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.

busy in college

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.

super busy in college

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.

not being busy in college

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.

Be as busy as you want to be in college

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!

Traveling in Grad School: You Can Do It

It’s my favorite time of the year, summer! As a grad student, you tend to favor summers more than any other semester. 1) You won’t have to push through a ton of undergrads to get to your lab. 2) The gym is finally empty so you can workout in peace. And 3) it means your adviser is probably gone for a bit so you can take some time off. If you decide to take time off and go on vacation, I highly suggest doing it during the summer when things are a tad bit slower. Traveling in grad school during this time can be super great and a bit stressful. So today, I want to cover the topic of traveling in grad school and how you can do it without going insane lol.

traveling in grad school

Why You Need To Travel

Life is more than sitting at a computer and doing stupid work until 5 pm. Life is about going into the unknown, exploring what is there, and enjoying everything about this experience. You are more than a grad student, you are a human being. Life is quite a weird thing and you need to enjoy every bit of it. Traveling is one way of doing this. Now, in grad school, you are very limited on the type of traveling that you can do. Money constraints, work load constraints, and everything else in between. So, traveling to far away places might not be on your list of things to do. You can, however, explore the location in which you live. Traveling doesn’t always mean going somewhere far away. It can mean exploring the area where you live.

Traveling is important because you experience new things. You get to remove yourself from the day to day stresses that keep you up at night. Heck, you might just be traveling to see friends or family. This can be a huge stress reliever that adds years back to your life. If you decide to travel outside of the country you live in, you’re bound to be introduced to new lifestyles, cultural differences, and some pretty gosh darn good food. The best thing that you could possibly do is travel while in grad school. You learn so much about yourself and others this way.

traveling home in grad school

Traveling Home

Some of you are going to school pretty far away from where you grew up. For me, I only live about 2 hours away from home, so it is a quick and easy drive home for me. For others, you might be thousands of miles away. I know many students in my department that are from other countries. It’s not so easy being able to travel to see family, especially with plane tickets going up. If you are someone that has to travel a pretty far distance to go home, I have a bit of advice.

First, plan out your trip very far in advance. This serves many purposes. You will find better tickets for plan rides home for one. You can give plenty of heads up to your adviser. Remember, you still are doing research throughout summer. Planning out far in advance also allows you get enough work done so you are stressed about working when you get home. Spending time with family is important and you don’t want to be working the entire time.

traveling to a far away place in grad school

Traveling Somewhere Else

You may be taking time off to go and travel somewhere else and go on vacation. In this case, really plan this out to make sure that you are not working at all. Vacations are extremely important to take while in grad school. If you want to read more about why, check out my post about it (here). Also, if you would like to know some locations where you should visit, check out my post about those (here). I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel to amazing places that I think everyone needs to visit at least once in their lifetime.

Make sure to really plan out everything if you are traveling somewhere new. Make sure all tickets are bought, passports up to date, and hotels booked. Doing this far ahead will make the whole trip smooth and stress free. The point of traveling is to reduce stress and explore. You don’t want to be more stressed.

Traveling in Grad School on a Budget

I think the absolute best part about traveling in grad school is traveling on a budget. Yes, you are poor. If you aren’t, please send me some money lol. Anyway, if you are like most people in grad school, you’re pretty poor. This does not mean you can’t have the best trip of your life. It simply means that you have to put a bit of effort into making the most of it, on limited amounts of money. This makes trips very fun. I would love to have unlimited money and go everywhere, but that’s not realistic and I find limiting the amount of money spent on a trip is actually better. You may need to stay in a hostel if you are traveling abroad. This is actually my go to because you get to stay at some cool places, and meet amazing people. Most of the people going to hostels are the same age as you and trying to make the most of life. It is a great place to meet life long friends.

You also get to experience what it’s really like at that location. For example, I went to China right after graduating undergrad. I was on a very tight budget which didn’t allow me to get taxi rides everywhere or hop on planes each week to go to far away places. No, I had to walk everywhere and use the subway. BTW the subways in china are amazing and cheap. This forced me to completely immerse myself in everything there was in the city. I had to interact with the locals, find my way around a foreign place, and learn to handle being out of my comfort zone.

preparing to travel in grad school

How to Prepare

So here are a few things to consider when preparing to travel anywhere while in grad school. These are things that I personally do which have helped me a ton. Hopefully they work for you as well.

  1. Get plane tickets early
  2. Try and get a travel buddy if going out of the country. Traveling alone might be scary, especially if it’s your first time.
  3. Notify your adviser that you are taking time off and for how long. They will more than likely be Ok with you taking time off.
  4. Book hotels or hostels early. Try not to wait for the last minute, especially if you are traveling during the time of a major holiday. (trust me).
  5. Get most of your work done so you won’t have to worry about anything.
  6. Before leaving, pack for the weather. Wearing shorts in the middle of winter in Beijing is not advised…
  7. Make sure your pets are taken care of.
  8. Plan out a budget and give some wiggle room. If you stick to a budget that’s too tight, you won’t have as much fun.
  9. Do research on where you are going. If it’s home, you know what’s there. If it’s somewhere you’ve never been, find cool things about it and go do them.
  10. Make sure your passport is up to date.
  11. Plan out how to get to the airport. Uber can be expensive but friends can be bribed with food ;p
  12. Tell someone close about where you are going, for how long, and everything about what you are doing. Have them check in with you to make sure you are ok while away.
  13. When planning out things to do, don’t cram a million things into each day.
  14. Allow yourself to get excited.
traveling in grad school: you deserve it

Go On Vacation, You Deserve it.

Please, please, please, go travel somewhere this summer, or fall (if you are reading this in the fall). You deserve a break from academia every once in a while. It is healthy for you to leave the work and go enjoy life. Work will always be there. in fact, leave it there and never come back lol. Man, sometimes I wish I could.

Don’t feel like you need to spend all of your time working on your doctorate. In fact, doing so is actually hurting you. The benefits of taking time off and doing literally anything but work outweigh staying in the office and doing one more thing.

Final Thoughts

For those traveling this summer, let me know in the comments where you are going. I am heading to the Florida Keys in July to go fishing for a week. My family does this each year and it really is needed in my life lol. It will be the last vacation I take before I buckle down for the long write (thesis writing). My defense is coming up quickly so I want to make sure everything is ready. I will need this vacation to rejuvenate myself before I write each day for like 10-12 hours and prepare my dissertation.

I hope you guys get to travel somewhere cool and I also hope that you are having an awesome day! Thank you for reading my post and I hope to see you in the next one. Peace!

Being a Broke Grad Student: It’s Not That Bad!

Today was one of those days where the universe reminded me that I am a broke grad student. I went to the grocery store today to get stuff to make ramen. Yes, I fit the stereotype and eat ramen in grad school. So, I don’t just get ramen, I get peppers, garlic, bok choy, and of course, ramen noodles. I had a gift card, so everything was pretty much free for me, but I saw that just a few items was almost the whole gift card. The cashier was even complaining about the prices of everything.

It sort of made me realize just how broke grad students really are. I didn’t have this problem before, but the inflation has really taken a toll on everyone. See, thankfully, as a PhD candidate in engineering, I make more than most grad students. But recently, the prices of everything have really caused me to have to cut a ton of things out of my life just to be able to get food for me and my cat Sirius. Now, this isn’t a post about how poor we all are and how life sucks being in grad school. No, I want to make a post about how being poor in grad school can be a blessing. So, come with me on a very optimistic journey!

First, Let’s Rant

This rant is for all you grad students working 60+ hours a week and only getting paid for 20. So, grad students work a ton. They also get paid barely enough to eat ramen noodles. Some grad students get paid so little that they are forced to take out loams while their advisers male enough money to go on multiple trips throughout the year, fix their cars when things go bad, and also pay for hospital bills. I know many grad students that have had to leave academia because they were malnourished from not being able to eat.

For those that are going to say “well you’re supposed to be poor, you’re all students”, many of us are students but work a full time job doing research. So, if you decided to work a full time job and go to college at the same time, should your boss give you a pay cut? Grad students are employees.

I do know many grad students that have to have jobs on the side in order to eat as well. I happen to be one of those grad students. The inflation has hit us fairly hard too. See, grad students that get paid a stipend only get raises when the graduate union bargains for one. Colleges do not like giving grad students higher pay and, at least for me, we haven’t seen a raise in stipend since 2017. So, basically, we all make significantly less than we did 5 years ago.

Ok, I got that out of my system, now let us talk about how being poor in grad school can actually be a bit of a gift. I will give a few examples to make things a bit more optimistic.

Being a poor grad student is a blessing

Being a broke grad student can be somewhat of a blessing, though you may not be able to see it. Let me explain a little. See, being poor teaches you a ton of very valuable life lesson and skills.

Let’s first start off with the lessons that we are taught.

Being poor makes you understand what most of the nation is going through. You understand the hardships that come with being lower class. You can share these feelings with others and know just how hard it can be for many people living the same way as you. See, you may not realize these things when you are making money and possibly middle to upper class.

Another valuable lesson that you learn is to appreciate the things that you do have. See, in a materialistic society, we always want more, more more. When was the last time that you bought something and used it more than once lol? We often buy things because we can. We always want something and Amazon or online shopping or anything has made it to where we can satisfy that want. So, we tend to by stuff to satisfy this want.

When you are poor, you start to appreciate the very simple things in your life like going on walks, hanging with friends without having to spend money, and other things like maybe taking a hike or a bike ride, if you have a bike. Simple stuff like this is what really brings us join in our lives. Those materialist items will bring some happiness, but it never lasts.

being a broke grad student

You learn how to be poor

When you have money, you don’t know anything but that. What would happen if you lost all of your money one day? You’d be in a very bad situation. You might not know what to do with yourself and you’d be extremely stressed out, that’s for sure. When you are in grad school, you learn how to live and survive on very little. You are able to feed yourself and house yourself on extremely little for a very long time. You learn how to shop for deals, live at places that you can afford, and manage money. These are skills that are not really taught in school. These are also highly valuable skills that will benefit you in the future. Once you graduate, you may continue to live this way. You might have a ton of money but live in a very quaint apartment or house.

Learning how to live on very little money has helped me so much when it comes to food shopping and apartment hunting. I have learned all of these soft skills that I wouldn’t have while working full time. So, when all of my money seems to disappear one day, I will be ready!

More Great things about being a broke grad student

Here is a list of more great things that come from being a broke grad student. If you have any more to add, please share in the comments.

  1. You won’t eat out as much. This is good for your health, unless you start buying McDonalds everyday lol.
  2. You Won’t spend all of your money on Amazon.
  3. You’ll start using coupons and figure out the best deals on items.
  4. You won’t develop bad habits such as partying every night like you did in undergrad.
  5. You’ll get very creative presents for people. You might even just make stuff instead of buying things.
  6. You may come up with a way to make side money that is passive (cough cough blogging).
  7. You don’t have to worry if you lose it all since you don’t really have much to lose.
  8. The friends in your life are “real friends” as they don’t just hang out with you when you partying.
  9. You will know what rock bottom is like and know that it’s only up from here.
  10. People will buy you tings because they know you are poor. This one is one of my favorites lol.
  11. You buy fewer items which means that you are less likely to end up on the show “Hoarders”
  12. You know you can handle tough times and become a stronger person because of that.

Final Thoughts

You know, thinking about writing this post made me a bit worried because I didn’t think I could come up with enough reasons to be happy as a broke grad student. Now I realize that I am very happy as a broke grad student and very appreciative of the time I have had as one. I know many people struggle with finances while in grad school. I totally understand and I have a post about how to handle that (link here). The best thing that you can possibly do to be a little less miserable is count your blessings. Write out all of the good things about being broke in grad school, like I did above, and really see that it is not as bad as you make it out to be. Changing our perception of something can really make a difference.

How was that? Are you feeling better about being poor lol? Let me know if you agree with my post or not. Be happy guys and gals, it’s the weekend. Go do something fun and enjoy the beautiful weather. I am hoping to go scootering tomorrow or possibly kayaking, but we will see. I hope you all have a wonderful night/ day, depending on when you read this. 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!

Cooking in College

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

I typed in “cooking in grad school” today and some really bad blogs/articles/Quora questions came up. Do people not write about cooking in college? Like, cooking is a huge skill that I strongly believe ever student needs to know. You don’t need to know hoe to cook the best food, but at least know how to make toast lol. Today, I want to discuss how you can get started with cooking in college when you actually have a kitchen and a few items. I was considering creating a little course to share with you all about cooking with limited cooking resources. Let me know if you would be interested. I was thinking about maybe showing how to cook the recipes from this blog post, and showing how to do it with everyday appliances and cooking supplies that most college students have. It’s an idea.

Anyway, I want to go over how to get started, a few tips, and why I think it’s an important skill and hobby that you need to pick up while in college and especially while you are in grad school. Let’s start off with why you should learn to cook and then we will go into some other stuff.

cooking in college

Why you should learn to cook in college.

I really hope you know why you should be cooking while in college. Like come on. What is better than showing off your culinary skills to friends and maybe your neighbors! Cooking is such an amazing hobby to pick up and it teaches you so much. It teaches you basic life skills like how to actually make food that is good for you, knife skills, shopping (financial) skills, and social skills. You do want to invite people over to show off, right?

Show Off!

I think one of the coolest things about learning to cook in college is being able to make crazing awesome dishes and really blow your friends away. I make pretty delicious recipes all of the time and my friends go crazy. You don’t even need to know extreme cooking skills to make stuff that is super delicious that your friends will absolutely love. There are plenty of recipes online where the dish might be like 4 or 5 steps and then it’s done. You need to know only basic culinary skills to cook them and they will always turn out amazing. Cooking is a great way to show off to your friends and make new friends. Everyone wants someone that knows how to cook in their lives.

cooking in college and grad school

Your Wallet Will Thank You!

So college is a very financially stressful time. College students are broke, but have some financial support from either their parents, loans, or some other method. Usually loans are the most helpful. Grad students may have loans, but many doctorates don’t take out loans and solely rely on making the equivalent of 10 dollars an hour. So, when in college, you are pretty poor. One thing that I find to be super expensive is eating fast food or getting to-go.

Each meal is about 10 dollars for one person and you might be eating out 2 to 3 times a day. Yes, I know people that eat out that much. College is easier because you can get on a dining plan at school and eat at the dining halls. These are often good choices, but you can and will gain weight since most of the time that food is pretty unhealthy. Not always, but often.

Going to the store, grabbing some veggies, protein, and other ingredients is fairly cheap and you can learn to make food that tastes better than the food you buy at a restaurant. Your wallet will thank you so much. I know that 20 dollars can get me way more food at the store than it can going out to eat. Also, getting groceries means you don’t have to tip extra. You can make things in bulk and have all of your meals done for the week for maybe $50. It’s such a win. If you get really good at cooking then the food you make will be healthier, better tasting and just way better in general than what you would get elsewhere. Heck, this article says that the average meal at a restaurant costs over 300% more than making it yourself. Save some money, learn to cook.

It’s a great hobby

I have written so much about hobbies in college (check out the link to those here). I want to let you know that one of the coolest and best hobbies to have is cooking. Also, baking is another great hobby to have. It’s easy, fun, and you get to eat. What is there not to love about it? Honestly, I find cooking to be one of the best hobbies that I have.

I get to be creative in the kitchen, mess around with flavors and spices, and eat what I make. It is an easy and cheap hobby that people will admire you for. Plus, you can get a cook chefs hat and maybe a funny apron. It is a great thing to do with friends and significant others. It is also something fun to do by yourself. I can’t stress it enough that you need to take up cooking. It really is amazing.

What to Get to Start Cooking in College

I am so glad that you asked!!!! The first thing to do is make sure that you have a kitchen to use. The next is to get a few pots and pans. One of my favorite things to do is go to a Good Will at the end of the semester. People that are moving away will donate their cooking stuff to them and you can buy really good stuff for dirt cheap. Grab whatever you can from there. It will be like 30 dollars but you’ll get hundreds of dollars worth of stuff. Trust me, it’s great. Another thing you can do is just acquire it from past roommates. That’s what I did. All of my cooking utensils, pots, pans, knives, etc. are from past roommates that have moved away. Nothing matches, but it all does what it’s supposed to do, help me cook.

List of things you probably should get

So I want to list off some things that you can get. I’ll post links to amazon pages where you can buy them. I would say go to Good Will, Walmart, or just buy on Amazon. It’s easy.

  1. Pots
  2. Pans
  3. Cutting board
  4. Spatula
  5. Rice Maker
  6. Whisk
  7. Knives
  8. Strainer
  9. Cast Iron. For those that just love the taste of charred foods.

I Think this is a good list to start. I will probably add more when I think of other essentials. But pretty much, this is what you start off with. As you get familiar with things and more comfortable in the kitchen, then you can start getting other cooking things. Knives, pots, pans, and a spatula are essential. A cutting board is also essential too. Whisks are good to have. A strainer is good if you want to make like noodles or maybe anything boiled. A rice maker is not essential but man do they make amazing rice. If you are a rice eater, get a ricer cooker. A cast iron pan isn’t essential at first, but eventually it should be the only thing you cook out of lol. I have one and cook in it every day.

How to Get Started.

So, I would suggest just getting into the kitchen and goofing around. Many people don’t like that so I’ll help you with a few resources that you can use. The first is YouTube. I found this course on YouTube and the guy goes over practically everything for beginners. The link to the channel is right here.

Another resource is watching Food Network when you have free time. Try and find recipes that the chefs make on their shows and try and cook with them. It is a great way to learn some simple, yet delicious recipes. I did this with the show, Good Eats. Yes, I am a huge Alton Brown fan. I hope he reads this blog post and comments. In fact, my love of science pretty much comes from watching all of his shows when I was a kid. Thanks Alton, you’re the man. Honestly, watching all of the shows really helps you to get the basic skills down. The more advance stuff comes with experience. Make sure you get the basics down and the advance stuff will come quite easily later.

If you are looking for recipes, just type in copy cat recipes of some of your favorite restaurant meals. Someone, somewhere, made a recipe that will tastes like your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant. Follow the recipe at first. Learn how to make the recipes first before you start making changes. Also, buy cook books. It doesn’t matter the cookbook, just get one. Make the stuff in there and see if you are even able to. You’ll be surprised how easy most things are yet they seem so complicated.

Final Thoughts

It’s the end of this segment but I hope to be able to continue with some cooking stuff in the future. If you want me to write more about cooking in college and grad school, leave me a comment or send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. As I said, I love cooking. I would love to talk about cooking and getting started with you.

I hope you all liked this post. seriously, I really do think making a mini cooking course would be fun. Let me know what you think. As always, I hope you all have a wonderful day and week. I have to get up early tomorrow for a job interview, so I need to get to bed here soon. Hopefully you guys are productive tomorrow and everyday. I will see you all in the next one. Peace!

Anxiety in College Will Come Back, Be Ready

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

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

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

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

anxiety in college

Remember to Keep Up Coping Mechanisms

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

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

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

Helpful Places For Anxiety Reduction

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

Free

Guided Meditations

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

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

Therapy YouTube Channels

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

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

Calming Music

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

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

My Blog Posts

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

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

Not So Free

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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.

Essential Skills For Undergrad Students

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

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

Essential Skills that All Undergrads Students should have.

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

1) Learn How to COOK

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

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

2) Learn how to manage money

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

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

3) Learn how to communicate

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

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

4) Learn to say “No”

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

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

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

5) Learn how to seek help

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

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

6) Learn How to Deal With Stress

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

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

7) Learn how to study effectively

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

How Many Hours a Week Do Grad Students Work?

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

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

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

How many hours do grad students work:PhD

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

The breakdown

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

When it is slow and when it is not

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

The sweet spot

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

How many hours do grad students work: Master’s

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

Non-Thesis Based

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

Thesis Based

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

Overall

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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!

Fall Evenings

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So as most of you know, I am completely obsessed with my scooter. It’s a great gift for grad students ;). I really don’t know how I went this whole time without one. I mean, I had a bike, but there are some limitations with bikes that scooters can bypass. Last night I went to Depot Park, here in Gainesville. Actually, I ended up in Depot Park after doing some exploration around my neighborhood. Sunset is around 5:45 pm here and I left my apartment at 5:20, so I really didn’t have too much time to explore, but I made the best of the time I did have. I just wanted to share some pics with you guys of the sky and park from last night.

Picture Time: Fall Evenings

Fall evenings
Fall Evening
Fall Evenings

It was beautiful out. A bit chilly, but that’s to be expected this time of year. The coloration of the sky was crazy. There was blue, pink, red, orange, and some crazy colors that i can’t even describe. It was quite an experience and new that my readers would enjoy it just as much as I have.

Something like this is why I encourage people that are struggling in grad school to go on walks and get out in nature. Grad school can confine you to this really weird corner of the world where you forget that there is an “outside”. It is so easy to get caught up in work and forget that you are on this earth to live, not work. Enjoy the small things, the “free” things. Going arounf my neighborhood last night was such a treat and extremely peaceful. I was also surprised at the many places around me, mostly food places, that I didn’t know existed. I think I’ll hit up those places soon for some food.

Go Outside

It is highly suggested that you just get outside for at least 30 minutes a day. The evenings are a great time, especially during the fall, to get out and just…be. Go for a walk and listen to your favorite music or audiobook. Heck, sometimes just listening to the natural sounds is all you need. Sometimes getting away from the “artificial sound” is good for you. Just try your best to stay away from busy work. Your life and happiness is way more important.

I hope you guys have an amazing day. I will be in the lab for a very long time today, but I will make sure to leave, eventually lol.

End of Semester STRESS!

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stress

Hurray, you have made it to the end of the semester, or well pretty darn close to the end of the semester. If you aren’t stressed to the max then you either have everything together or maybe this is an easier semester. Most of you will have projects, papers, presentations, and exams. This can be a pretty stressful time, indeed.

On top of that, you have Thanksgiving, which will probably make you not want to work at all afterwards. The odds are against you lol. This can be quite stressful, but you’ve done this many times before. Honestly, by the time you get to graduation, you will be so numb to end of the semester stress that it doesn’t even faze you. Until then, there are a few things you can do to reduce this stress.

1) Get plenty of sleep.

Good quality sleep is essential to finishing the semester strong. Honestly, sleep deprivation is causing you to limit the capabilities of finishing strong, so it’s essential to get plenty of rest.

2) Limit the caffeine.

The last thing you want is sleep deprivation and a full out panic attack. Sure a cup or two of coffee is fine, but try to keep it just to that. Any more and you will feel anxious and probably won’t sleep or get work done. Maybe get some decaf coffee. Here’s some to get (my all time favorite brand).

3) Meditate for at least 10 minutes a day.

The great Buddhist monk, Ajahn Brahm, used to spend the time between finals to meditate. He said that meditation helped to clear his mind and actually helped him significantly to remember information for exams. He went on to get a doctorate in theoretical physics, so I think he knew what he was doing. Here’s an article on how to meditate.

4) Take breaks and go outside

Study breaks are essential. Starring at a computer screen is terrible for your eye sight and you need moments to let your brain relax. Finals definitely take up quite a bit of time so exercising time gets taken up by studying. By just taking a brief walk, you can get some form of exercise in which will help keep you energized to finish strong.

5) Drink more water

This is good because you’ll spend so much time going to the bathroom that you won’t have the detrimental effects of studying for hours on end lol. Also, dehydration causes you to get tired easily and water will help keep you awake.

6) Don’t aim for perfection

Perfection does not exist. Aim to get it done. People stress so much on grades that they don’t actually focus on the learning aspect. Yes, passing classes is fine but understanding the materials that you just learned is way more essential, especially in grad school. As long as you keep a 3.0 gpa, which is pretty easy, you will be fine.

7) Make sure to ask yourself if everything is fine.

Check in with yourself. Do you feel sad, happy, depressed, relaxed? Make sure your mental health is of top priority during this stressful time. Trust me, I have suffered for many years because I did not prioritize my mental health. I don’t want anyone experiencing what I went through.

Good luck on all of your final projects, papers, and exams. The end of semesters in grad school can be just as crazy as in undergrad, so staying on top of things is a must. After finals, make sure to rest and recover. Go on a trip or play your favorite video game. Enjoy the time off before you have to do it all over again in the spring.

**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 to Expect On the First Day of Grad School

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Today is the first day of the fall semester which means multiple things. 1) Freshman and sophomores will be lost. 2) There will be a new influx of grad students. I want to focus on the second point lol. For incoming grad students, the first day of your grad school journey can be quite daunting. In fact, the first day for me was one of the scariest. But have no fear, because it really isn’t as bad as you think. Here are a few things to expect on the first day of grad school.

Adviser First

If you are a PhD student, you might be looking for where your adviser’s office is. This is assuming that you haven’t already visited them prior to the first day. This should be the first thing that you do, unless you have class, then go to class. After class, though, go to your adviser and say hello. They will probably show you your new office, introduce you to the other grad students, and get you set up.

If you are a master’s student, you will most likely be just going to class. Depending on the type of master’s you are getting, you might be doing some research as well. In this case, do the same thing as PhD students and go see your adviser. If you are just doing class work, go to class first.

It can be overwhelming

On your first day, there are going to be the most people that you have seen on a campus, ever. This can be pretty overwhelming, but just know that it will thin out soon since people just stop going to class after the first week. You may run into people on the way to class or potentially come close to getting hit by a bus (This happens alot). This may all happen within the first few hours of the day.

People on Sidewalk Selective Focal Photo

I would suggest taking the time after your class to walk around campus. Maybe scope out where your other classes are located so you don’t feel so lost. Take this time to really get to know the campus as well as the dynamics of the campus as well. Find out the most congested areas, find out where there are a ton of obnoxious flier people, and find out cool spots to go to have lunch.

Research and lab stuff

For those of you doing research, the first day is a great time to get to know the other students in your research group as well as taking a peak at the labs you will be working in. Since the majority of the next 3 to 8 years will be in a lab, you might as well get familiar with it. The first day is a great time to just pop in and check out where your lab is located and the stuff inside of it. This will help later when you start to do experiments.

Chemical Engineers in Laboratory

No matter what you do, the first day of grad school is going to be a blur. The amount of information given is quite overwhelming. Fortunately, you can prepare for this. Get a planner and just write everything that you need to know down. Check out my blog about all the must haves when starting or going back to grad school. Congrats once again on starting this journey! It’s a tough one but so worth it.

Here Come the Freshman!

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Whether you want to admit it or not, you are old. Being in grad school, you are probably 23 at the youngest, which is kind of old compared to the 18-19 year old’s that have just taken over your campus. I am 28, so the incoming class are 10 years younger than me. Holy Cow!!!! Since, apparently Covid is over, there are much more students on campus compared to the past three semesters. With the amount of new people, there are bound to be some things that will annoy you. I want to list off a few of those and give ways to put your mind at ease, as well as, enjoy the new transition. If you haven’t read it yet, check out my blog about coming back to campus and how to transition back to an on campus setting after zoom.

With an influx of freshman, you will notice quite a few things.

1) They look tiny. I saw a kid during summer that could have passed as a 12 year old. I honestly think all of these kids are looking younger and younger, but maybe that’s just how it is? This always happens though. The older I get, the more I notice how young the new students are. Trust me when I say, you probably looked just as young. Heck, they look at me and probably think I am old a dirt.

2) They will get in your way, especially during the first few days when they are trying to get used to their new life on campus. This is completely normal. Some of the new students are completely lost. Assuming you did not just start grad school, you probably know the campus inside and out. After a while, things tend to lose their “shimmer” such as the campus. This may be the first time that these students see the campus so they are trying to take it all in. Be nice to them and remember what it was like to be in their shoes.

3)You will start feeling quite nostalgic, thinking about when you first started school and how that was like 5, or for me, 10 years ago. I remember my first day in college. I had no clue where anything was and I didn’t have any friends to help me out. This is probably true for the freshman. You will look at them and be brought back to the first week of school. You may even have feelings that you haven’t felt in a long time. This is natural and wonderful all at the same time. If the feelings are good, try and hold onto them. If the feelings are bad, it’s time to let them go. Grad school is all about new beginnings.

4) They will hover over every bench and squat rack in the gym. If you are an avid gym goer, you know this is the worst time of the year. The gyms are packed, the benches have a crowd of 5 freshman at them, and every squat rack has a line. This is frustration at its peak. Time to head over to my blog about exercising at the stadium or exercising outside.

5) They may come up to you and ask you a ton of questions. Remember that you probably did the same thing. They don’t really know too much about the campus and may have questions. This is something I always look forward to because I like helping people out. It makes you feel good. So, be nice and help them out and answer their questions!

6) The one’s in your department will look at you as a god or goddess. All the freshman that come in will likely peak in my office. I am a grad student and am superior lol. As a grad student, you went through all the stuff that they are about to go through and survived! Engineering was so difficult so the freshman really look at you like some form of genius. Bask in it but do not let it inflate your ego.

These are a few things that I notice each year that I spend in grad school. For me, this will be the last incoming freshman class that I will get to experience. If all goes to plan, and I pass my quals (currently taking), then I will be done by next May. For those of you just starting, or maybe a year into the program, be kind to these freshman. One day, you may be the one teaching them or being an adviser to them. You know how hard college is. You know the struggles that you will face in undergrad. These kids may not know those struggles yet, so don’t make it harder for them.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. OnlineTherapy.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.