it will eventually catch up to me, though.

Final Thoughts

When going head to head, graduate vs undergraduate, who do you think is better? I am curious to know. I hope this was a decent post. I wanted to have some fun with it and see where it took me. This is an interesting subject and I thought it would be a good one to tackle today. Anyway, I hope you are all having a great day. If you haven’t already, go check out my post about the Best Grad School Memes (link here). Those are sure to brighten up you day. See you all in the next one. Peace!

Failing an Exam in College

Failing an exam in college is quite a heartbreaking thing. You studied countless hours only to received a grade that was much less than you hoped. Trust me, I have experienced a ton of grades that started with 4s and 5s lol. I have failed quite a few exams in both undergrad as well as grad school. Today, I am here to discuss how to react, what to do, and how to overcome failing an exam in college. I will discuss how to go about failing an exam in undergrad as well as grad school. They aren’t too different, but the way you deal with it in grad school is different than undergrad.

failing an exam in college

What It feels like to fail an exam in college

For those of of you starting college, or those that have been in it for a while, you’ll eventually get a failing grade. There are a select few that will never experience an F on an exam, and we all envy those people. Failing an exam is like getting kicked in the gut. You might have studied weeks for an exam, gotten to it, and completely forgot everything there was to know. If you aren’t familiar with test anxiety, read about it (here). This can cause you to forget everything and fail an exam. Of course there are other reasons why you failed. Maybe you didn’t study. Shame on you lol but life may have gotten in the way and made it impossible. So, no shame on those people.

When you study for a long time to get a failing grade, it physically and mentally hurts. As I stated, it can feel like you were kicked in the gut. Mentally, your brain will be going to every negative thought in the book. You might have self doubt. The amount of worrying for your future will increase, and anxiety will be very high. If you are on the premed track, you’ll probably be thinking that you aren’t set out to be a doctor. I think the mental effects are the absolute worse. But it will be fine.

What to do first when you get a failing grade on an exam

First thing first, do not blame yourself and do not panic. Failing an exam in college happens all of the time. There are so many reasons why you may have failed that exam. The test may have been unfair. You may not have had enough time to prepare for such a hard exam. Test anxiety kicked in and made you forget what happened. Heck, something may have happened that week that really put you in a bad mental state, one where you probably wouldn’t have passed the exam anyway. Whatever the cause, do not blame yourself. If you are coming to this blog, you are probably finding ways to cope with failure because you usually do well and are an overall good student.

The first thing that you need to do is look over the answers and see where you went wrong. Maybe you got the answers right and the TA marked it wrong. Maybe you just made some silly mistakes and seeing the answers will show you that you were on the right course, just not there. Just take a look at the answer sheet and see what went wrong. If there were mistakes made by the TA, email the professor right away. You might get quite a few points back.

Next, after you saw what went wrong, go over the problem again and really understand how to do the problem. One weird, but actually understandable, think that will happen is you’ll remember how to do those problems later. Years later, I still remember the material on the exams I failed. I also remember how to do those problems still. That’s because I went back and learned. The combination of learning and having a tragic event like failing really solidified those questions in my head. I think it’s a form of Flashbulb Memory.

Moving past failing an exam in college

IU think this may be one of the hardest things to do. Failing an exam in college can be extremely difficult to get over. You will be worrying whether or not you will pass the next exam and I guarantee you will probably be looking at different majors lol. I did that after failing an exam in undergrad. I got a D+, which is technically a failing grade for certain courses. This was a critical tracking course, which meant that I needed a C and nothing lower. A D+ really messed with me.

What I did after getting that grade helped me to move past the feeling of failure. I took a moment, looked at what I did wrong, went over every question, then I went to get ice cream. The first thing to do when moving on is to let it go. You failed an exam. If you did everything in your power to make sure that it was graded fairly then all you can do is move on and tackle to next exam. Do not linger over the fact that that pone exam was bad. Instead, focus on how you can improve and get a higher grade on the next one.

If You Fail an Exam in Undergrad

You are a baby and learning. Unfortunately, your whole existence revolves around passing exams. Failing an exam in undergrad may be detrimental to your GPA and you graduating. My best piece of advice is to actually go to office hours, participate in lectures and everything to do with that class, and I guarantee that you will pass the course, even after failing an exam. DO not give up any hope. Work hard, put in the hours to study and you will be rewarded. Also, be kind to yourself. You may not get straight A’s, but straight A students don’t necessarily make the best employees. I also feel really bad for those that haven’t failed an exam. When the time comes where they do fail something, because they haven’t experienced it before, they’ll have a rougher time with coping with the failure.

Don’t give up hope. Most classes have 3 to 5 exams, so failing one will give you motivation to pass the others. Also, most finals are a lot easier than the first and second exams of the class (TA secret). If you are close to failing the class, stick with it until the final. You’ll have a grade booster then.

failing an exam in college: getting past the failure

If you Fail an Exam in Grad School

So, I have written about whether or not grades matter in grad school. If you want to read about that, here is a link. You probably won’t really deal with failing exams in grad school because most professors will hand out a B as the lowest grade. Colleges are under a ton of pressure to graduate master’s and doctoral students, so they pass pretty much everyone. In grad school, research should be your main focus. If you fail an exam, sure it stinks, but you’ll probably be used to failure so it won’t faze you at all.

If you are concerned with failing an exam in grad school, I have some helpful tips. 1) Take a deep breathe if you do fail one. Go see your professor and go over the exam 2)Forget about it. Go do some research because you will be more remembered for the research you do, the lives you changed, and how you benefit society than passing a stupid test. No one will remember you for passing a class, but they will remember you when you contribute some form of knowledge to the world.

failing an exam in college

In The End

Grades, in the grand scheme of things, don’t matter. No one will ask you how well you did on the second exam of your chemistry course. All you really need to do is pass, actually take something away from the class, and move on to the next one. This is true for most everything unless you are going to grad school or a professional school. Good grades are important then, but one failing grade on an exam won’t really affect you too much. If you are in engineering, just graduating will get you an amazing career.

The most important thing is learning something when you fail an exam in college. If you don’t learn anything, then you truly failed. Failing an exam in college is not the end of the world. You may fail multiple times and that is fine. Just learn from the mistakes that occurred and move on. Life is way too short to ruminate over a stupid test.

Final Thoughts

I want to know. How many college exams have you failed? I think I failed like 10 or close to it. I remember the first few that I failed but lost count lol. If it says anything, I failed more times than I wanted and now I am well on my way to receiving a doctorate in engineering. This is happening because I learned from the failed exams and I grew from them. You can too.

If you haven’t already, go and check out my post about the best gifts for grad students. It’s graduation season so I want to help you find the perfect gift for your grad student. Link is right here. I hope you all have a wonderful day and I will see you in the next one. Peace!

How to Prepare for Grad School After Acceptance

This post about how to prepare for grad school after acceptance may contains affiliate links. For more information see disclosure at bottom of home page

If you are reading this, you probably just got accepted to grad school! I want to congratulate you on an amazing accomplishment and wish you the best. Grad school was one of the bets decisions that I have ever made. It has taught me so much about the world as well as about myself. I know you will absolutely love it. You probably showed up on this post because you want to know how to prepare for grad school after acceptance. It’s an important thing to think about and one that you need to really consider right before starting.

What Degree Did You Get In to?

This might determine the way in which you prepare after getting in. Some people have finished their master’s and are going to get a PhD. Some individuals are going for their master’s while others are starting their PhD’s immediately after undergrad. Each instance has a different way to prepare. I want to give some ways in which you can prepare for grad school after acceptance for each individual case. I think this is important because grad school can be extremely different for each person. So, covering as much as I can, I am hopeful to at least hit on something that pertains to your case.

How to prepare for grad school after acceptance: Master’s Degree

So you are accepted to get a master’s. This is huge and a great way to prepare you for an advancement in your career or prepare you for whatever comes after the degree. This was the route I initially took when going to grad school. Getting a master’s is a wonderful way to get a higher paycheck, get a position that will lead to better advancements, and you’ll be super competitive in the job world. Plus, all of the benefits come just after 2 very quick years of studies. Way better than going through the whole 4 years to get a degree lol.

Preparing for a master’s program is fairly straight forward. I would suggest a few things to do to make sure you are ready for the first day. Let me make a list of the stuff that I believe will help you prepare for grad school after acceptance into a master’s program.

prepare for grad school after acceptance by understanding visiting the campus

1) Get to know the campus

This means, schedule a tour and go see the actual campus. Go see how the town is like and the types of people that are there. Two years might be short, but can be pretty miserable if you absolutely hate the place you live. Go see where your major’s building is and you might stop in and say hello to faculty.

2) If you have an adviser, reach out to them and introduce yourself

Do not wait until the first day of class to talk to your adviser. Reach out to them beforehand and just get to know them. If you are doing research for them, see if there is anything that you can do to prepare for the work you’ll be doing. But, most importantly, get to know what type of person they are. Some advisers are really laid back while others might work you to death. Find out what type of individual they are which will get you ready for the next 2 years with them.

prepare for grad school after acceptance by understanding planning your course schedule

3) Schedule Classes

So, now that you are a student, schedule your classes. If you want to know more about how many courses you should take, I would highly suggest checking out the blog that I have written (link here). There are a ton of courses in which you can take. Focus on one’s that really interest you and will challenge you. Do some due diligence and find out how hard the course are, if the professor is good or not, and if the class is doable with your schedule. Also, make sure you are learning and not just surviving for a grade.

4) Go on Reddit and find the page that has your school

So, there is literally a reddit page for everything, including schools. Whatever school you get into, there will be a reddit page that discusses everything. Find it and ready a bunch of posts. People post all of their fears, emotions, ideas, and literally everything on their that involves the school. I highly suggest reading what they write.

How to prepare for grad school after acceptance: PhD after Undergrad

Preparing for grad school after being accepted into a PhD program is a bit different than a master’s. If you are going into one immediately after undergrad, it will follow just like your master’s. So everything that you read above will go into this section as well. There are a few differences though. Yes, you need to go check out the campus and get to know your adviser. But since you are going into research, you need to prepare a bit differently. This is definitely important as you will be in this program for 5 to 8 years after your undergrad. That’s a long time. You need to start strong to be able to finish strong. So let me go over a few things on how to prepare for a PhD if you are coming into it after undergrad.

prepare for grad school after acceptance by understanding research

1) Make sure you pick courses that will help your research

This is very important. Research the courses and find ones that will help you in your lab work or research work. Do not just sign up for easy courses. I mean, do this later if you need a GPA boost to get you off probation. But, other than that, sign up for courses that will help you in the research that you do.

2) Look for houses or apartment where you know you can love for a long time

In a Master’s program, you are there for 2 years. You can pretty much live everywhere and be fine. Starting a PhD, you will be in a college town for a very long time. Try and find a place where you think you’ll be able to live for the whole time. The worst thing ever is having to move all of the time in grad school. I have moved so much in grad school, so take my word for it. Try and find maybe a house or graduate apartment that is fairly cheap, livable, and close to campus. Really search for the right place to live. It makes a difference, I promise.

3) Start Reading About Your Research Field.

So, if you got accepted in the Spring and are starting in the fall, you have a whole summer to read up on your field of study and familiarize yourself with a ton of information. Start early and be prepared. It will save you a ton of time and effort when you do start doing research. This is also good when it comes to writing your literature review. Save the papers that you read so you can reference them later in the literature review. Read all about that process here.

PhD after a Master’s

Lastly, I want to talk about how to prepare after you have obtained your master’s and are going for your PhD. This is very similar to starting after undergrad, just a few extra things to add. This is what I did and being prepared for the transition was essential for my success. So, let’s go over so extra stuff on being prepared for grad school after acceptance into a PhD after a Master’s.

prepare for grad school after acceptance by understanding research methods

1) Familiarize yourself with lab procedures of research methods.

Getting a PhD is about research. You probably won’t be taking many classes at this point, but you will be doing a ton of research. Familiarize yourself with that. You might be used to only coursework so this might be a huge step for you.

2) Communicate with your adviser, a ton

So, you need to talk with your adviser a ton at this point. You need to familiarize yourself with everything about them. They are going to try and catch you up to all of their research really quickly so you can go right into it and produce data. I would suggest scheduling a time to meet with your adviser prior to starting the program. This will be about an hour or 2 meeting where you go over everything about the project and what you will be doing to make sure you graduate on time. This is extremely important to do.

prepare for grad school after acceptance by travelling

Things to do prior to starting to prepare for grad school after acceptance

I want to list off a few ways to spend the time prior to starting grad school. These are just as important as what I have written above. You are making a huge transition, so being prepared is a good way of making that transition so much easier. So here is a list of things you can do prior to leaving for grad school.

  1. Go on a trip somewhere
  2. Quit your job
  3. Hang out with your friends before going away to college
  4. Get a part-time job in the summer and make some money before leaving
  5. Hang out with your family as much as possible.
  6. Learn a new hobby. You’ll have the time.
  7. Practice mindfulness and learn how to cope with stress. You’ll need it for sure.
  8. Look into scholarships and see if you can get some extra money.
  9. Sleep in
  10. Start working out a ton and develop really good habits
  11. Enjoy the time you have and count your blessings.

Final Thoughts

You were accepted to a really good program and now it is time to prepare. It is a wonderful journey and I am so sad that it is coming to an end. Being prepared for this journey will help you a ton, I promise you that. As you go along, you will find other ways to be prepared. Next thing you know, you’ll be focusing on getting prepared for your career.

Grad school was/is such an amazing decision and I know you will have a wonderful time. It will be hard, but oh so worth it. I want to congratulate you again on taking this huge strep and wish you the best of luck.

If you are interested in other ways of being prepared, especially towards your degree, shoot me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. Also, if you haven’t already checked it out, go read my blog about if grad school is hard or not (link here). I hope to see you guys in the next one. Peace.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

How to Get Ahead in College

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

Hello you wonderful, intelligent, and fabulous person. You are obviously here because you want to know how to get ahead in college. You might be an undergrad that feels a bit behind or a grad student that has been behind the entire time. No matter why you are here, I am just glad you are. I want to give some tips for you to get ahead in whatever you are doing in college. I also want to specifically target different groups (undergrads and grads) to share different ways to stay ahead in that degree.

Getting ahead in college can be quite a challenge. You honestly have to start strong in the beginning and keep that momentum throughout the whole semester. The challenging part is towards the end when you get overwhelmed with exams, projects, homework, and just life. It seems like towards the end, people tend to slip backwards, just because of how overwhelming is can be. They tend to get back into bad habits such as not exercising, not eating right, and also getting very little sleep. If this sounds like you, you are not alone. So, I am here today to (hopefully) give some great advice on how you can get ahead in college and grad school.

Getting ahead in college

Getting Ahead in College as an Undergrad

I was once in your shoes. I graduated from the University of Florida in 2016 with a bachelors in environmental engineering. Any engineering degree is going to make you feel like you are behind in your studies, trust me. Somehow, and I think I know why, I stayed ahead in my studies and graduated with honors. I did it with a bit of persistence and some luck. I want to share with you some of the things that I did that kept me ahead in college so I could graduate on time and without too much stress.

1) Procrastination will hurt you

The biggest suggestion that I give people when they ask me how they can get more done but also enjoy college, I tell them stop procrastinating. I think procrastination is one of those things that will just hurt you in the long run. I get it, you might be telling yourself that you do your best work when you put it off. Well, that might be true if you have one assignment, but what happens when you get to the end of the semester and have 5 or 6 assignments and papers? Then putting it off until the last minute might not be such a good idea.

The key to staying ahead is to stat early and stay on top of assignments. Finish them early and it will free up a ton of time for you to enjoy life or do fun things. By procrastinating, you might have free time, but you’re going to be in a world of hurt when those deadlines come knocking.

eat healthy to get ahead in college

2) Stay Moving

Exercise has been shown to boost productivity as well as learning capabilities. It increases energy and makes you feel so much better. The key to staying ahead or getting ahead can come from just exercising and staying healthy. One thing that I have experienced in college that seems to drag me down is just stress. Stress makes me think about all of the stuff that I need to do and I freak myself out. Exercise is a great way to reduce that stress and think clearly. You’ll see that the stuff you have to do isn’t that hard or the amount of work you have really isn’t bad. You can get it done and boom, you’re ahead in your studies!

3) Do not go for perfection

Just get started, is what I tell myself all of the time. We are all, in some form, perfectionists. The key to getting ahead in college is to throw that sense of perfection away for a bit and just get the work done. You can always go back and make it better. This is especially true e with writing. The key to getting ahead in college is to just start. Whatever it may be, just start doing it and go back to it later to make it better. I think the hardest part is just getting started. We want to make sure the paper or assignment gets an A, so we plan out so much time just thinking about it or put it off for a bit until we think we are ready to tackle it. Don’t do this, start early and just aim to get some of it, if not all of it, done. This serves a few purposes. First, if you finish an assignment, even if it’s not perfect, at least you can submit it. second, you will have something to work with and make perfect after you finish it.

Do you think papers are perfect in their first draft? Heck NO!!!! So if your first draft is at 10 PM and the assignment is due at 12 am that night, do you think you will have a perfect paper ? Probably not. Aim to get something done early so you have the equivalent to the quality of the 2 hour assignment, but give yourself enough time to perfect it. Your grades will thank you significantly.

4) Sleep, Please

Get to bed at a reasonable time. Don’t brag to people about how you got 3 hours of sleep because you were up working on your assignment that was due. No one wants to hear you brag. Go to bed at a reasonable time and get up at a reasonable time. Stay consistent and you will notice that you aren’t extremally tired all oft the time and have a ton of energy to tackle anything in your way.

You will also notice that you’ll retain more information when you are fully rested and you’ll be able to solve more problems with a clear head. I made sure to get to bed each night before 12 and wake up no later than 9 am. I function best with 8 to 9 hours of sleep and ound that the weeks where I got enough sleep were the most productive and least stress filled ones. The weeks where I would party and procrastinate were some of the most stressful.

5) Limit the partying, but don’t give it up

College is about meeting people, learning ideas, and having fun. Yes, going to parties is part of the fun and frankly, a major part of college. Does that mean you need to be out at the clubs and bars each night/? I would say no. But, it is good to get out and hang with friends and meet new people. It honestly helps build social skills and may even get you a significant other lol.

But if you want to get ahead in college, you need to sacrifice some of those “all-you-can-drink Wednesdays” and do some work. We all have to sacrifice some things in our life, you can give up a few nights on the town. Your wallet will thank you lol. I would suggest going out as a reward for hard work. Say you have an assignment coming up that is due on a Friday but you want to go out Thursday. Why not use going out on Thursday as a reason to get your assignment done really fast so you can enjoy the night without worrying about finishing the assignment for class. You can also use what I talked about in point 3. If you finish the assignment before going out then the next day, you can polish it up a bit before sending it in.

Getting Ahead in College as a Grad Student

Everything that would help you get ahead as an undergrad works well as a grad student. Sleep, not procrastinating, and limiting the partying. There are a few extra things in grad school that I want to discuss that will help you get ahead and stay ahead. Staying ahead in grad school is probably the most important thing because it will prevent you from having to stay longer than you want. So, let’s dive into some of the extra things that I can add to the list for grad students.

1) Stay in contact with your adviser

I can not stress the importance of staying up to date with your adviser. You will have a whole bunch of things that you’ll need to do for them. Some things you’ll be doing alone. You need to know their expectations and what they want from you. Make sure to meet with them at least twice a month, if not more. They are ultimately in charge of when you graduate, so you need to make sure that you are meeting their expectations and are moving along nicely in your timeline.

2) Keep up to date with all major milestones and deadlines

There are many deadlines that you will need to make sure you hit. Stay up to date with these. They include qualifying exams, paper submissions, conferences, and various other things like that. Know when they are and give yourself plenty of time to prepare for them. They may seem so far away, but time really flies by when you are in grad school. Next thing you know, you’re getting ready for graduation. Make sure to know when everything is due and that will keep you ahead.

3) Stop being such a recluse

One of the most important things that I did was reach out to other grad students and make friends with them. Yes, you will be alone a lot, but you don’t need to be alone all of the time. The best way to get ahead is to stay active in the grad school community. Talk to others, get ideas from them, and network. It helps to reduce the feelings of loneliness and anxiety as well as benefits you later. Many connections that I have made in grad school have really paid off. People that I have talked to have helped me understand complex ideas, gotten me job offers, and just became my fiends. All have helped to get me ahead in college.

Get Ahead in College With These Tips

There are a few extra tips that I want to share that can be included to either one of the above sections. These are tips that will overall help you stay ahead in whichever degree that you pursue. I am sure you have done a few of these. Let’s get started.

1) Start Early. Stay on top of assignments from day 1 of the semester

2) Stay healthy. That means exercise and eat healthy food

3) Go to networking events to meet potential employers. Nothing says staying ahead and finishing school like having a job right out of college.

4) Get a part time job to force you to complete assignments early so you can work.

5) Get a planner (like this one)

6) Stay organized. Clutter can make things difficult

7) Above all else, be kind to yourself. You might fall behind at some points but you will get back up. Don’t put yourself down if you do fall a little behind.

Final Thoughts

For those that are highly productive in college, what else would you add to this list? I truly think that if you plan things out right, you can kick college’s butt and end up on top, no matter what your degree is in. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my list. I am quite curious of what people think.

If you haven’t read my blog about Moving during grad school, I strongly suggest reading about it. That might be one way to stay ahead in college lol (link here). As always, I hope you all have a wonderful day and I will see you in the next one. Peace.

What to expect at the end of a PhD

My years as a doctorate student are coming to an end, and quickly. I am currently in the process of finishing up my research and writing papers for publication. I was told that I will be defending in October of this year, which means that I need to have my thesis written by the end of September!!! WOW. I have less than 6 months before I can (hopefully) call myself Dr. Ben. That is exciting, yet oddly terrifying. I don’t really know what to expect at the end of my PhD, but I have some idea I suppose.

Today I want to talk about the end of your PhD and what to expect. There will be a ton of things that will occur in the final year of your doctorate and you’ll need to be ready. I assume that the final year is different for everyone. Grad school is much different than undergrad because you are finishing up your research instead of finishing coursework. Of course the end of a master’s might be very similar to an undergrad, so we won’t really talk about that today.

what to expect at the end of a phd 1 year out

What to expect in the final Year of a PhD?

Let us start off with the final year of a PhD. If you are in a doctoral program, getting to this is a heck of an accomplishment and I applaud you. It is not an easy task being able to continue all the way to the end. You have gone through some tough times to get to this stage of your doctorate. Don’t slack off yet, though.

The final year of your doctorate will be you finishing up your research and writing your thesis. If you are the few that are able to complete their research earlier than this, congrats, it’s time to write. For the rest of us slackers (lol), we need to start considering wrapping our research up so we can start the very long process of writing. At the one year mark, start planning out when you are going to be able to finish the research and when you are able to focus on writing your chapters. Many people often write while they go along. This is the smart thing to do but it is often difficult, because you know, writing! If you are in the last year, start to at least put your introductions together. Just starting now will help you so much later.

Start finishing up your experiments or at least planning out when to finish them. There might be a chapter where you still need to do those experiments. Start those as soon as you can. If you are not able to for a bit, at least write a bit of the chapter so you can put in the results later, after you finish doing the experiments.

One year out will be the time to plan the end game for your doctorate. Start laying out a timeline of when to finish, when to write, and when to start job hunting. Stick to the plan and I promise that your final year will be a lot less hectic than your mind is telling you, or what reddit is telling you lol.

what to expect at the end of a phd 6  months out

What To Expect in the Final 6 Months of a PhD

This is where I am currently at. It is April and I defend in October. That gives me 6 months to get ready for the final exam (aka my defense). There is a ton going on and it is keeping me really really busy. This is how it will be for you. You might spend countless hours in the lab, finalizing some experiments. The amount of writing that you will do will be insane. And on top of that, you will have to be considering jobs. All in the final 6 months of grad school.

You may have to give some things up to make sure you finish on time. Free time may be taken up with writing or editing your thesis. Weekends might be taken up by going to the lab or possibly creating graphs of your data so you can finish one of your chapters. The weeks are going to pass by so quickly and the amount of work is going to get a bit overwhelming at times. This is just at 6 months out. Imaging what 3 months out will be like lol.

In the last 6 months, expect to actually be finishing all of your research. By 4 months out, you should be completely done, minus a few small experiments to check your results from your larger experiments. I would say, give yourself at least 4 months to write your thesis, if you are just starting. If you have already started, 4 months is still a good time frame because you won’t be rushing too much towards the end.

what to expect at the end of a PhD 3 months out

What to expect the final 3 months of your PhD

When you get to about 3 months from defending, start looking for jobs. If you are like me, you’ll probably want to secure something by the time you graduate. Three months is a good time frame because companies will see that you are about to graduate so they can have you fill the more immediate positions. Of course, you can apply for companies or professorships even further out than 3 months. I just found that the closer to graduation, the more interviews you are likely going to get.

The final month to two months prior to defending will be late nights of writing and probably days of doing interviews for positions that you applied for. I haven’t gotten to this yet, so I am only speculating. I am expecting that the final two months prior to defending will be chaotic.

what to expect at the end of a phd after you defend

What to Expect after you Defend

So this is it, you’ve waiting your entire 3 to 8 years to get this point and you finally did it. You defended your research and have become a doctor! Congrats! Now what? What to expect at the end of a PhD, the very end? You will be told to do revisions on your thesis for sure. Everyone gets them and you are going to be somewhat busy doing those. The revisions are mostly to make sure the school accepts the thesis for publication and then you’re done. Celebrate, go on vacation, bake a cake, do something to celebrate your accomplishment. It is well deserved!

The final 2 months after you defend will mostly be you writing, going on trips, sleeping a ton, and finding your next career. Once all of that is settled, it is time to start the next chapter of your life, whatever that may be.

Final Thoughts

For those that have finished their PhDs, what were the last few months like? Were they similar to what I have posted in here or were they different. Let me know in the comments. I hope this blog about what to expect at the end of your PhD was enlightening or though provoking. What other posts would you like me to cover? Let me know in the comments or send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I would greatly appreciate either.

If you haven’t’ already, go check out my blog about travelling while in grad school. Link here. It may give you some cool ideas after you finish writing your thesis. Ok, now go write a chapter and get to sleep early. I will catch you in the next one. Peace!

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

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.

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During Your Master’s

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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.

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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.

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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.

woman in hijab working on pad in office
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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!

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!

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.

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.

woman sitting in front of macbook
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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.

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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.

photo of man holding a book
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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.

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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.

How to Celebrate Getting Into Grad School

It’s decision month for many individuals. I have been seeing quite a few tour groups on campus and have received many emails about prospective students coming. So, this is a great time to learn how to celebrate getting into grad school.

Everyone has their different method of celebrating. For me, I love celebrating things with pizza…pizza as well as cake. I know people that will go on trips to celebrate something as big as getting into grad school. For me, I can’t really afford that, but I will treat myself.

So today, I want to go over some ways to celebrate this huge accomplishment, getting into grad school. There should be a ton of celebrating because this is a big deal. Many people don’t even get into grad school, so of course you need to celebrate. So, Let’s list off some of my favorite ways to celebrate an event like this.

Ways to celebrate Getting into Grad School

1) Have a pizza party

It is cheap, it is delicious, and it is a great way to celebrate your achievement. When I was accepted to grad school, I bought the most expensive pizza deal from Dominos (I love their pizza. Don’t judge me), and I watched Doctor Who for probably 4 hours lol. Yes, I celebrated getting into grad school with pizza and the doctor. This is usually how I celebrate things, unless it’s graduating, then I throw a party.

2) Go on a trip.

If you are able to, I would highly suggest going on a trip prior to starting grad school. Celebrate being accepted by travelling to a new and foreign place. It might be the last time for a while that you can go on a trip, so I would highly suggest going. I went to Canada prior to starting grad school and I am so glad I did. It gets hard to find time to travel when you have deadlines to meet and experiments to do.

3) Go out on the town and do fun things with friends

Your friends want to celebrate with you as well. In fact, they might be more excited about you getting accepted than you are. It is a weird thing but some people just really get overly excited about these things. Anyway, go celebrate with them by doing something fun. This is also a really good thing to do, especially if grad school is in another state, because it gives you more time to hang with your friends before you leave for school. Spend as much time with them as possible before you leave. It will mean a lot to you and to them.

4) Schedule a tour and celebrate on campus before starting

This is a good way to celebrate if you have friends that are already at the school. I did this in undergrad when I was accepted to UF. If you have friends at the school already, go visit them and also schedule a tour of the campus. You can celebrate getting into the grad program at the college itself and get a free tour of the campus too. Get it out of your system now because it’s all work from here on out lol.

5) Buy new clothes

Celebrate getting into grad school buy buying new clothes and a new wardrobe. This is a fresh start and a good reason to get rid of old clothes and get new ones. You want to look like a grad student and less of an undergrad, right? I did not do this and now I am stuck with clothes that make me look like I am stuck in the 2010’s lol.

Final Thought

No matter how you celebrate, do something. This is a huge accomplishment and a great way to start on your journey into the academic world. Congratulations on getting into grad school. I remember when I received my acceptance letter, I was at work and pretty much cried lol. I was so excited but had to stay pretty calm because it meant that I would be leaving my company to start school. After receiving my acceptance, I told my parents who were very proud and excited.

It took a few weeks to let everyone else know because I had to sort it all out first to make sure it was actually happening. It’s a scary and exciting transition from working full time to going back to school. Anyway, congrats again. Grad school is a wonderful and exciting experience and I know you will love it. Here are a few more ways to celebrate getting into grad school.

How to Prevent Grad School Burnout

This post about burnout in grad school may contain affiliate links. For more information see disclosure at bottom of home page

I am hoping you are coming to this page in hopes to prevent burnout in grad school rather than trying to find a cure. Today, I want to share what burnout in grad school is and how to prevent it. I also want to discuss ways in which you can help reduce it, in case you are already burnt out.

What is burn out in grad school?

According to mayo clinic “burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity”. Burnout is pretty much working yourself so much to the point where you lose motivation to do any work, what-so-ever. People that experience burnout usually work quite a lot and are in very stressful fields of work or study. Grad school is one of those fields in which you will probably be working way more hours than full time employees. you will most likely over exhaust yourself day after day. This can lead to burn out.

How do I know I am burnt out?

When you first started grad school, did you feel super motivated? You were ready to take on the world and every project out there! After a little while of working, you started to notice that you didn’t really have the motivation anymore. You may have woken up and found that you really couldn’t do any work at all. At first you may just stay you’re tired, but after a while, you notice that the feeling of being tired just doesn’t go away. This is where burn out comes to play. You will know that you have hit burnout when you just can’t muster up the strength to do any work or accomplish anything related to your studies.

When Will I most Likely Experience Grad School Burnout?

Some of the notorious periods for experiencing burnout would be during finals, during your qualifying exam, and at the very end with your defense. If you are in a Master’s program that is non-thesis, you may experience burnout towards the end of the semester. For PhD students, you may experience it during your quals and definitely during the time you are writing a paper for publication. Towards the end of your doctorate, you will be so busy that burnout is almost inevitable. Luckily, there are ways to combat burnout.

How to Prevent Burnout in Grad School?

The first thing that you need to do when you start grad school is develop a plan on doing non-academic related things. This is just as important as working on your studies. Trust me when I say this “relaxation and recovery are the keys to productivity!” If you work yourself to the bone, you will hit burnout and this can lead to weeks, possibly months of no productivity. So, first things first, establish a schedule to incorporate fun into your life.

Your to-do list

Next thing that I want you to do to prevent burnout is make sure that your list of things to do each day is much smaller than you want. You do not need to be cramming 1000 things into your day. You will overwhelm yourself and this will definitely cause some problems. Reduce the amount of work that you want to get done. Also, remember that a grad degree is a marathon and not a sprint. You can’t complete a doctorate in a day or a week. It takes years and you need the strength and energy to complete it.

Set a Time to End the Day

There may be days where you have to be in the lab until 10 pm, but for the most part, you’ll be done by 5. Treat your studies like a day job. Work from 9 to 5 each day and then just quit. Don’t go home and do work. Don’t stay passed that time to get a little bit more work in. No, just stop. Go work out or go have fun. Call up a friend and go to the movies. Leave work at work and go enjoy your life, Try and make this a recurring thing. If you work hard during the day then 5 pm is a good cut off time anyway. This will help with the relaxation preventative measure as well.

Limit Caffeine

This one may surprise you but it is actually something that I have found causes me to burn out much quicker. I love coffee and it hurts to know it can hurt me. Caffeine somewhat boosts my productivity. After a while, I start to rely on the caffeine to keep me going. You know what that does? It doesn’t allow me to rest. When you work a ton, you may get into your lab a bit tired. This might be your body telling you to slow down. When you have caffeine, you end up perking yourself back up. This will make you productive but even more tired the next day. Repeat this cycle a few days and next thing you know, you can’t get out of your bed and you’re exhausted when you wake up. Be mindful of the caffeine consumption that you have.

What if I am Burnt Out?

So you checked off all of the boxes and determined that you have hit burnout. Now what? Well let’s go through some ways to get out of this terrible time and possibly learn from it.

Tell your adviser

Many times, the reason you got burned out was because of your adviser or the amount of work that you have to do for them. I am sure that you have done a crazy amount of work for them many times. They most likely don’t knowhow much time you spend doing stuff. They may keep giving you work, thinking that you can do it in like an hour when in reality, it takes 2 or 3 days. Talk with them. Let them know that you are overworked and really feeling unmotivated and burnt out. They will understand, I promise. They will also probably tell you t take a few days off.

Take a few days off

Mind burnout may only require a few days of just doing nothing. If it is extreme burnout where you can’t function, you’ll need more time. Towards the end of the semester, you are likely to feel the crushing effects of burnout, after this period, take a vacation. Go on a trip and leave your work at school. Vacations are a great way to get back to your old self and you’ll definitely have more motivation to work after one.

Sometimes just taking a day off to go do something fun during the week is what will get you back into things. When you are severely impacted by burnout, tell your adviser that you are going to take some time off. This is a great time to just get some sleep, catch up on Netflix, listen to your favorite book on Audible, or heck, cook your favorite food.

Sleep more

When I hit burnout after my qualifying exams, I slept in every day for about a month. I had severe burnout and needed the rest. Lately, I have been working a bit more, trying to write a paper for publication, and I have been forcing myself to sleep early. This is a great preventative measure as well as remedy for when you are burned out. Feeling well rested has made me a ton more motivated to do work. It has also resolved the bit of burn out that I was experiencing this week.

Talk with a Therapist

I will always promote therapy. This whole blog is pretty much thanks to therapy. If you are in a position where you are always burnt out and can’t really handle it, I suggest seeing a therapist. I have written extensively about my experience with therapy and how it has significantly helped me. This might be a great thing to do, especially if your insurance allows it. Sometimes the best way to get out of feeling down is talking to a licensed professional.

Final Thoughts

Burnout is common in all industries. We tend to think that working ourselves to death is a sign of strength. No, it’s not. Burnout in grad school is a scary occurrence that needs to be addressed. Burnout can lead to drop out rates increasing, mental health problems, and other medical problems. Your grad school experience should be a good one and not one filled with dread.

If you are in grad school or went to grad school, did you experience burnout? If so, can you tell us about it in the comments?

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

What is a Grad Student?

Apparently, this very subject is searched quite often on Google. There aren’t many sources that really go into what a grad student is and why they are even a thing. Today, I want to discuss with you what it means to be a grad student. But first, we must talk about what a grad student even is.

What a graduate student is

So, grad students are simply students that have finished undergrad and have thought that it would be a good idea to continue their education. Grad students are usually individuals that want to get to a more academic job position or someone that wants to be more competitive in the working world.

Being considered a grad student can be a very broad term. There are all kinds of graduate students out there, so let’s go over a few.

What is a Master’s Students

Master’s students are usually only in the academic field a max of 2 to 3 more years. Their degree goes more in depth into what they want to do a career in. For someone like me, a master’s will get you a better position in the engineering field and you’ll probably be making a bit more money. Master’s students include people getting MBA’s as well. Some master’s programs can be online or in person. They tend to only course based, though, you can do research based ones as well.

Course Based Master’s

This is the most common type of master’s program. This is usually for people that just want a master’s and then they head off to an industry job. Sometimes people will go this route for research positions, though. For non science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors, you’ll probably only have course work.

Research Based Master’s

So this master’s student will probably take a few less classes, but make up those credits by doing research at the end. These students tend to want to go into research after their master’s or start a PhD. Many STEM majors go this path because they want to get into research afterwards.

What is a PhD Student

So a PhD student is a grad student that is doing a ton of research and advancing their field of study. PhDs can be done after getting a Master’s or you can go right into it after undergrad. This grad program is much longer than than a Master’s and there is way more that goes into it. These grad students are usually going to do research or teach after they graduate. Grad student’s pursuing a PhD must be able to publish data, teach, write a dissertation and defend that dissertation. At the end, they are given the title “Doctor”.

This grad program can take you a very long time to finish. On average, a doctorate will take 5 to 8 years to complete. So, you’ll be a grad student for a long time. These programs are usually done on campus. Some PhD programs are online. For any STEM major, you will spend a great deal of time on campus and in your labs.

What are Professional Students

This is a bit of a gray area when it comes to calling this group of individuals grad students. These colleges tend to train individuals to be something rather than just teach them things that they want to know. Examples of these would be medical school and law school. These are graduate students though. They may want to be referred to as professionals. Grad school for them is a bit different than master’s students and doctoral students. The professionals take courses and labs that make them prepared to go into a certain field. A master’s just get’s you a degree and some more knowledge and a PhD get’s you research skills. A professional degree focuses on them becoming a role like a medical doctor or lawyer.

These programs usually last longer than a Master’s, but sometimes much shorter than a PhD. You will likely have to pass an exam at the end to get your license in the field which you studied. For example, law school, you take the Bar.

So what is a grad student really?

Grad students are just those that are trying to advance their degree beyond the typical bachelors. There are hundreds of reasons that people go to grad school ranging from pay increase, wanting to learn a new skill, and even boredom. Grad school is here to help introduce you to more complex ideas and help you get a better understanding of them. These skills are wonderful to have and highly sought after by employers.

Final Thoughts

I hope that you know a little more about what a grad student is. Many people just don’t really know what one is and that’s very surprising. If you don’t know much about me, I am currently a grad student so I like to tell people what exactly I do. If you want to read more about me, check out my About Me page (link here).

Tips For Grad School

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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.

Person in Black Pants and Black Shoes Sitting on Brown Wooden Chair

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.

tips for grad school : go to class

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.

Woman Sitting on Brown Wooden Chair Beside Coconut

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.

tips for grad school: exercise often

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.

tips for grad school :learn to cook

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.

Person in Yellow and Black Backpack Walking on Green Grass Field Under Cloudy Blue Sky during Daytime

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.

Man in Gray Long Sleeve Shirt Lying on Bed

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.

tips for grad school: back up your computer

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.

tips for grad school: write every day

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.

tips for grad school: live in the moment

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?

Final Thoughts

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.

Does GPA Matter in Grad School?

I wrote a few months about the importance of your grad school GPA and whether it was important enough to be worried about it. If you want to read that blog, here’s a link to it. Anyway, I don’t really think that post did justice to this controversial topic. Does GPA really matter in grad school? Should you focus on GPA or other things while in grad school? I will answer these questions in this post and dive deeper into whether you should really care about your grad school GPA

Grades do matter in grad school. Unfortunately, grades will matter all throughout grad school and into your doctoral research. Once there, grades don’t matter, luckily. But, does it really matter what our GPA is when we are in grad school? In situations where a GPA is needed, such as applying to a PhD program, or applying for scholarships, then yes, GPA is important. Other than that, your GPA is just another number.

When GPA Matters

I have found in the 5 years that I have been in grad school that GPA only mattered in two fields. 1) While I was applying for a grad school program and 2) while I was looking at scholarships. And, to be honest, both of these things actually focused primarily on my research experience and goals. Of course, I am in a research based field. Grades may matter even more when you are in a grad program that doesn’t do research.

Your undergrad GPA seems to be way more important than your grad school GPA, unless you are going from a masters to a PhD program. Then the GPA will matter. When you apply to a Grad school as an undergrad, your GPA will be used to determine whether or not you get into the program. There are other factors such as a statement of purpose, test scores, and previous research. But GPA does matter in this case. As you go up the academic latter, your GPA will mean far less.

If you are in law school, your GPA does matter. In fact, law school ranks you amoung your peers based on your GPA. Apparently, the higher the GPA, the more likely you are to land a good paying law job. So, this grad school experience, GPA does matter. For the vast majority of other grad programs, GPA matters very little, and here is why.

When GPA Doesn’t Matter

I found that your GPA, while in a master’s, really doesn’t matter. Yes, you want to keep above a 3.0 GPA so you don’t get on academic probation, but this is extremely easy to get. Most classes in grad school will make sure you don’t even come close to getting that low of a GPA. I know many students that had mid 2.0s for their undergrad GPAs and managed to have close to 4.0s in grad school. Of course, they worked their butts off, so I have to give them some credit.

GPA is basically non existent once you get to a PhD. Some students finish their master’s first then head to do research on their PhD. Usually they will take maybe one or two more classes for their doctorate and then it’s all research. The GPA really doesn’t matter at this point, only you finishing and getting publications. Students that are in a PhD program immediately after undergrad will need to make sure their GPA stays above a 3.0, though.

Layers in an Office

Does GPA Matter for Jobs?

From my experience, though it may be different for everyone, GPA did not matter when it came to applying for jobs. I have started the process of looking for careers after I graduate and not a single application asked for my transcripts or my GPA. They did, however, ask about publications and research experience. I was also applying for research positions so they cared deeply about this specifically. GPAs don’t determine how well you will be as an employee. Your experience in grad school will be a determinant of how well you do later, not your grades.

Another reason why jobs don’t care about your GPA is because they are placing you in a position where you might be competing with individuals that didn’t go to grad school but have ample experience in the industry. You won’t really be focusing on entry level jobs after college. This means that an employer needs to use another metric, other than GPA, to determine the right individual. So, they focus on experience. This is why getting relevant experience is so important.

Several Handheld Tools on White Printer Paper

What To Focus On in Grad School

There are some programs that just need you to take tests, pay them, and get out. I don’t really like these programs because I am going to grad school to learn information, develop my research skills, and contribute to the wellbeing of humanity. I feel that developing these skills is the most important part about gong to grad school, not just taking tests and passing classes. Yes, undergrad was about that, but grad school is much more than passing classes.

Overall

Overall, GPA only matters in very specific circumstances. For the most part your GPA in grad school, as long as it is above the minimum, really doesn’t matter. Some may argue based on their experiences, and I would love to know about those. (put them in the comments). I just don’t feel that you need to focus on a GPA. Focus on learning skills that will help you get through grad school and make you a skilled researcher. Some of the best researchers in the world were average students, but they focused all their effort on getting better at research. Do this!

Final Thoughts

I am curious, for those that went to grad school, what was your GPA? Also, what was your undergrad GPA? Did GPA matter in your program or was it just something that you needed to keep above a certain requirement? I am always curious as to what everyone’s grad school experience was. Each one is different so it is nice to see how it was for multiple people and compare.

Do Grad Students Get Summers Off

Summers for grad students can be the busiest time of the year. For master’s students, it may be the time that they do research credits to fulfill those requirements. For PhD students and candidates, summers are for research. Spring and fall semesters usually are the only times where grad courses are available, leaving summer for research or internships. I wrote a really good article about grad student internships. Go and check it out here. But for the most part, grad students usually work during summers as well as get some time off to go travel or go on vacation.

Macro Photography of Black Sunglasses on Sand

Summers for Grad Students

summers in grad school

I wanted to start this section off with one of my favorite blog series. Go check out https://phdcomics.com/ for more. Ayway, this comic above pretty much sums up what summers are like in grad school, at least for most grad students. Though, this can relate to a select group of individuals. Because grad school is different for everyone and many people have different job titles, summers can be spent in labs, teaching, or on vacation.

Do Master’s Students Get Summers Off?

Master students will most likely take off their first summer and just enjoy the three or so months before coming back. Because their degree is mostly course based, they will spend summers away because grad courses are often not taught during summer. As for the second summer of a master’s degree, the individuals will more than likely be in lab, doing their thesis. For STEM degrees, master’s are usually split into thesis and non-thesis. Non-thesis master’s are course work only, so doing research is not common. Thesis-based master’s will require you to do some research, so the summer before you graduate is usually that time to get it done.

Do PhD Students Get Summers Off?

A PhD stands for “Piled higher and deeper”. You will have a ton of work to do to get your degree. Often, summers are the time to catch up on all that work. Many grad students teach or TA a class and their fall and spring semesters are busy with that work. Summers are the time to get caught up on all of the work you put off and it’s time to get some papers written.

I often find summers to get the best time of year for PhD students. 1) there’s hardly anyone on campus 2) you don’t have to deal with too many dumb meetings 3) The lab is not full of undergrads! Number 1 is my favorite because it means that not many people are at the gym lol. It is also the best time because you will be so bored with lack of things to do that you will get a ton of work and rest done.

For the most part, you will spend your summers at school. You won’t be required to work the entire time, but you will find working through summer will help you graduate on time.

Brown Wooden Dock

What do grad students spend their summers doing?

So, as I stated earlier, master’s students might spend their summers away form campus at internships or off on vacation. PhD students might be spending their summers getting research done to prepare their PhD proposals. The proposals are their to formulate your thesis pretty much. Summers are a great time to do initial research on the subjects and write it up so you can present it at your oral qualifying exam. I wrote an article about how to prepare for that here.

Person Using Macbook Pro

PhD candidates have already gone through this process and will be spending their summers doing research or catching up on writing. I usually use summers as a time to write at least one research article for publication. Last year was my literature review and this year will most likely be a research paper dealing with my experiments.

Some PhD candidates do not work during the summer because they are not paid for 12 months of work. These students most likely pick up summer jobs or internships to make up for not getting paid. These individuals are usually getting paid during spring and fall as TAs or actual teachers, so during summer, they are out of work essentially. Some of these students will, however, continue to do research, while working full time elsewhere. These positions are usually in fields that do not require access to a lab.

Pair of Red-and-white Low-top Sneakers

Do Grad Student’s Get to Go On Vacation at Least?

The short is of course! Summer time is a great time to get work done but you also need to rest and relax. This is often a good time to go on trips and see family and friends. Since classes aren’t going on, you’ll usually have more time in the day to get work done. You’ll see that you will also have a ton of down time during summer as well. Use this time to go on trips. I have written extensively about the importance of rest and going on vacation.

Overall

Summers in grad school can be whatever you make it. Sometimes you will be busy, sometimes you will be bored out of your mind. It is a great time to take up hobbies, explore the town your in, and catch up on readings. Master’s students often get summers off while PhDs usually work. Summers can be slower or faster paced depending on what you do.

So, do grad students get summers off? It really depends on your program and how much work you want to do. If you are in the program to get work done, you’ll often not have summers off. If you want to have summers off though, take them off. It might be the best thing to do.

Final Thoughts

I have worked every summer that I have been in my PhD program. That doesn’t mean I don’t take time off to enjoy vacations and such. I just want to finish my degree on time so I do sacrifice a little during summer to assure myself and my committee that I will finish my degree. Anyway, if you are a grad student, let us know what you do during summer. Write it down in the comments.

How Many Grad Schools Should You Apply To?

When I started my grad school experience, one of the first things I asked myself was “how many schools should I apply to?” I knew that I wanted to attend a school in Florida, but didn’t know if I should put all my eggs in one basket or reach out for more chances. Determining how many colleges to apply for can be tricky because you don’t want to spend hours writing statements of purpose for 10 colleges. But, at the same time, you want to make sure you have a chance to get into at least one college. If you are looking at how many grad schools top apply for, you came to the right place.

How Many Grad Schools Should you Apply To

First, what do you want?

You need to start off by asking yourself, “why am I going to grad school?” and “what grad school program is right for me?” Once you answer those questions, you need to start looking for programs that focus on what you want to learn. For me, I wanted to get a PhD in Environmental Engineering, so I looked at the best programs in Florida. I saw that UF, USF, and UM were all great colleges to apply for. I aimed for 3 colleges, but you can apply for much more, if you want.

When deciding what colleges to apply for, you need to split up the colleges into categories. The GradCafe has a really good way to decide how to split the colleges up. They say to divide them into 3 categories. 1) Your Dream School 2) Target School 3) Safety school. This is an excellent way to make sure you cover all bases and get into a program. If you want to read more about their recommendation, here’s the link.

I highly suggest following this method. Apply to the very best school for your program. This is the “dream school” approach. If you are an engineer, maybe apply for MIT or another really good engineering school. You might get in.

Next, apply for colleges in the “target school” category. These are colleges that are absolute perfect matches for you regarding average test scores, GPAs , and such. These are usually really good schools as well and definitely ones to focus on.

Lastly, apply to some “safety schools”. These schools are schools that have the degree that you want and are a guarantee to get into. They might be the most prestigious schools, but at least they will guarantee that you do go to grad school. Also, these schools may surprise you an be school for you.

Yellow Red Blue and Purple Letter Stickers

What is a good number of grad schools to apply to?

I will not say “It depends”. I will, however, give you a range to go for. The sweet spot, that I would suggest, is to apply to a minimum of 3 schools and a maximum or 6. This does many purposes which I will go into later. If you just apply to one school, you better know that you are going to get in. If you apply to too many schools, you will go crazy with applications, letters of recommendations, as well as fees. Don’t go broke trying to pay for application fees. Trust me, it is totally possible.

Why 3 as a Minimum?

Well, three is a good number because it forces you to decide the top three institutions that will help you achieve your goals. Ultimately three allows you to find your dream school and the second and third best. You don’t want to have your dream school then two very low tiered colleges after that. No, the top three should be reputable schools, that focus on the topic that you want to study. Having less than three colleges to apply for can be scary because you run the risk of potentially not getting into them. Colleges can be really picky, especially when it comes to grad students, so you need a few more than one or two colleges to apply to. Also, with three colleges, you can cover all three categories that were described above. You can get an application in for a dream school, your target school, and a safety school.

Why 6 as a Maximum?

There are a few sites which may say apply to upwards of 8 or 9 schools. This is a crazy amount of grad school programs to apply to. 6 might even be pushing it, but it gives you a serious safety net. Now in these 6 applications, separate the colleges into those three categories I talked about. A good plan is to apply for 1 really good school that is your dream school, 3 applications to target schools, and 2 applications for safety schools. I would highly suggest focusing on target schools as they will be higher quality programs. the more applications in that category, the better.

Don’t go too high or it will cost you.

The average cost of a grad school application is $60 . That is insane! Some colleges can be well over $100 in fees. If we do the math eq. Average payment x number of applications, we get $60*3=$180 or upper range $60*6=$360. That’s a ton of money upfront. Luckily, many programs do give application waivers. I would highly suggest looking into getting your application paid for so you don’t have to break the bank applying for a grad school program.

Person Holding 100 Us Dollar Banknotes

Final Thoughts

For me, I would suggest applying to 3 to 6 colleges for grad school. I have known people to apply for a lot more than that and I know people that only applied for one college. It is really up to you. Sometimes, you know you will get into a school and applying to just that one school is enough. Sometimes, you may just have to get into a program, so you apply to every college in the US lol. It is really totally up to you.

For me, I applied to 3 schools and only got into one. UF was my target school so I was happy to get into it, but I was close to not getting in to any grad schools. I was just very fortunate in this case.

For those applying to grad school, how many colleges are you applying for or how many grad schools did you apply to? I am curious to know what other people do and I am sure many other people would like to know as well.

As always, I hope you all have a wonderful day and a wonderful week. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog about habits for grad school this year (link here).

Should You Get a Master’s or PhD?

Going to graduate school is a huge commitment. You are essentially putting off making money to extend your college years. Of course, it is much more than just that. Grad school is about learning more about complex problems and getting ready to tackle these problems when you eventually leave. So the question is, what grad degree do I want? A Master’s or a PhD?

This blog post will primary deal with research grad degrees. There are many professional doctorate degrees that you can get, but I won’t really touch on them. These include degrees in law and medicine. Here is a good reference to see the other professional degrees that are out there. I honestly didn’t know there were so many. I want to deal with either getting a master’s degree or going for the prestigious PhD! Actually, a master’s is pretty prestigious as well.

Person Holding White Scroll

Which to choose?

This question should be on everyone’s mind when applying to grad school. What do I want to do and how will a graduate degree help me in the future? These questions are actually much harder than you think to answer because things change. One day, you may just want to make a ton of money so you apply for a master’s to get a pay increase. Another day, you want to work on really cool research for the rest of your life so you think “maybe a PhD is the right path for me!” I have been in both scenarios, so I know how difficult it can get.

First off, you need to decide what your ultimate goal is. For engineering, getting a PhD is almost overkill. Rarely do you see engineers getting doctorates unless they want to teach or do research. Many companies turn away engineers for getting a doctorate. It’s sad, but true. This is why getting a master’s in engineering is way more common than getting a PhD. You will get a pay increase and won’t really be turned away from engineering projects. But say, you are a biologist, getting a doctorate may lead to you become the lab manager at a well funded laboratory. Getting a master’s in biology won’t cut it, so you can see how you need to decide on your ultimate goal to make the decision for you. Find what you’re goal is and that can help decide what is best.

1 Us Dollar Bill

For the money

If you are in it for the money, I would say it’s probably best, in many cases, to just go for a master’s degree. Master’s degrees are usually 1 to 2 years of coursework and then you are free to call yourself a master :). You can often find that many jobs require a master’s degree and you’ll definitely have a competitive edge on everyone else. Plus, a master’s in some fields will get you a huge pay increase compared to just having a bachelor’s.

Going for a PhD may not be the most lucrative. Yes, you will get paid while in grad school, but hardly enough to survive. Some fields, such as engineering show that getting a PhD won’t really make you much more than having a master’s. Here is an article that shows the difference in pay for bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and PhDs. You can see in the table that many times getting a master’s degree is worth it for money and many times getting a PhD is better. Heck, sometimes just having a bachelor’s was enough.

I would say, if you are going for the money, getting a master’s is enough. Going for a PhD requires a lot more than passing exams and doing it for the money may cause you to be disappointed later on. There are other reasons to do a PhD that will be discussed.

Close-up Photo of Survey Spreadsheet

For the Love of Research

If you are like me, you love, love, love research. I mean, I am constantly thinking about it, sometimes even when I am actively trying not to. If you have this mindset, a PhD is the right path for you, 100%. a PhD is all about pushing the boundary of knowledge and learning how to do independent research. A master’s can also accomplish this too, but often it is so fast that you don’t learn all of the skills you need to be a successful researcher.

This is a great path to go on if you absolutely love the field that you are in. You kind of need to love the field you are in so you don’t absolutely hate the next few years of researching that topic. If you don’t absolutely love the field you are in, I would highly suggest that you do not do a PhD. There is a reason why I have a whole blog on how to go through a doctorate program and reduce the effects and chances of a mental illness. It is hard work and exhausting.

Close Up Photo of a Person Wearing Suit Jacket

Your Career

What type of career do you want? Do you want to work in the academic field or maybe you want to do industry work? So for an academic job, especially being a professor, you’ll need your doctorate. If you want to just be a teacher, getting a master’s is perfectly fine and encouraged. The more education and knowledge, hopefully the better teacher you become. Also, if you want to teach at a community college, you will need at least a master’s.

Say you want to do industry work, a master’s is completely fine. You will find many job postings that you will be perfect for. Getting a PhD may be overkill for some jobs, as stated earlier. Also, getting a PhD may close the doors for some jobs that you may have wanted to do. It doesn’t mean that you can’t work in industry if you have a PhD, you will just be working on some other jobs. Some of these jobs you didn’t know existed.

Final Thoughts

For those that have gone to grad school, what degree did you get and what was the reason you went for that specific degree. For me, getting a doctorate was the right choice for me because I want to go into the research field after college. I tried engineering but research really stood out to me.

As always, I hope everyone found this blog to be insightful or at least just fun to read. If you haven’t read my blog about feeling stuck while doing experiments, go check it out here.

Do You Need to Be Smart to Go to Grad School?

I think that everyone that has considered going to grad school has googled this exact question. I don’t want to admit how many times I have googled it lol. The same answer always comes up, regardless of where I go. No, you don’t have to be a genius, or even smart, to go to grad school. You just need to be a hard worker that has a thirst for knowledge.

One of the reasons that people may consider this question is because grad students are always portrayed as super intelligent nerds. This can be slightly intimidating to people because they may not live up to these portrayed standards. I am here to tell you that you don’t need to be “smart” to go to grad school. You just need to be a hard worker.

Yes, grad school is full of super intelligent individuals, but there are just as many students that did ok in undergrad. I know people that received there master’s in college and failed a ton of their high school courses. Undergrad wasn’t much different, but they did excel in grad school. I also know people that were bottom of their class while going for their doctorate. You know what I call them these days? Doctor!

Woman Sitting in Front of Macbook

Hard Work

Hard work pays off though. Grad school is a grind that may last for a very long time. You will come in each day, pick away at your thesis a bit more and more, then go home. Repeat for 5 years and you get a doctorate lol. Being super intelligent but not willing to put forth the effort will only get you so far. The individuals that can keep going after years of failure and very small wins are the ones who will excel and thrive.

You are smart though

You are smart though, if you get into grad school. Don’t think you aren’t. The reason many people don’t think they are is because they get thrown into a pond with very big fish. You may have someone who graduated top of their class from Harvard or someone who one the national science fair in 8th grade. Because of this, you may not think you belong, but you do.

Person Holding Gray Twist Pen and White Printer Paper on Brown Wooden Table

Apply

It does not matter whether you are smart or not, apply to grad school. I guarantee you will get in. The journey is tough, but you are tougher. The worst thing that happens is you don’t get in. There are so many grad programs anyway, just keep applying. You will get into one of them, I promise.

Final Thoughts

Today, I am feeling a bit dumb, but that’s due to the crazy brain fog that comes with Covid. Oh, right, I had covid and didn’t tell you guys. Some of you could probably guess by my posts recently. Writing has been a bit difficult for me due to brain fog, so my writing might be a little all over the place. I am trying, though, and will go back to update my posts once I get back to normal.

Those that did apply for grad school and those that went to grad school, did you ever type in “do you have to be smart to go to grad school?” I am curious to know. Let us all know in the comments. Anyway, I hope you all have an awesome day and I will see you all in the next one. Cheers!

Should You Do An Internship in Grad School?

It’s internship and job hunting season. I bet you didn’t know there was such as thing. Well in college, there is lol. It usually occurs right after career showcases happen, usually February. Summer is the most popular time to do an internship, so people are trying to secure one before they go on break. Obtaining an internship for the summer can help pay for expenses during the fall semester, and in some cases, pay for classes as well. I have known many individuals that have gotten high paying internships and paid for their tuition just from 3 months of working! So, internships are great to have.

Now, should you get one while in grad school? This can be a tricky question to answer because grad school is much more different than undergrad. First off, grad school covers a very broad range of studies. Grad school includes master’s, MBA, PhD, law degrees, medical degrees, education degrees, and a whole lot of other degrees that I really don’t know much about. In undergrad, it’s mostly dealing with a bachelor’s degree, which most are set up the same way, course work. Grad school can be course work, teaching experience, research based (me), or some other strange teaching method lol. This makes it difficult to find time to do an internship. Sometimes, it can be impossible.

Woman Coding on Computer

Master’s Students

During your master’s, you will probably have summers free. Take full advantage of internships if you are in this position. In fact, I highly suggest getting one to get an understanding of the types of jobs that you may have after college. Master degree holders are very valuable, so finding an internship isn’t as hard as you may think. Also, you can negotiate a higher pay because you are a degree holder already. Do not sell yourself short.

For master’s students, I would suggest looking at companies that you are interested in working at and applying there. This serves many purposes. 1) You will get your foot in the door and can put that on your resume. 2)You will get experience at the company and they will most likely hire you on as a full time employee, with a higher salary than a person just starting. 3) You will get paid over summer and get valuable work experience lol. 4) You can also see if you like the job that you are applying for. If you get an internship and hate working as that position, then you saved yourself a ton of time and can try another position.

Gold and Black Statue of Man Holding Book

Law Students

If you are a law student and wondering if you should get an internship, then you came to the right place. Law students are some of the busiest and overworked individuals that I know. I am dating a lawyer and my current roommate is a law student. One of my best friend’s girlfriend is a law student as well and all of my girlfriend’s friends are lawyers. I am surrounded…Let me tell you, law students make great employees and getting an internship while in law school is imperative. You need the experience of being a lawyer or you’re going to have a hard time after college. Being a lawyer is not like law school. You will need some experience to become a well rounded lawyer when you pass the bar and go work for the big law firms.

Summers are open for you to get an internship wherever you want. My girlfriend had a ton of internships and got a ton of experience before she left college. Summers were spent working for quite a few firms as well as the public defenders office. I believe she had internships during the second year of law school as well. When talking to her, she always stresses that getting these internships were essential to getting a good job.

For those in law school that are deciding whether or not to get an internship, trust me when I say DO IT!!! Get one for summer and make the most of it. Do an internship this summer and next and take the final summer off to study for the bar. I guarantee you will thank me later for pushing you lol.

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PhD

PhD students spend the whole year ding work. For those doing research, you probably won’t be going and doing an internship, though this isn’t always the case. I have known individuals getting their doctorates that spend their summers at internships, usually somewhere related to their research. This is important because they can use this time as experience for their own research goals and maybe even incorporate it into their thesis. Some research PhDs do internships on the side while working on their own research full time. If you do this, make sure that it is alright with your adviser and doesn’t set you back in graduating.

PhD students that don’t do year round research may definitely do an internship during the summer. This is a common occurrence for individuals that are only paid for 9 months and probably teach to get paid. Internships help to supplement the 3 months out of teaching and help to hone their skills in the field that they are studying. Getting an internship while doing a PhD is very common, though not many people really talk about it, surprisingly.

Final Thoughts

Yes, grad students can do internships. Depending on what you do, you may not have the time to be able to do an internship or you risk setting back graduation. Other times, getting an internship is the best possible thing you can doing while getting a grad degree. It can help you find a job, find what you are passionate about, and even earn you a bit of money. If you are in a position where you can get a internship, I suggest going for it. Get the experience. It is well worth it.

Let me know in the comments if you think it is good or bad to have an internship in grad school. Also, if you have had an internship as a grad student, tell us about your experience. We would love to know more.

How to Ace Your First Exam

I have been seeing quite a few people in the libraries lately which can only indicate one thing, EXAM TIME. Now, it is spring semester so this is probably not the first exam time of the school year for most people. Now if you are reading this and it is fall semester, it probably is the first exam that you have had in a good while. Don’t be afraid though, exams are an unfortunate, yet necessary, part of college. Also, you will pass, I promise.

Now, grad school is notorious for giving some hard and long exams. I once had an exam that took me 2 whole days to finish. It was a take home exam but was so long that I needed the full two days to do it. If you aren’t so lucky and have only in class exams, well, you better get on the study train, ASAP!

First exams can be a little intimidating, unfortunately. It is the first time seeing an exam for that class and you really don’t know how the professor will score it, or how hard it will be. If you are familiar with the professor, you may definitely have an advantage. I liked taking classes with the same professors because you knew how the exams would be as well as how hard or easy. If you don’t have that luxury, don’t panic. Most of the time, the first exam isn’t the hardest of the semester.

first exams

What to Expect on the First Exam

The first exam will most likely cover the basics that you learn in the first 3 or 4 weeks of class. You are just starting to get into the meat of the class but are basically reviewing some key concepts prior to tackling the harder subjects. This is why I believe the first exam is usually the easiest. I have had many classes where the first exam was the hardest, but it was always curved at the end. Professors don’t want to fail half the class before spring break, so they won’t make it too terribly difficult.

Two Men Studying Together

Review Sessions are Awesome!!!!

Usually before the exam, the professor will have a review session. Some of these review sessions are during class, but others might be outside of class. Make sure to go to them! They will hopefully cover the topics on the exam. Sometimes they just review everything which doesn’t really help lol. This is a good time to ask questions and get a better understanding of what concepts will be covered. They may even tell you what each question will be on exactly. Take full advantage of these sessions and write notes. Spend your time studying the material that was brought up and get a good grasp on all of those ideas and concepts.

Week Before Exam

First off, pray that you don’t have like 3 exams all in the same week. If you are lucky to only have one, focus on that mostly. The week following up to the exam is a good time to brush up on the previous few weeks of material. You probably only have like 3 classes so you should know at least what that class is about and not confusing it with another lol. Start reading your notes and getting familiar with those subjects. It is easier to start studying early than at the last minute. Cramming was all good and fun in undergrad, but you won’t last long if that’s what you do in grad school. These concepts might take a few days to understand fully as well. If you are in a STEM program, you’ll probably be doing math, so learning how to do equations and problems the night before is a recipe for disaster. Trust me lol.

Woman Sleeping

Make Sure to Sleep

The reason I suggest studying during the week is so you do not burn yourself out. If you study at the last minute, you’ll probably pull an “all nighter” and do really bad the next day due to lack of sleep. Don’t be this person, be responsible. Getting enough sleep is essential for brain function and retention of information. Remember, grad school is not just go to class, take a test, graduate. No, it’s go to class, learn the material for research and your career, pass the exam because you know the material, and retain the info to be a better scientist. Sleep allows you to retain the information better. One of my favorite things to do, which allowed me to get a 3.91 GPA in my Master’s program, was to study at night, right before bed. I would study before sleep and then immediately go to bed. The next day, I would literally remember everything from the night before. Apparently there are studies going on about this exact method. So, Get some sleep!

Person Behind Books

Day of the Exam

So make sure you get plenty of sleep before the exam. Make sure you have studied a sufficient enough, but really watch “overstudying”. One time, I studied for a chemistry exam for 3 weeks. I was so sure that I was going to get an A until I got the exam and completely bombed it. I studied so much that I started to confuse myself and was completely confused during the exam. Unfortunately, I received a D on that test O.0. Try not to over study. And, above all else, make sure to actually wake up and go to the exam!!! Don’t oversleep (happened to a friend of mine).

One thing that I have a bad time doing on exam days is being overly caffeinated. As you guys and gals know, I love my coffee, so I tend to drink way too much on exam days because I am afraid I won’t be awake enough to do well. This usually makes me overly anxious. Something that is not good when taking an exam. If you are going to drink caffeine, try tea as an alternative to coffee. It will wake you up but won’t make you overly anxious.

Brown and Black Wooden Chairs Inside Room

After the Exam

After the exam, take the rest of the day off. Go do something fun or just stay home and watch a movie. Pushing yourself too hard is not good and taking an exam will really push you hard. After exam, I like to treat myself to a good dinner or lunch, depending when the exam is. I also like to just stay home and treat myself to a movie. Relaxing is one of the best things to do because you may need more energy soon to take even more exams. So take full advantage of this period where you can rest and relax.

Final Thoughts

Good luck on your first round of exams. If you study hard, sleep well, don’t over do it, and limit caffeine, I am sure you will ace it. Also, just know that GPA really doesn’t matter in grad school, so getting that B is totally fine. Focus on the research lol. If you have some secret tips to pass your first round of exams, share it with us in the comments! Until next time, take care everyone.

What a PhD in Environmental Engineering is Like

Have you ever wanted to know what it is like to get a PhD in environmental engineering? If the answer is no, well, hopefully you still read this blog and learn a bit. If the answer is “yes”, then I hope this blog helps you out a bit more. Getting a PhD has been such a crazy fun experience and one that was totally worth taking. In fact, I left a full time job to come pursue this career path. That’s a pretty hard thing to do, but one that was 100% worth it. Anyway, Let’s talk about what getting a PhD in Environmental Engineering is like.

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Before you apply

A PhD in environmental engineering requires a good grasp on scientific and mathematical principles. In undergrad, we took physics, chemistry, water chemistry, organic chemistry, dynamics, statics, as well as thermodynamics. On top of that, we have taken many classes dealing with design work, advanced mathematics, and computing. Writing it down makes it seem like a lot, well that’s because it is a lot (lol). If you want to apply to get in, you are required to have taken a ton of courses in different scientific fields. You will be doing a ton of science while in grad school.

What You Can do

Some of what I do for my PhD in Environmental Engineering

For me, personally, I am a biogeochemist. I work with heavy metals (primarily lead) and see how we can use biology, chemistry, and geology to figure out problems. One of my main goals is to link blood lead levels to environmental samples. Lead comes in ore form, as well as other forms (geology). By using chemical properties of lead (chemistry), we can link it to blood samples (biology). It is a pretty cool concept. But of course, this is one of the many things that you might work on as an environmental engineer.

Black Illustration on White Printer Paper

Design Based

I have friends who do modelling of saltwater intrusion, other’s are education based, while some deal with counting birds. Environmental engineering is such a broad topic and has many applications. The engineering part can deal with design work. There are plenty of PhD students that are designing ways to clean up water or solve environmental contamination problems. These individuals rely heavily on AutoCAD and other programs such as Matlab and programming software to analyze data and create a model or design based on that.

We have a whole research group that deals with covid and how it travels on aerosols. This is actually pretty cool because they do tests around campus so you can see their work in action. Individuals in the air department deal with environmental pollutants that affect our breathing. They see how car exhaust mixes in the atmosphere and are extremely helpful in the fight against climate change.

PhD in environmental engineering water

Water people

I get thrown into this category. My other research deals with drinking water systems. Environmental engineers help to get clean water to households without contaminating them with toxins such as heavy metals and other contaminants. My research deals with water chemistry changes to reduce lead contamination in water systems. Stuff like this is only a very small amount of what you can learn in the water section. Many people in environmental engineering are also ecologists. Some do research on lakes and streams and find ways to clean them up. Other people focus on water systems in urban environment. These are almost classified as civil engineers, though.

PhD in environmental engineering water and wastewater

Water and Wastewater Plants

Many students work on methods to either design water treatment plants or create a product to help the plants be more efficient. We currently don’t have people working on this, but I know we have had people in the past work directly on problems dealing with water and wastewater plants. This is cool because you are directly affecting people’s lives and making it better in some way.

PhD in Environmental Engineering Waste

Solid and Hazardous Waste

This was one of my favorite classes at UF. If you have taken Solid and Hazardous Waste, you would agree with me. The research team in this department is huge. I mean huge!!!!! There is so much research involving trash and hazardous waste. You can do so many things to garbage to be used in some other methods such as reduction of toxic metals and even used as concrete. If you love trash and the many applications it has, you’d love to do research in this department. Plus, you would be one of not many working on these problems that we face with trash. Not many people like to deal with landfills or hazardous materials. You will though lol.

What the PhD is like

If you haven’t already, I highly suggest taking a look at my blog about the typical day as a PhD student (link here). Getting a PhD in environmental engineering is pretty difficult but not unattainable. If you are thinking about doing one, I would scour the internet for as much information on just doing a PhD in general. Many of the problems that grad student s have are common across all fields of study. A PhD is an apprenticeship. You are learning how to become a research scientist. You will work on very small portions of pretty large projects and you’ll be required to do this pretty much alone.

You will learn many skills that will be extremely helpful when looking for careers after college. Some, if not most, of these skills will not even have to do with science or engineering. Many of these skills will be learning quickly, writing effectively, and conveying complex ideas for people to understand. Remember at the beginning when I talked about all of the classes you should be familiar with? Now take those principles and explain them to people. It’s hard to do but something you may learn along the way.

I won’t lie to you, it’s a long journey of just doing repetitive things, reading papers, crying, and honing skills subconsciously lol. You will spend 3-8 years of your life, working each day on small, insignificant things, which in turn, will turn out to be very big things.

Should You do a PhD in Environmental Engineering?

Do you like to work on stuff that might lead to technology that helps mankind? Do you want to work with the brightest and most talented individuals around? Are you ok with failing 1000 times just to produce a little bit, if any, data? Do you want to go into academia or industry and end up working on some really cool projects that you might be the Principle Investigator on? If the answer is yes, then I think you will have a good chance at successfully finishing a PhD in environmental engineering.

Final Thoughts

If you are considering going for a PhD in environmental engineering, please send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. Just let me know that you are interested and ask me all the questions you like. I would love to share more of my experience with you, and who knows, we may be lab partners one day. As always, thank you all for spending the time to read my blog. I truly appreciate you all. Until next time, peace!

How Many Classes Should I Take?

This is a question that very few people like to tell you straight up. I will be the one to tell you exactly how many classes you should take each semester. As I have posted many times, grad school is as hard as you make it. It can be a walk in the park or a roller coaster of emotions that ends in you crying. Frankly, a mixture of both is ideal because it is challenging enough to really push you but also not so terrible that you have a mental breakdown. One of the ways to make sure that you get the most out of grad school is determining how many classes you take each semester and how hard to make that semester.

For many school, 9 credit hours is all you need to be a full time student. Undergrad way different because that required 12 credits, sometimes 15 credits, to be declared full time. But in grad school, taking 15 credits is a death sentence. Grad school classes aren’t necessarily harder, per se, they just demand a lot more of your time. For me, many of my classes were undergrad classes with added homework assignments and papers. I rarely took tests, but you bet your butt that I wrote a ton of papers.

If You Want a Quick Master’s

Many students just want to get through grad school as quickly as possible. To get a master’s degree, most of the programs require 30 credits of classwork. If you do 9 credits each semester and one 3 cred course during the first semester, you can be done in 4 semsters. Usually people will stay for 2 years, and then finish. I would recommend, if you really want to get out quickly, take 12 credits the first semester, 6 credits during summer (if there are classes available), and 12 credits the final semester. This means that you can finish your master’s in a year and go on to other things in life.

For not as driven individuals

The best amount of classes that I found were great for me was max 3 classes. 9 credits is a full time job in grad school. You will dive very deep into complex ideas and theories and having enough time to thoroughly do this is ideal. 3 classes each semester, minus summer, should be the max so you do not go insane. I have heard of people taking on 12 credits there final semester just to finish without having to stay one semester for one class. This is fine, but I am not encouraging this. I think finishing grad school without any mental health issues is a major badge of honor.

So for this path, you will take 9 credits fall, 9 credits spring, maybe 6 credits fall, and 6 credits spring to finish in 2 years. The final two semesters can be good to look for jobs, do research or just have fun. Grad school might be the last schooling you ever have before you go to work full time.

Woman Sitting on Chair Beside Table While Using Phone

For Those Working Full Time

I took courses through UF’s online program, EDGE, when I was working full time. It was a great experience and you can read about it here. Anyway, if you are working full time, the max amount of classes that you should take is 2. You will be working your butt off at work and school these semesters, but it is totally worth it. I advise you not to take anymore than 2 classes or 6 credits a semester. It may take a while longer to finish, but at least you will finish without going insane. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Final Thoughts

I think taking your time, learning the material, and getting some research experience is an ideal path for your master’s. If you need to rush through it to get to a higher paying job, then really know what you are getting into. Taking a ton of classes will take up a good chunk of time. If you have any questions about taking classes or literally anything about grad school, please email me at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I would be happy to answer any questions that you have. Email e even if you just want to say hello. I always love when I can communicate with readers.

As always, thank you for taking the time to come into my weird little world and read stuff that came from my weird little head lol. I always appreciate when people take the time out of there day to read what I have to write. This is one of the many reasons I love blogging.

5 Stages of Grad School

Today’s post might be a tad bit longer than usual. I have been doing some really interesting lab work and have been quite busy, so I am going to take a break for a bit and write a little. I am the person that does things in bursts. Unfortunately, this is extremely exhausting and tires me out really quickly. So, I am quite the “break taker” I suppose. During my breaks, I don’t really relax because I have to be constantly doing something that stimulates my brain. One thing that surprisingly helps is writing. Writing has been my go to for a while now, when I have down time or need to break.

So, this morning, I am going to do some writing before I have to get back to work. I am also trying to warm myself up for a task that I have been putting off for some time now lol. Anyway, todays wonderful and exciting topic is The 5 Stages of GRAD SCHOOL (oooooooooo). I actually thought about this topic on the way over to my office and I felt like I should write about it. I have gone through most of these stages and the last stage will be what I will face in the upcoming year. This is aimed more towards new grad students to kind of help them be ready for some very interesting stages in their academic tenure. So, let’s get right into it!

The 5 Stages of GRAD SCHOOL! (OOOOOOOOO)

Group of Friends Hanging Out

1) Classes and Pre Quals

This one of the stages of grad school is one of my all time favorites. See, classwork and getting to know the lab was such a fun and exciting time. Learning new materials, building up my familiarity with professors and colleagues, and being able to go home at a decent time was the bees knees. This one of the stages of grad school usually consists of the first 2 years. You are taking all of the course work required to finish the PhD requirements. You may have some work with your research, but it is mainly stuff to prepare you for after class work. This is the time to develop friendships and get to know the other’s in your program. It is also a great time to develop great habits that will make the rest of the time in grad school much easier.

Take full advantage of this time. Join a sports league, maybe join a club, or just do a bunch of things while you have the time and energy. The later stages can make it more difficult to do these things. Also, take the time to read up on anything and everything that there is about your research. You don’t need to be an expert at this time, but knowing a bit of information about the subject always gives you brownie points with your PI. I loved this phase of my time in grad school. The saying “you’re gonna miss it when it’s gone” truly applies to this. I miss the classwork and being surrounded by super motivated and intelligent individuals.

Person With Tattoo on Arm Holding Pen Writing on White Paper

2) Qualifying Exam Prep

So you’ve made it this far. You did not “masters out”. I have heard of many people getting funded for a PhD with the intent of just leaving after they get their master’s. I think this is why many professors bring on individuals that already have their master’s. That, and funding lol. Anyway, thisstage of grad school is one of the hardest, and frankly, the most stressful. Pre qualifying exam includes writing up a proposal, getting your committee to agree on a day for you to present it, and also reading more papers than you ever have in your life. The proposal write up is quite difficult because you have to come up with unique ideas on what to do research on. By this time, you have discussed with your adviser about what you will be doing, so the only thing to do is write it up.

Now the qualifying exam is a different story. It is a combination of a written test and and oral presentation. The written test can be over literally anything that your committee find fit for you to test on. The oral presentation is there to present your proposal as well as answer anymore questions that they have. My qualifying exam took over a month to complete and even longer to find out if i was a PhD Candidate. You can read more about it on my blogs about the qualifying exam, here and here.

Heck, some grad school programs are trying to get rid of them all together because they are almost like an academic hazing ritual. You will feel defeated afterwards and many people leave just because of it. It is a rough time, but it is do-able. Trust me, I’ve done it and so can you. Unfortunately, it leads into some of the hardest times, motivationally wise that is.

White and Tan English Bulldog Lying on Black Rug

3) Post Qual Slump

Welcome to year 3! Many people on the internet have warned me about this particular time in grad school. You are done with classes, you just finished your qualifying exam., and you are ready for research. Unfortunately, this is the hardest time to find any form of motivation. You will go weeks without accomplishing a single task. Burn out is a real thing and I’m quite sure that is what you deal with during this portion of your grad school experience. I know I felt sluggish, unmotivated, and do right lazy. This is normal and it will pass.

During your third year, you might get very little done because you are burnt out. Just remember to keep going. You will also ask yourself quite often “is this still worth it”? The answer to that question will always be yes. Do not get in the mindset where you think all of this work is for nothing. Remember, your PhD is an apprenticeship. You are supposed to go through all of this to become a competent scientist. Some things need work like lack help with mental health, though. (One of the reasons I started this blog). This year will pass very quickly and you will see motivation come back again. There is hope, I promise.

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4) The “Now What?”

Ah, this is where I am at currently. I am coming to the end of my research as well as the end of my PhD. Unfortunately, I haven’t gone full force into my writing yet, though that may come sooner than later. I am in the “now what?” phase. This phase is where you start thinking of the next step. What will I do with my degree? What types of careers are out there for me? This stage can be scary and quite confusing. You’ll scour the web, looking for jobs that require a PhD and realize that most are post docs. It can get discouraging, especially if you are like me and probably heading to industry after college.

This phase is exciting though. You are pretty much a the finish line and can almost call yourself, doctor. All of the years of studying, the late nights in the lab, the packages of ramen, all come down to this phase as well as the next. You are probably ABD (all but dissertation) at this point, so all you need to do is write. Unfortunately, you are too overwhelmed with figuring out what you want to do in life that you put off writing until your adviser starts asking for papers to read and correct. This is the time you hit the last stage of grad school.

Standing Woman Facing a Speeding Train

5) Fast and The Furious

This is it, the final hurdle between you and sweet, sweet freedom. Why do I say this is the fast and the furious? Well, because it’s going to go by fast and you’re going to be furious going through this lol. i have a friend who is currently going through the writing and editing phase now. She spends hours each day writing. I mean like 14+ hours writing. I haven’t seen her in weeks and I’m pretty sure she hasn’t stepped outside in weeks as well. Unfortunately, her thesis first draft has to be submitted in like 3 weeks so she’s going full force.

This stage in grad school is nuts. You might get some more experiments in, but you really should be finished. Writing can be awful and writing a 300 page explanation of your research is awful. This is also the stage where you will defend your thesis and graduate. It is exciting, goes by in a flash, and can cause you to break. At this point in your PhD, you just want to finish just for the sake of finishing. you really don’ care about the project anymore. You might have a ton of motivation with very little energy.

As I stated before, this is where you defend. I have been to a few defenses and they are all the same. If you passed the quals, you will pass the defense. No one that I know has ever failed the defense and I honestly think it is there for you to show off. Many people present their research in the “victory lap” manner. They are confident, have published papers, and know that they will be a doctor. I like those presentations because it takes away the stress. You did it, you made it this far, let’s have fun and learn about the years of research you did.

Final Thought

These are the 5 stages of grad school that you will likely face when doing a doctorate. Of course, all doctorates are different so these stages of grad school might be different than yours. Let me know in the comments if these are experiences that you had and if this blog post even makes sense lol. I think I have sufficiently warmed up my hand and now I am ready to do work. I will see you all in the next blog. Peace!

Days I Don’t Want To Write

If you read my blog, you have probably seen a few of these posts here and there. Let me link you to a few of them. (here, here, here). Dang, I do write a ton of blogs about lack of motivation and not working. Today, like those other days, is a very difficult day to get going. I find it amazing how motivated I am the day before, but that all disappears as soon as I arrive to my lab. Today, I had big plans on writing. Unfortunately, those plans might not happen the way that I want. Today is a day that I just don’t want to write. It’s a bit ironic that I am writing about not writing, though. I am hoping this gives me a bit of a boost. So, if you are like me, and don’t feel like writing today, check out some helpful advice on how to get started or not feel as bad.

Let’s Get Started

Close-up of Hand Holding Pencil over White Background

I think writing can be quite a struggle for people because they want to be perfect. When I first started, perfection was the key. I wasn’t going to give in some half down garbage to my professor. So, what I did, was set aside like a good 8 hours to just write perfection. You know what happened? I spend 30 minutes writing and the rest of the time anxious that what I had written was bad. That means that I got practically nothing on the paper. This can be bad, especially when you have a deadline.

So Key Tip #1: Write for imperfection

Woman Typing on Laptop

On the days that you find hard to write, just write a few sentences. One thing that I find a bit upsetting is looking back on the day and realizing that I may have done like 2 things and that was it. I usually have the whole day planned to get some work done, especially writing, and I may only get a few small things out of the way. This usually creates a ton of unwanted anxiety and I worry that I will fall behind. One way to not feel this way is to just designate a small amount of time to write. 30 minutes is all you need. You can write a bit, get closer to the goal of finishing a bit more, and you won’t feel so bad. Writing should be a marathon, not a sprint.

So Key Tip #2: Just write anything. 500 words! 200 words! a few sentences! Just write!

Lastly, on days that you just don’t feel like writing at all. Like, these are days that writing will be the same as pulling teeth. On those days, don’t write. Just don’t write at all. Instead, maybe plan out writing for the next day and do some things that you have been putting off. I know on days where I would rather do anything than write, I will clean or do data input. Maybe catch up on organizing things or plan out the whole semester. One day of not writing will not destroy your career or studies. Hopefully you don’t have a job where you have to write or you are fired. In that case, making a plan to write is the best.

Woman Sitting on Brown Wooden Chair Beside Coconut

So lastly, Key Tip #3:If you don’t want to write then don’t. Make sure to get something done that is beneficial. It will make you feel like you did quite a bit that day and you won’t have anxiety.

Final Thought

Today I am going to take advantage of #1 and #2. I have this blog to prepare me for writing a bit and that is what I am going to do. I want to feel like this day didn’t go to waste, even though I know it did not. There was a ton of stuff for me to do this morning but I do like to get a bit of writing in as well. For those of you that do write on a daily basis, what do you do to keep yourself going? Add some tips for those that just don’t feel like writing. Here are some tips from MasterClass on how to motivate yourself to write. Check it out.

How Do Grad Students Get to Class

There are many questions that you will probably ask when you start grad school. Where are my classes? Is my adviser going to me nice or mean? How much effort do I need to put in to receive a B? You know, the really important questions. One question that may come up is how do grad students even get to class? Many grad students have to live very far away from campus and commute somehow each day. There are a wide variety of methods to get to class that I want to go over today.

I want to share some of my favorite ways how grad students get to class or to campus as well as some of the more popular methods that people do. Some are extremely obvious while other’s might not be. Let’s take a look at the different ways that grad students get to campus.

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How grad students make it to class each day

how grad students get to class :bus

1) Bus

This is the most popular way in which grad students make it to campus. Most colleges provide this as a means of transportation and you pay for it in student fees. This is the easiest way to get to class on time because there are usually buses that come by each stop ever 10 to 15 minutes. you don’t have to wait long. I like this method if I live very far away and I am on a non-popular bus route. When you have a popular route, the buses usually fill up very quickly and there’s never room to sit. This might be the best method, especially if you live far away.

how grad students get to class :bike

2) Bike to Class

I love to bike. I have a road bike specifically for making it to my lab in time to do experiments or make it to meetings. I, however, hate riding my bike in a college town. Some people love this method of transportation because there is a ton of freedom and you will get to your destination probably quicker than a bus. I don’t like it because you have to weave in and out of traffic and college town drivers do not care about your safety. This method is great in places where a driver is more likely to pay attention. Not in a college town lol. Also, when you get on campus, you have to really watch where you are going because there are a million people that you can hit. If you are a good cyclist, I suggest this as a method to get to class quickly.

how grad students get to class :walk

3) Walk

This is my favorite method of getting to my office or class. Walking is great exercise and I also get to complete my walking challenge for the day. It is slow, however. I do have to leave my apartment about 30-40 minutes early just to make it on time. This can be a lot for some people. Also, if you live very far away, walking might not be the best way to get to school. I would suggest not walking and taking the bus if you live greater than 1.5 miles away from campus.

how grad students get to class :scooter

4) Scootering

I love this method of transportation. Recently, those pay-to-scoot scooters have shown up, basically out of no where. People are scootering everywhere and for relatively little money. I have a push scooter so the upfront cost was a lot but at least I am not paying like $0.80 per minute to use these. The motorized (electric) scooters do go very fast so making it to class on time is easy and efficient. These are a good alternative to bikes and you can pick one up to ride literally anywhere near campus. For a push scooter, they are just as fast and a great way to get some exercise in. Just make sure to wear a helmet when riding, especially in a college town.

how grad students get to class :scooter

5) Gas Scooters

You see these a ton on campus. They are fast, fun, and inexpensive to park on campus. They are also fairly fuel efficient and will get you where you need to go. Getting a parking permit for them is like half the price of a car so you can pull right up in front of your building. They have designated parking areas for them all over too. This is a good method if you live a bit further away from campus, but don’t want to drive or taking a bus. You also need to be extra careful because these are motorized vehicles and can be dangerous. If you are going to get one, make sure you are familiar with the area you’re going to drive and be extra precautious. I have seen quite a few accidents involving scooters.

how grad students get to class :car

6) Driving your car

This is lower on the list because I find this method to be a pain. Parking is impossible to find, you have to drive like 20 miles per hour everywhere, and the parking permits are expensive. This method might be the best, other than the bus, if you are in a place where it gets cold. Walking to class in the snow sounds awful and same with taking your bike or scooter. The bus is a good alternative and it’s included in your fees. Cars are good ways to get to campus if you live very far away. I have known people to commute 40 minutes each day via car. Their rent is much cheaper, but the commute is terrible.

how grad students get to class :skateboard

7) Skateboard or Longboard (electric and non electric)

I think this method of transportation is quite cool. I love skateboarding, though, I am terrible at it. Skateboards and longboards are fast and efficient ways to get to campus. The only bad thing is braking lol. I find longboards harder to slow down, especially when riding through campus. Skateboarders and long boarders do weave in an out of foot traffic, but I haven’t seen any accidents with them yet. If you are good at riding either one, this may be a fantastic way to get to campus.

how grad students get to class :uber

8) Uber or Lyft

Yes, people pay for rides to campus. Heck, I saw a girl get picked up off of the road then dropped off a mile across campus. It took them the same amount of time to get there as it took me to walk from the initially pickup to the drop off. I thought it was funny. People utilize uber to get across campus. I wish I had the financial capability to do this, but alas, I am poor. This is a great method to get to campus when you have night classes. Usually after a certain time, busses become few and far between so an Uber or Lyft driver can come get you and take you to your destination safely.

Finals Thoughts

Getting to class can be a chore, I know, I have been a student for the majority of my life. These are ways grad students get to class are the best and possible some of the only ways lol. I am curious, how did you get to class when you where in school? How many of you had to walk up-hill, in the snow. both ways? I know my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents did lol. I’ll tell my kids that one day as well.

As always, I hope you guys have an amazing day and week. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog about my experience with therapy and why everyone needs it. Peace.

Why grad students hate undergrads

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Why do grad students hate undergrads? Do grad students even hate undergrads or do the undergrads just think this? So many questions but I do have answers, at least from my experience. Grad students do not hate undergrads at all. In fact, we are friends with quite a few of them. I know for a fact that ever grad student in my department has at least one or two friends that are in undergrad. So no, we do not hate them.

Group of Friends Hanging Out

What We Think About Them

We do, however, find most of them quite annoying lol. Undergrads are like the little brother who annoys you when you were in your teenage years. Grad school is a lot like that time to be honest. We are confused, angry all the time, we tend to eat a ton of food, and we complain literally about everything. So you can see that when someone like a little brother or sister comes up to you, you may find them annoying. This is the case with undergrads.

Generation Difference

Grad students also don’t really know how to interact sometimes with undergrads. There can be a whole generation difference between them. I am 10 years older than the freshman that showed up this year which is a huge difference. I have also been on campus for quite some time so it does get a bit annoying to see all of these young people walking really slowly in front of me, looking for their classes.

Men's White Button-up Dress Shirt

They are Alright, I Guess

We do not hate undergrads at all. I really enjoy when they are around, especially near my office because it really reminds me of the good times that I had when I was in their shoes. I love hearing about their classes and how hard the tests were. Those are the few things that I really miss about undergrad and I get to relive them through the kids walking in the hall.

Grad students reading this blog, please be kind to the undergrads because one of these days they will be in your shoes. Also, remember that you were there not so long ago. They are trying to learn the ways of college and grow. You went through the exact same thing and were the annoying little brother or sister to the grad students at one time. Be kind to them and support one or two while you’re in school still. Maybe become a mentor or heck, maybe even tutor them and make some money.

Final Thought

Grad students do not hate undergrads. We may find them a bit annoying but there is no hatred towards them. If you hate undergrads, please tell us why? I honestly don’t think you can really hate them at all since you were one of them probably not too long ago. I hope you guys have an awesome day and week. If you haven’t already read it, go check out my blog about feeling lost in grad school. It’s a pretty great read.

Habits in Grad School This Year

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Today is December 29th, 2021. We have 2 more days of 2021 and we will be on to a brand new year, hopefully way better than the previous ones. First off, congratulations o getting through another year of Covid. We still have a ways to go but I truly hope that we are at the end of it. If you are getting ready to start grad school in the spring, I welcome you to one of the most exciting chapters of your life. If you are continuing with grad school, still, welcome! I hope you find this blog very helpful. Today I want to talk about a few habits that will be good to pick up this upcoming year and years to follow. I have written about the habits of highly successful grad students (here). I highly encourage you to read those if you are in grad school. Personally, I am going to try and solidify these into my life so things are a bit easier for me. This is my final 2-3 semesters of grad school, so finishing strong is a must.

Habits in grad school are extremely hard to create as well as break. Some really easy habits that grad students may make are sleeping in, not exercising, eating cheap food, blogging instead of writing their dissertation….(me). There are of course really good habits in grad school that you will naturally acquire such as using planners to remember things, taking public transportation instead of driving, and my favorite habit of all, coffee drinking (lol). You will create all types of habits and you may even try and break quite a few. The habits on this list are some that I feel will help me get through my last year and hopefully help you as well. So let’s talk about some habits in grad school that will make 2022 and on the best years of your life.

List of Habits in Grad School

Black and white from below background of Relaxation Deadline and Money titles on gray wall

1) Take more breaks.

Have a trigger that causes you to take breaks, especially in very stressful times. When you are on a time crunch, taking breaks seems like it;s counter intuitive. You want to get the work done and don’t have time to relax. Don’t listen to your brain. Make sure to take a break every 45 minutes or so. You will be able to stay more energetic to finish the job. Trust me, I started taking breaks after about 30 minutes of work and my productivity increased a ton. Here is an article about the benefits of taking breaks. Check it out here.

2) Drink More Water

I am going to drink a lot more water. One thing, you need water to survive (duh). “Research has demonstrated that lack of water to the brain can impair short-term memory function and the recall of long-term memory, as well as cause a variety of symptoms such as brain fog, exhaustion, headaches, sleep issues, stress, anger, and depression. Amongst its many health benefits, water helps with digestion and circulation, as well as helps with the transportation and absorption of nutrients, and helps to limit changes in body temperature in a warm or a cold environment. Drinking water can improve one’s brain health by simply increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain – which, in turn, improves concentration and cognition (supporting memory function) and helps balance moods and emotions, reducing stress and headaches.”-Women’s Brain Health Initiative. My blog is all about ways to help stay focused, motivated, and of course, reduce mental health issues.

Drinking water can help solve or at least help to resolve those problems. Also, drinking water when you first wake up helps you wake up faster. You are probably pretty dehydrated when you wake up, so grab a glass of cold water to rehydrate yourself and get a bit more energy.

Crop ethnic female psychotherapist in formal clothes writing notes in clipboard while listening to black male patient complains in light studio

3) Complain Less

Do you find yourself complaining about a ton of stuff? I know I complain more than I wish, and I am trying to create a habit of thinking of positive things instead of the negative. Grad school can be full of negative things, but I guarantee there are far more positive things to think about. It really isn’t all that bad, but our brain can focus on the negatives so much that it seems that bad. One way to create this habit is to write down things that you are grateful for each day. Focus on what things you were grateful for during that specific day as well. Also, tell yourself a few good things that happened that day, even if they were very small. At first, you may struggle to find good things, but naturally, you’ll start to find it easier to see everything good that happened. Trust me, it works if you try.

Brown Wooden Table With Chairs

4) Take Lunches Outside

I have developed this nasty habit of eating lunch at my desk. Every day, I make my lunch, plop down in front of my computer and eat while watching YouTube videos. I truly believe that separating yourself from your work or just your computer during lunch will make your life a bit better. One thing that happens is you eat slower and recognize how much food you actually have eaten. The key word here is mindfulness lol. I have a bad habit of eating quickly and watching videos at my desk doesn’t help. Also, I think just removing yourself completely from your desk is good for your mental health. I’ll have to research that and provide some manuscripts for you guys to read.

5) Writing at Least 500 Words a Day

I want to emphasize how important this habit is in grad school. I have been in grad school for 5 years now and the best thing that you can do is write every single day. This is such an important skill to acquire. I have even written quite a lot about it. (link here). This is a habit that I am close to making part of me. This blog helps a ton and I have found that days just aren’t really complete unless I write something. It has also made the thesis writing portion of my doctorate a piece of cake. Writing has been extremely beneficial and I am glad I started really focusing on it the past year. This will be on the top of my list for this upcoming year.

Final Thought

I know these are only 5 habits but I think these are definitely the most important ones that you need to pick up this upcoming year. Seriously, do it lol. What habits are you hoping or GOING to gain in the upcoming year or what habits do you thing need to be added to this list? Please let me know in the comments. I would greatly appreciate it! As always, thank you so much for reading my blog. I can’t stress enough how amazing it is to actually have people read what I write! You guys and gals make writing fun and enjoyable. I am truly appreciative of you all.

Traveling in Grad School

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COVID 19 will end one day and it will be ok to travel. I guarantee this. Until then, traveling in grad school right now may not be the best idea, especially if you are not vaccinated. If you are like me, you are feeling the travel bug, bad. Every year since I graduated undergrad has had at least one trip to another country or multiple countries, so I am ready to get back out there. I know for a fact that I am not alone. My girlfriend seems to spend more time on Skyscanner, looking for cheap flights everywhere than she does on work lately lol. I am pretty much the same way right now, so it’s ok.

Traveling in grad school can be quite the experience. First off, you are pretty much limited to travelling places you can afford currently. You might be able to buy that plane ticket to Australia, but I know for a fact you’ll be staying at a hostel lol. Don’t worry, hostels are extremely fun places to stay and you get to meet some amazing people there. I wanted to take this time this morning to share a few places that I thin are really great to visit in grad school. These are all places that I have personally been. I have only been to 7 other countries, and have a ton more to get to. But, I have been to some fairly cool places. So, grab your passport and let’s get into it.

Places to go: Traveling in Grad School

1) Canada-Anywhere

Canada is one of my all-time favorite countries. The people are extremely nice, the food is amazing (and cheap), and best of all, they speak English! I have been to Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City. Out of those four, Montreal is my favorite. If you are able to make a trip over the border, go for it. Each town that I spent time in had so much to do and it was really cheap. I mean, the flights from Orlando to Toronto are like $150 right now so it may be good to go there right now. Below is a picture of an alley way in Quebec City. If you like climbing stairs, I highly suggest visiting here lol

Traveling in Grad School to Quebec
Quebec City

2)Ireland-Dublin

Dublin reminded me of Pennsylvania so much. I was fortunate enough to go during New Years and actually celebrate New Years Eve in The Brazen Head, which is the oldest pub in Ireland. So, that was cool. The town is super fun to explore and the people are some of the nicest. Hostels can be a bit expensive here though, so be ready for that. The flights are not too expensive to get there. I think honestly, travelling to Dublin is the cheapest to get over to Europe, so it’s a good place to travel. Also, you’ll love Ireland, especially if you love the color green. Everything there is green lol.

3) Luxemburg-Luxemburg City

If you have the chance, go to Luxemburg City. This is, by far, my favorite location that i have ever visited. It is a combination of Germany and France. I can’t really say that since I haven’t been to either of those countries, but my girlfriend has and said that it’s pretty much that. The city is straight out of a post card. Let me add one of the photos I took while there.

traveling in grad school to Luxemburg

The city is surrounded by a giant wall as well. It was really cool to just walk around the city, take in all of the sites, and truly just be a peace there. I loved the food as well and loved the pastries especially. French pastries are the best. The hostel that we stayed at was extremely cheap and right down the street from where I took this picture. I highly suggest making a trip here. It is a good 1 to 2 day place to visit.

4) USA-New York City

If you want to experience some of the craziest people, the best food, and possibly see a celebrity walking there dog, New York is where to go. I have only been twice, but have experienced quite a few things in the like 5 or 6 days that I spent there. You may have to save a bit of money for a hotel or try and find a friend that lives up there to stay with but it is so worth it. Once you get there, just walk around the city. Take in all of the sites, sounds, and smells (the good smells hopefully). Grab some pizza and make sure to get a bunch of bagels. Please send me some bagels too.

traveling in grad school to New York