If I were to Redo my PhD

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

redo my phd

The First 2 years

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

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

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

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

During my Qualifying Exam Year

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

During the last years

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

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

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

Other things that I would redo

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Caffeine Use in grad School

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

coffee in grad school

How much is too much caffeine in grad school

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

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

Why we drink so much caffeine in grad school

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

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

Caffeine use in grad school

Is caffeine good while in grad school?

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

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

What to drink in grad school

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

grad school memes
Chan Narula
Grad school meme
David Hontz

So, When are you done with school?

Ah, the most asked question while I have been in grad school. Every single week, someone asks when I will be done with grad school and my program. Each time that it comes up, I roll my eyes and say the same thing, “soon, I hope”. I don’t mean to roll my eyes, it just happens. This is a question that every grad student will get and you just have to come up with a good way to tell the person that it is a long process and you don’t really know when it will be over, if it ever will. So, today, I just want to write about the frustration of this question and how I handle it.

When will you be done with grad school

Why people ask it in the first place.

People are curious about what you do in grad school and why you are doing it. Many master’s programs are set time limits and only classwork focused. People pretty much already know when that will be over so they may not ask you. If they do ask when you’ll be done with grad school, you can confidently tell them. In a PhD program, you actually don’t know when you’ll be done, especially when you first start.

People will ask PhD students when they are done because they have really no idea the process that happens. They might actually be curious, but it can be annoying for the student because it is the one question that really get’s brought up all of the time. People want to know when your major milestones are and the question of “when will you be done with grad school” is always an easy one.

Why It is FRUSTRATING

I get asked this a ton. My family wants to know. My neighbors want to know. Heck, just random strangers want to know. I get asked all the time. I usually tell them a year or possibly two. Now that I am at the end, I can safely say that I have 2 months left, which is exciting. But for the longest time, I had to make stuff up. Sometimes I would say that I really didn’t know when I would be finished. This is not an answer that people like to hear. This is also why it is so frustrating.

See, in a PhD program, it’s not like school. You don’t just have to get a certain number of credits then move on. No, you have to contribute to the research field, publish papers, get certain credits, pass a qualifying exam, pass your defense, and everything in between. I know people that finished a PhD in 4 years, and I know people that finished in 7. You aim for like 4.5 to 5 years but it all depends on your work, luck, and if all of the machines you have to use are working…lol.

More Frustration

It is also very frustrating because it adds a sense of urgency. When someone asks me how long I have left, I feel rushed. I feel like people want me to get out of school and stop messing around. A PhD is not school, it is a job/apprenticeship. When I hear people asking how long I have left, it’s the equivalent of asking a full time worker how long they have left working their job. It’s a dumb question. Of course, unless you are familiar with the PhD life, you won’t know what I mean by this. Everyone thinks that it is just school, when it really isn’t. Sorry for the rant.

What to do if someone asks you when you’ll be done?

Be nice. Do not show frustration because people will think you are being rude. If you just started, just say that you just started and it will be a long process. If they want years as an answer, just make a joke and say something like “I think they said 10 to 15 years” I do this as a joke and it always works. People won’t understand that you will never know when you are done. They just won’t. The best thing to do is just try and steer clear of having to answer that question or just be nice when it does come up. It will come up all of the time, I promise.

Final Thoughts

This is a bit of a shorter blog post. It is mostly a post for those that are frustrated by the question “when are you done with grad school?” It really is a question that grad students hear way too much and have to defend themselves each time. It seems like a harmless question, but it is one that causes a ton of hardship for grad schoolers.

If you are reading this, and know someone in grad school. Instead of asking them “when will you be done with grad school?” ask them, “how are things going in grad school?” or, better yet, “any cool findings in your research?” I think the last one is the best because we tend to find really cool things while doing research but have no one to talk to about it. I know, especially for me, this is a question that i would love to get. Unfortunately, it’s not one I ever do.

Fun Things to Do in Grad School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) Going to free events on campus

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

Other fun things to do in grad school

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

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

1) Pick up a hobby

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

2) Join a club or sports league and meet friends

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

woman pouring cappuccino
Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

3) Go to cool coffee shops

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

4) Explore the local pubs and breweries

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Mark Olson

The Challenges of Grad School No One Talks About

Today is going to be a bit of a sad post. Not because I want it to be, but because I am going to cover some topics that students face that aren’t really fun. I want to talk about a few challenges of grad school that we all experience that are just a bit hard to del with. Yes, the work load is a lot. Your adviser can be super mean. But these are all things that you expect to deal with. Today, I want to talk about a few things that people just don’t want to talk about that you’ll deal with in grad school, as well as undergrad.

Challenges of grad school : getting older

You will get older

I wrote a post about how the freshman each year seem younger and younger. It’s currently summer B semester which means the freshman are here. They do look like they are 12, even though most of them are 18-19. It really makes you feel old, especially in grad school. Undergrad was 4 to 5 years of your life. You went through it and made it to grad school. You are probably much older than the undergrads which kind of makes things a bit sad. I, unintentionally, remind myself that I am 10 years older than the incoming freshman. By unintentionally, I mean that it literally just pops in my head when seeing someone with a “UF 26” shirt walk by. This is just one of the challenges of grad school that you will face, almost immediately.

Challenges of grad school

Your friends will come and go

One of the biggest challenges of grad school, and well life, is seeing friends come and go. In grad school, you are going to meet quite a few people and make friends with a few as well. Usually, you’ll have a smaller group of friends, but they are or will turn out to be very close. Seeing them graduate and moving on with their lives is a very difficult thing that you will experience. I have had many friends come and go throughout my time in grad school. It’s pretty hard to get used to this. You always think they will be there until they aren’t.

Challenges of grad school

Time will pass quickly and slowly at the same time

Let me explain this one. One strange phenomena that occurs in grad school, and life, is time tends to speed up. The years get really short but the days seem to get much longer. When in grad school, weeks will pass by in the blink of an eye and it will seem like you got nothing done. This can be good because you will think to yourself “nice, I am closer to graduation”. You’re not lol Graduation is always so far off and seems to just get pushed back even further each year. Because of this, grad school will seem extremely long even though it goes by quickly. It’s a weird thing that happens and definitely is a challenge in grad school.

Challenges of grad school

You won’t feel accomplished after big milestones

When you were young, and very big milestones came up, you probably felt very proud and accomplished when finishing. Things like graduating, passing a class, actually waking up after your 21st birthday, stuff like that. There was this sense of completion. That hardly exists in grad school. There are a few huge milestones that will leave you feeling empty. These include your qualifying exam and even your defense. This isn’t the case for everyone though. Many people will have that feeling of completion, but many of us won’t.

You’ll think “what’s next?” You have spent so much time on a project to finish and just not know what to do in life. This is completely normal and many people have this feeling. It doesn’t make it any easier knowing that you’re not alone though. I find this to be a challenge of grad school because it really makes you wonder if all of this is worth it. It plays with your emotions.

People will never be as excited about something as you are

Everything that you do in grad school is for yourself. It is quite the personal experience, not going to lie. If something “ground breaking” happens such as you find out some weird scientific principle not found or you successfully get a paper published, you’ll most likely be the only one that is excited. People won’t show your level of excitements because they aren’t going through the process of obtaining a graduate degree like you. Even your friends won’t be as excited, even if they are a graduate student. This can be difficult because you want to celebrate and you also want someone there to celebrate with. People will celebrate but won’t understand really why.

Challenges of grad school

You will spend a ton of time alone

I do not mean that you will physically be alone. If you are in a lab, there’s probably other people sharing that lab with you. You may also have lab mates that you see each day. No, the loneliness I talk about is being alone in your thoughts. Grad school, as I mentioned early, is a personal experience. he problems you have are your own. This is especially true when you get to the PhD level. You will have many problems that no one has the answers to and you are all alone trying to figure it out. When in undergrad or a master’s, you have classes. Everyone has the same problems. When in a PhD or research position, the problems you face don’t have solutions in the back of the book.

You will also be alone in your general thoughts. The hardships you face will usually only be faced by other grad students. It is hard to talk to people that didn’t go to grad school about your problems. You really just have to talk with other grad students. This can be quite a challenge. I know that the problems that I face, I only have 1 or 2 people to talk to. Everyone else has never experienced those problems before. If this is the case, I highly suggest seeing a therapist. If you are alone or feel alone, please reach out to a therapist. It was the best thing I ever did.

Challenges of grad school : feeling alone

You will face mental health problems

We all struggle with something. That is for sure. On of the biggest challenges of grad school is your mental health and how it will be pushed to the limits. You will experience so many emotions, and might not be able to handle that. I truly wish that colleges did more to help students cope. Yes, it is hard, but sometimes there are things that the college can do to help individuals. Offering free therapy is one. Paying a living salary is another. Grad school should be a time where you learn but not one where you are so stressed that you literally lose years off your life. It’s tough when some professors think “well I had it tough and therefore my student should have it tough too” That mentality is toxic and terrible for mental health. Be better.

Final Thoughts

I have to apologize to you all about this post. It is pretty sad and depressing but it is something that people need to know about. Next post will be happier, I promise. If you are reading this and thinking about grad school, please do not be discouraged. One of the best things in my life was going to grad school and it opened up so many doors for me. My life is not more fulfilling and there is quite a ton of purpose. I am eternally grateful of my decision.

To end this very depressing post, I’ll share a grad school meme.

grad school meme

What is Grad School Like

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

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

What grad school is like

Let’s Get into What Grad School is Like

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

What a master's degree is like

What are Master’s Programs Like?

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

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

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

what a PhD is like

What a PhD is Like?

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

It’s different

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

It’s research

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

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

What an MBA is like

What an MBA is like

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

what law school is like

What Law School is Like

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

by Benjamin Miller

Writing My Thesis and Life Updates

Hello everyone. I know, I haven’t posted in like 2 week and I am extremely sorry for that. Three months from now, I’ll have to submit my first draft of my thesis, so I have been busy writing it already. many people take much longer and I have known people to start and finish theirs in a month. For me, procrastination is a huge no-no. It causes way too much stress and anxiety. Therefore, I am starting early so I don’t have to stress as much.

I really hate how we have to write our thesis so early, though. I wish they would give us until the middle of the semester, but I do understand why they want it so soon. I also have to start preparing for my defense. A friend of mine just did his two days ago which has me thinking a lot about it. It is giving me a bit of anxiety boost to continue lol.

Manuscript Writing

Aside from my thesis, I am also preparing a manuscript for publication. This will be one of potentially three or four manuscripts that I will submit in the next few months. My adviser wants to get this published in a really good scientific journal, which means it has to be close to perfect. To put it into some perspective, I have been making graphs for the past three days. But, man, these graphs look good lol. Hopefully we can get it published in a high impact journal. That would be really awesome.

What’s Next

That’s it for academic stuff. Let’s talk about what’s next in my life. So, I had a really good interview with a company, that, I think, will be where I work after grad school. It is a super reputable consulting firm that’s world-wide. I have moved to the next step in the hiring process, so we will see what happens. In other words, grad school is paying off.

Vacation

I am getting ready for my annual trip to the Keys! Seven days of fishing, relaxation, family, and most importantly, KEY LIME PIE!!!! I am super excited for this trip and have been preparing since February. My dad is getting pretty excited too. He’s been packing gear, getting chum, looking for bait, and buying tackle. I will definitely need this time off after what I’ve been through these few weeks.

Walking Challenge

On top of all of that, I am excited to announce that I finished the Appalachian Trail on my virtual walking app. I think it was 1968 miles or something like that. It took me 355 days, but I am done. That’s kind of a cool thing to accomplish. I was bored immediately after, so I signed up for the Great Wall of China challenge. This challenge is over 2100 miles. I’ll stay busy for sure with it lol.

Final Thoughts

I promise that i have not given up on blogging. I know that I was posting like 3 times a week, but life is getting a bit in the way. I will try to at least get one or two posts out a week from here on out. If you guys are looking for a specific blog post, please let me know in the comments. I am looking for some topics that people actually want to read. Let me know. Anyway, I hope you guys and gals are having a great summer so far. I am busy but it is worth it. I will see you all in the next one, hopefully coming soon. Peace!

How to Make Grad School Easier

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

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

Make grad school easy from the beginning

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

1) Have a set plan and stick to it

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to make grad school easy throughout

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

1) Stay on top of your writing

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

2) Treat your PhD like a 9 to 5 job

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Does Grad School Get Any Easier?

I am currently sitting at an airport, writing this post. I am in Arkansas for a wedding and my girlfriend and I are on our way back to FLorida. Our flight was delayed by 4 hours so far due to weather, so I figured it was a great time to write a post. Todays topic is “does grad school get easier?” I have been asked this more times than I’ve wanted to lol. It is an important question and I feel like answering it may need a whole blog post.

Grad students know how hard grad school can be at some times. There are times during the year where you just lose all hope and want to throw in the towel. There are also many days/weeks where you are having the time of your life and things are easy. Overall, grad school is a roller coaster of the good and bad, the hard and the easy, and the long nights of work and long nights of sleep. But does it get easier? The short answer is no. Grad school does not get easier. The long answer is what I will discuss with you today.

Does grad school get easier?

Grad School is hard

Yes, grad school, no matter what degree it is, will be hard. I am in engineering which is notorious for flunking more people than any other major. In grad school, all of the classes you take are hard, not only because of the topics, but also because you’re learning something new. Grad school is about learning how to be a master in a very particular subject. A master’s shows that you have mastered the area you are studying and a PhD is an apprenticeship that teaches you how to do research in those particular subjects. You are learning a ton of new info and very hard info and concepts during this time. It will be hard throughout the process. The secret of grad school is, the material stays the same difficulty but you get better at it.

You Get Better

Just like all new things in life, you are probably not going to be good at it. In fact, you are probably going to suck when you first start grad school. That awesome, that’s amazing, and you should suck at it. Why is this? because it means that you are open to learn and become an expert in your field. It also means that you don’t know everything. If you knew everything there was then getting a graduate degree would be a waste of time. In fact, if you knew everything then you should be making million son game shows. No, you don’t know everything and you will fail a ton. But that is totally fine and encouraged.

I believe this is the reason that grad school is so hard. You have spent your whole life passing exams that doing something different and out of your comfort zone really throws you off. You get into concepts that are very different than those taught in undergrad and that might make you uncomfortable. See, in undergrad, there’s a formula you live by. It’s a set way of passing exams and getting to the next class. That’s it. That’s undergrad. Grad school is about discovering the unknown and learning things that are different. At first, you may really struggle. I know I sure did. But as you go through the motions, you learn and grow. Next thing you know, you’re a master of grad school and know how to do the hard things very well.

I promise you, you can do it.

I know, you are probably struggling at this moment and that is why you are reading this. And I get it, grad school is hard. You can do it though. See, the beginning is always the hardest, as I said above. You are brand new and might not think you can do it. But graduate school is quite like all of those really uplifting movies like Mulan where the protagonist (you) struggles but then succeeds. All you need to do is put in the work and believe. Everyone, no matter how smart or hard working, is going to have a hard time in graduate school.

No matter what, it will be hard. The ones that keep going, though it’s hard, will find that they start to understand the hard concepts better. They tend to find that all of their experiments start to really work. And they start to become, though slowly, a world class researcher. It just takes some time. Everyone wants to have the results and be the best right out of the gates. But it’s the people that take it slow and steady that become the best at what they do. Be the tortoise, not the hare.

You can do it. You can make grad school much easier than it is by putting in the work and the time. For a master’s degree, it will be a quick time and you may find the whole process difficult because you aren’t there long enough. For a PhD, you’ll definitely find that it get’s easier. The questions get harder, the problems become more difficult, but you have the tools in your toolbox to handle that. You become a master. That is what graduate school is all about.

Final Thoughts

So in the end, does grad school get easier? Yes and no. Yes, because you learn, grow and develop into a researcher. No, because the concepts are just as hard as always. This is what makes it such an amazing time, though. You get to see how much you develop as a researcher. You can see how you become better at what you do. Next thing you know, you’ll be up for a Nobel Prize. All you have to do is believe and keep going. Trust me, it takes time.

Well, I would love to keep going but my plane has arrived and it is time to head back to Florida. My trip was pretty awesome and I have many new and awesome memories. Arkansas is a beautiful state and if you have the chance, go and visit. Also, visit the University of Arkansas. The campus was so beautiful. Anyway, I hope you guys are doing well and I will see you in the next one. Peace.

What Every Grad Student Should Do Each Day

There are a few things that I do pretty much every day in grad school. Today, I want to go over the different things that you and every grad student needs to do each day! These will help you so much, I promise you that. There are a million things that I do each day but I keep the next few things consistent and do them each and every day that I am in the office or lab. I try and incorporate these into the weekends and such, but they help with my research and school more than my relaxation time. So, let’s get into what every grad student should do each day!

How To Start Each Day In Grad School

So let’s first talk about the 3 things I do each day to start my morning off on the right foot. Yes, There are quite a few things such as brush my teeth, feed Sirius, put on pants. You get the picture. No, there are a few things in which I do that help me deal with the stresses of the day and make sure that my day is a productive as I want it to be.

make the bed in grad school

1) The first thing I do each day is make my bed.

Now, you probably have seen the YouTube video where they do say make your bed each day to build a habit and blah, blah, blah. No, the reason I make the bed each day is because it makes me happy when I get home after a long day of lab work. I start the day off making my future self happy. It’s so nice to be able to come home to a nice looking bedroom, take a shower, and just be ready for bed. It is a great way to reduce stress from the day and it’s one less thing to worry about. Also, making the bed in the morning is a great way to get active and start your day.

what you should do each day in grad school, read happy articles

The world absolutely sucks and so much is going on that really can cause you to have only negative thoughts. We get so consumed by the negative parts of life that we forget that for every bad thing, there are 100 good things. If you want to read a really good short story, read the one by Ajahn Brahm (or listen to it here). It’s about he 2 bad bricks in the wall.

One way in which I start my day off on a positive note is by reading happy articles. Go on HappyNews.com each morning and just read those articles. Don’t read anything else unless you truly need to. I promise you that you will feel way better about the day. Hardships in the lab or during the day don’t affect you as badly if you are already in a good mood.

write what needs to get done in a planner each day of grad school

3) Lastly, I write what I need to get done.

The absolute, and most important thing that every grad student should do each day is write down in a planner what has to get done and things that you would like to get done. One of my absolute favorite things to do is cross out things that I needed to get done that day. It is so satisfying to know that you made considerable movement toward your goals. It’s totally fine if you don’t mark everything off, but it is good to write it down or you may forget to do something.

This is important because, if you’re anything like me, you have 10000000000000000 thoughts racing through your head each moment. It is easy to get side tract and forget what needed to get done. This will help to reduce a ton of anxiety and stress later on.

Things Every Grad Student Should Do Throughout The Day

So now I want to talk about what each grad student should do throughout the day. I want to list off some things that I literally do each and every single day that benefits my research and advancement to the goal of getting a doctorate. I know these things will help out with your endeavors as well, whatever those may be lol.

1) For every one journal paper you read, read up on something unrelated to your research.

You may think this one is a bit odd, but hear me out. In grad school, you will spend most of your time learning so much about a particular thing that you’ll forget everything else. I often find myself forgetting basic knowledge. You tend to push things not related to your research out of your head. I realized this when I went to trivia night recently. I was in a room with all grad students. You would think that trivia would be difficult and competitive, but it wasn’t at all. See, no one knew basic trivia because they hyper focus on their research. This is way I say read something not realated to your research. Keep stupid human knowledge still in your head.

It also helps you not get bored with your research studies. If you only focus on the research, it get’s extremely boring after a while. So, either read up on something else, learn a new skill, or maybe take breaks to do non research related things that will help you to not be a robot.

meal prep in grad school

2) Bring a ton of food to put in the fridge at work.

This is essential for the broke grad student. Get yourself a Sam’s Club or Costco membership and go buy a ton of stuff in bulk. It is much cheaper than going to the store all of the time and you can get some good stuff. Bring it all to school and put it in a communal fridge freezer. If you have an office, I guarantee there is a fridge near by.

This isn’t really something I do every day, but I do do it once a week. By bringing in food, you don’t have to make lunch each day and you sure won’t have to spend money for lunch each day either. This saves time and financial stress. The thing that I do each day is to make sure I eat that food and not go spending money on Panda Express again. Sure, eating out is great, but make it a treat and not something you do everyday.

be nice in grad school

Grad school changes people. You either come out extremely bitter, or you come out being one of the nicest people ever. I want to aim for being a nice person. Each day I try and focus on doing something nice for others or just being a nice person. Stress makes us all a bit snippy, but what if you could control those feeling and actually be a nice person even when stressed? I think it comes with actively practicing being a nice person. Go out of your way to be kind and loving towards everyone. If your lab partner messes up, help them, don’t put them down. I have seen too many grad student show anger and a bit of hatred to everyone when they come in. They blame it on stress, but it’s who they are.

A nice individual is still fairly nice even when under a ton of pressure. I find that more gets done when you’re nice to people because they like to actually work with you. If you are constantly putting them down and being unkind, they aren’t going to do the best work they can, and neither will you.

exercise in grad school

4) Exercise

You don’t have to go to the gym. You can just walk around the block a few times. Every single day needs to have a moment where you are active though. Creating this habit will keep you energized and healthy all throughout your grad school. Yes, you’ll be busy, but not so busy that you can’t go for a 30 minute walk. If you stay inactive, you’re going to have a bad time later in life.

I go to the gym each day (well try). The thing that I do that’s consistent is walk. It’s easy, you do it everyday, and it doesn’t require much effort. Walking has saved me. I gained a ton of weight when I was at an office job and walking all over campus allowed me to lose that weight, get more energy, and kick my doctoral degrees butt. I highly suggest you add this to your list of things to do each day. Aim for at least 5k steps but go for more if you can.

Final Thoughts

I do all of these things each and every single day and so should you. If you are a grad student and not doing what I posted then you need to start right away lol. I promise you that these will help you so much. You’ll be more productive, you’ll have a great experience, and you’ll be overall happier. I strongly think that the above mentioned things will help you. Yes, it’s not perfect and there’s room for more, but it’s a start. I say try it out and see how it goes.

As always, I hope you guys are having a wonderful week. If you haven’t read my post about cooking in college, I highly suggest checking it out (link here). It’s a good post, I promise. Anyway, I hope all is well and I promise I’ll write another post soon. Peace.

How Busy Are College Students

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

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

attractive businessman busy clock
Photo by JÉSHOOTS on Pexels.com

What’s Left

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

architecture auto automobiles bridge
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Some Are Super Busy

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

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

Some College Students Just Aren’t That Busy

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

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

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

They Are As Busy As They Want To Be

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Life in Grad School

If you are a follower of this blog, you can pretty much see how life is for me while in grad school. Life in grad school has been a wonderful combination of ups, downs, twists, turns, and backtracks. Yes, it has been quite the journey and this is fairly similar to other’s who has joined me in my quest to obtain a doctorate.

When you think of life in grad school, you probably think of studying a ton, writing more papers than you ever wanted to, no time, and all other very negative things. The truth is, that usually occurs for a very small group of individuals. Also, you probably went on to some forum and read about everyone complaining about grad school and how terrible it is. You know what people love to do? Complain. Grad school is one of those things where it is easy to find something to complain about. Thankfully, life in grad school is much more than just work. It is a time to truly explore yourself and figure out who you are, and where you want to go.

life in grad school

What is Life Like in Grad School

Life in grad school is a combination of being an undergrad and having a full time job. You are not quite an undergrad anymore but not fully in the working field quite yet. You probably won’t have a very set schedule and might find that a bit hard to deal with, especially when you first start grad school. Let’s look at what life is like for master’s students as well as the crazy doctoral students.

What Life is Like in a Master’s Program

I write quite a bit about what you will be doing as a master’s student (link here). As a master’s student, your life will be a ton of classwork and maybe handling a parttime job, or even a full time job on top of going to school. My life, while in a master’s program was working as an engineer full time and getting my degree on the side. Yes, I was busy, but I chose that life and knew what was going to happen. It did not impact my job performance, but my job did impact my class performance.

Life in a master’s program can be really really really easy and laid back, or it can be excruciatingly difficult and busy. I am saying that it is as difficult as you make it. Some master’s programs are extremely easy. I have had friends do 1 hour of work a week for their entire grad school experience and spend the rest of the time lounging at the pool, going to the gym, and doing everything else they wanted. I have known individuals that spend more time at the lab than any Ph.D. student I know, getting lab work done, writing papers, and doing homework. These are the ones that are extremely stressed, but they chose that life.

Life for the easy master’s degree

If you choose the easy master’s degree then I suggest maybe getting some work experience or really honing on some skills. You don’t have to be busy 24 hours a day. In fact, you can focus on some skills or work while at the pool. It is a great way to make the most out of this time. If you just want to relax all day and enjoy the next two years, go right ahead. That honestly sounds like a dream!

Life for the hard master’s degree

The individuals that work all of the time. Their time in grad school will look a bit different. They may juggle 50 things at once and cry each night, but they are on a journey and have a set goal. Life in grad school for them will not be as fun as the easy path. They will make sacrifices in order to hit these goals. Nothing is wrong with that, but I suggest to these individuals to take time off and enjoy the two years they have in grad school. Once you start working, it kind of goes down hill.

Sometimes, you have a very difficult degree that you go into and you will need to work a ton. Engineering is especially tough and can cause you to spend a great amount of time in the library. Life for hard majors will look a lot like the person above. Luckily, it’s only 2 years. You can do it.

Life in grad school

What Life is Like in a PhD Program

Life as a Ph.D. student can have its ups and downs for sure. You are likely going to be in school for a very long time. This means you’ll experience everything there is that goes with grad school. At first, you’ll most likely be focused on school work. After your qualifying exam, you’ll go exclusively towards research. So, you really get the best of all worlds lol.

Life as a Ph.D. student has been quite a journey. I have experienced depression, anxiety, job satisfaction, job dissatisfaction, highs, and lows, and have learned more about myself than ever before. My life, as well as the other Ph.D. students, are fairly straightforward. We do work a ton, but we love to get out of the lab and do other things. Me, I play kickball and have a part time job. I love to go to the gym and hang with my cat, Sirius. Life in a Ph.D. program is almost like having a full time job that works you to death and pays you less than minimum wage. You try your best to finish the job and move on to something better while also trying to life a fulfilling life.

What it’s really like

For some people, research is their whole life. They wake up, go to work, then come home and go to bed. There is nothing wrong with them, but they do tend to burn out quickly. Then, there is the majority of PhD students that work 40-60 hours a week, have extracurriculars on the side, and enjoy hanging out and living a very normal life outside academia. It is quite a shame that people portray all PhD students to be workaholics that are burnt out and have no life outside academia. It’s simply not true. We have lives and we want to do things that aren’t related to our work. We are passionate about research, but we know that there is much more to life than being in the office.

Overall Life in Grad School

Overall, life in grad school is a fun time that will have its ups and downs. You are here to learn about complex ideas and figure some things out that help push the boundaries of knowledge. That doesn’t mean that you have to be a robot and work constantly. No, life in grad school is about becoming a researcher or lawyer or doctor but also figuring out who you are, where you want to go, and who you want in your life. I find that the flexibility in grad school allows me to accomplish all of these things and has definitely made me a more well-rounded individual. So, if you are readung this and thinking about whether or not to go to grad school, I say do it. Don’t be scared of hard work but know that your life won’t only be in the office. It will be all over the place, exploring so much.

Final Thoughts

I hope you found this to be a decent post about life in grad school. I find that many people are scared because they hear so many horror stories. People love to tell you the negative things that come with their experience but leave out the positives. Grad school is a positive experience and we are normal people, just hotter (more degrees ;P). Your life may look a bit different in grad school, but that is not always a negative thing.

Well all, I hope you have had a wonderful week. It’s the weekend (when currently writing this). Do you guys have any fun things planned for the upcoming week or months? Let me know in the comments below. I hope to see you guys in the next blog. Peace.

Goals for Grad Students

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

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

6 Goals For Grad Students To Aim For Before Graduation

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

goals for grad students: presentation skills

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

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

2) Being Ok With Not Knowing Everything

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

goals for grad students: deal with finances

3) Graduating Without Too Much Debt

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

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

goals for grad students: handle stress

4) Be able to Handle Stress

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

5) Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfotable

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Graduate vs Undergraduate: Who’s Better?

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

Graduate vs Undergraduate: undergraduate student

What is an Undergraduate

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

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

Graduate vs Undergraduate: graduate student

What is a Graduate

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

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

Graduate vs Undergraduate: whos better

What is the difference better Undergraduate and Graduate

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

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

Graduate vs Undergraduate: what's harder

Which is harder

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

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

A Doctorate is Different

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

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

Graduate vs Undergraduate: So Ben, Who is Better

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Grad School Mental Breakdown

Today I am going to cover a very tough subject and that is grad school mental breakdowns. Everyone that I know has their own story. I have a few stories and I will share one with you. Having a mental breakdown in grad school, let alone life, is a fairly common occurrence. Life is not easy, in any sense. In fact, it is the hardest thing that you will ever do. Having a mental breakdown can be a scary thing, but there are some things that we can do to prevent them and even take control when they occur.

My Mental Breakdown(s) in grad school

I have had quite a few grad school mental breakdowns, Usually they have all occurred in the first year to year and a half of grad school. This is a weird transition for many people and these breakdowns usually occur then. The biggest mental breakdown was right before Covid. It actually cause me to seek help from a therapist. I was doing my thing in school and starting my research. I was alone for a great deal of time and always had a feeling of loneliness, but never anything that really made me have a breakdown. It wasn’t until, I think Christmas time, where I snapped. I was stressed from school, I had no one to talk to, and the feeling of loneliness overwhelmed me. My anxiety was through the roof and I had some episodes of pretty bad depression. This last a few months until therapy really started to kick in.

Mental Breakdowns are Different For Everyone

Grad school affects everyone differently. Some people are fortunate enough to go through and never have a mental breakdown. Others, have a hard time with them. Grad school mental breakdowns also have different forms. You might have a breakdown because you failed a test. You might have an overwhelming sense of anxiety, sadness, depression, and any other negative emotion. But this may only last a day or so. Some mental breakdowns can occur even longer. For me, it lasted much longer than I wanted it to. Yes, I still have mental breakdown, but they are the shorter types now.

Be Prepared

Grad school is stressful. Sometimes, the stress will be so much that it may lead to a mental breakdown. Unfortunately, this is normal. Why this is a normal thing is beyond me and I really wish people wouldn’t push themselves to the absolute limit. It’s terrible on your health and mental state. The best think you can do is prepare for something like this to happen. Until the whole system changes, there will always be mental breakdowns for grad students and college student.

One of the best ways to prepare is to handle stress early on. Grad school has a funny way of going from slow to 100 mph in a day. You might be having a good week, low stress, then get hit with 4 assignments and 3 papers all due in a matter of days. This can be extremely stressful. Being prepared and having the ability to cope with the stress can help train your mind to be able to handle the hardships that are going to come your way. One way of doing this is to take breaks when feeling overwhelmed. Do meditation. Finding a stress relief method such as exercise or even combining meditation and exercise by going on a meditation walk (Yes that is a thing).

Also, if you are able to, do not procrastinate. I think many mental breakdowns can be avoided just by starting early and getting small amounts of work done each day. Imagine you have a few assignments due but put them off until the last minute. You’re going to be stressed beyond belief. You probably won’t do your best work, which might cause you to get an F, and you’ll be stressing over it until you get started. All of these combined are a recipe for disaster.

If you Are Having a Grad School Mental Breakdown

So, you’ve tried to prepared, but you still had a grad school mental breakdown. What can you possibly do? So, there are a few things that you can do in order to reduce the breakdown that I think are quite beneficial. Some of these are really easy to do and I use them often to help reduce the chance of me having one as well as reduce the breakdown while I am having it. Hopefully some of these help.

Grad School mental breakdown
cry it out

Cry it out and then move on

I don’t remember the last time that I have cried while having a mental breakdown. I do know people that cry it out though. This works if it is something like failing a test, being overwhelmed at the moment, or anything else where the breakdown is a bit short. Just cry it out. Cry as much as possible and wear yourself out. Get it completely out of your system. As soon as you are done, you’ll probably be so exhausted that the mental breakdown doesn’t faze you anymore.

This is a good moment to calm down, forgive yourself for feeling bad, and learn from the experience. Maybe after a good cry, you realize that the grade really isn’t that bad or you might not have as much work as you think you do. You’ll have a bit of clarity afterwards and that can help solve many of your problems. A friend of mine has done this multiple times and they ended up better than fine. They also graduated with many honors and a great career.

Run Away

I don’t necessarily mean run away from the problem. I actually mean to physically run. get yourself up and go on a long run or, better yet, go sprint. You’ll probably be full of anxiety and unwanted energy. Go exhaust yourself. You really can’t have a mental breakdown when you’re running. This is kind of like crying it out. You exhaust yourself and then you might gain some clarity afterwards. You can also go to the gym and just lift heavy weights instead. I find this difficult though because during a mental breakdown, you’re mind is racing and lifting weight might not be distracting enough.

Grad School mental breakdown

Spend time with others or alone if you need to

Grad school can be lonely and this might cause some unwanted feelings to come up. If you have a mental breakdown because of being alone all of the time, try and spend some time with others. If it is the opposite and you are having a breakdown because you are overwhelmed with people, try getting alone for a while. On the other hand, if you need to be alone, try and go somewhere that in nature. Go to a park, or walk a trial in the woods. If you need to see people, call up a friend and ask them to dinner. Go somewhere that’s busy and you’ll see many people.

If you are having a mental breakdown but don’t want to go do stuff, try calling up a friend or loved one and just talk. Get them to take your mind off whatever is making you have a breakdown. Talk with them about why this happened and maybe they can give you another way of looking at what’s going on. Sometimes, you can solve your problems and calm down all because someone talked to you and possible gave you another way of looking at your problems. Sometimes, all it takes is a phone call.

Grad School Mental Breakdown Getting help

Get Some Professional Help

This is what I did. I signed up through Talkspace.com and was in contact with a therapist right away. If you are having a ton of grad school mental breakdowns, it probably means that you are not able to handle the stress and emotions as well as you could. A therapist will help you with this. I highly, highly, highly recommend seeing a therapist more than anything to be honest. My therapist truly made a difference in my life. I rarely have mental breakdowns anymore, and if I do, I know how to handle them and learn from them. I wrote all about my experience, (here). Go check it out and see if it’s something that’s right for you.

Most Of All, Be Kind To Yourself

I think the most heartbreaking thing that I see grad students doing when they are stressed or if things go badly is that they blame themselves or put themselves down. If you truly want to end the vicious cycle of grad school mental breakdowns occurring all of the time, you have to be kind to yourself. This means not beating yourself up if you didn’t do you best work or negatively talking about yourself when things go bad. I am not saying to blame other’s either, unless it’s truly their fault. I am saying not to blame anyone.

If things are overly stressful, don’t put yourself down for putting off the work until last minute. Instead, tell yourself that you will be more proactive next time and learn from your experience. You might have a mental breakdown at first, but if you are kind to yourself and learn from your mistakes, you’ll have much fewer.

I think what really helped me in the end was being kind to myself, learning from each experiencing, and growing from them. At first, this can be a hard thing to do, but keep going. Things are always hard at first but get easier the more you do it.

Final Thoughts

Having a grad school mental breakdown does not mean you are crazy or going to fail. It means that you are human. The best thing that humans can ever do is learn from every experience, get right back up, and keep pushing on. See, grad school never gets easier. It never will. You just get better. You can either “survive grad school” or you can thrive in it. If you are here because you are having mental breakdowns in grad school, remember that you are not alone. Every grad student has at least had a few. You’re human, it’s going to happen.

If you are having trouble with grad school and need some advice, I am always here to help. Send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. We can talk about ways to make sure that you get the most out of grad school as well as leave without going insane. I hope you all have a wonderful day that is stress free. I will 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!

Summers in Grad School

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

So, tomorrow is the last day of the spring semester. I swear, these semesters are getting shorter and shorter each time. It could jut be because I only do research, but I swear we just started the spring semester like last week. Oh well! Today, I want to discuss summers in grad school. It is literally the best time of year, mostly because it is hot and I live at a place with a pool. It is also a great time for grad students to catch up on work that they have been putting off. Shame on you lol. Just kidding.

Summer is a great time because you will most likely have more time to get stuff done. In some cases, summers are a bit slower than the rest of the year. In other cases, you might be pressured to finish papers, experiments, and everything else your adviser throws at you. I want to discuss a few things that I think will benefit you. Make the must of summers in grad school. You may not get another chance to have a free summer after graduation.

Take Time Off

So, summer is usually when people will take some time off. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog about vacations in grad school (link here and here). It may give you a few ideas. Anyway, I highly encourage you to take some time off. If you were taking courses during the semester, you deserve to have at least a week of just doing nothing or going somewhere that you’ve never been. Heck, go to the beach and get a tan. There’s no real need to push yourself hard after going through finals.

This is the time when faculty take off too. Your adviser might not even be in the country so why are you still going to the lab? I do understand if you have to get stuff done, such as, you are graduating soon and need to finish. But if you aren’t, go somewhere for a few days and experience life outside of academia. It’s so easy to be caught up in all of the work that we forget to experience life. Also, it is extremely toxic for you to continuously work, you’ll hit burn out really fast. Read about that here.

Get Some Papers Published

If you are in a doctorate program, you know the importance of publications. I literally cannot graduate unless I have at least 1, first author publication. In many departments, you might need even more than that. Summer is a great time to get out a publication. You have probably been doing quite a bit of work and have enough information to add something to the world of academia. Might as well write something up in summer, get it published, and get that out of the way. Plus, you’ll have quite a lot more time to write. Writing a publication takes a heck of a lot of time. Sometimes weeks just to write a 5000 work article. Summer is the time to do that.

Catch Up On Sleep

This is for all grad students. First off, sleep deprivation is only hurting you. Get some sleep before I call up your adviser and get them to yell at you. Working 16-20 hour days, day after day will lead to you probably having to leave your department. You are not getting any more productive work done than if you worked 8 hours. Trust me. Anyway, summer is a good time to sleep in. Sleep in every day if you have to. You will notice that your productivity will skyrocket over summer. Mine always does and I am not stressed out as I usually am during the spring and fall semesters. Summers in grad school should be somewhat relaxing. Why not relax by getting some decent (>8 hr) sleep.

Take Random Courses

There are plenty of courses that you can take during the summer to either have fun or learn something. We have leisure courses that are offered each semester. They include stuff like dancing, pottery, bar tending, and various other things. You don’t have to take those, you can take course online such as like a coding course, maybe a course on productivity (I have a ton through this link), mindfulness, learn to be a graphic designer, and a ton of other ones.

This is a great idea if you are taking like 1 or 2 classes over summer and really have nothing else to do. This is also a good way to make the most out of the free time that you have. I promise that you will be plenty busy come fall semester. Having the time during summer to be able to do random stuff is such a blessing and you really need to take full advantage of it.

Binge Shows and Movies

I want to stress the importance of doing something like this. You really need to have a few days where you aren’t “productive”, meaning, you aren’t working on your doctorate or master’s or whatever. Relax and unwind with a good Harry Potter movie or perhaps binge watch a show that you haven’t seen before. I actually have a blog post about watch to watch on you down time. Check it out through this link (here). As I stated before, summers in grad school need to be filled with relaxation. Binging shows is as relaxing as you can get.

I say invite over a friend and try and watch all of the Lord of the Rings movies. Make themed food and just spend the whole day watching them. Bonus if you do this on a rainy day. Raining day movie binge days are the absolute best and you all know it.

Catch Up on Exercise

Yes, I put mad emphasis on relaxation. One way in which you can relax is by exercising more. You know that you slacked a bit on going to the gym or even just walking. Summer is your chance to get back in the gym. Also, since most students are gone, the school gyms are likely empty. That means that the squat rack is actually open. Score!

If you just want to stay low key with exercise, I suggest at least creating some good habits such as walking each day and maybe running a bit. Check out my blog about the walking challenge that I do. You can start a challenge, get a metal, and create a healthy habit all at once. Here is a link to that blog post.

Maybe Start a Blog

Summers in grad school can free up a ton of time. If you are in grad school, you know that writing is super important. So import that I include it in most of my blog post. Starting a blog is a great way to develop those writing skills that you have been meaning to perfect. It also makes writing your thesis way easier. Trust me, what takes a day to write now, would have taken me a month prior to me starting a blog. Writing becomes such an easy thing.

Other than learning basic writing skills, you can also just have fun with it. Blogging is a great way to document your journey through grad school and it is extremely helpful for those that read it. I started with hardly anyone reading my stuff. Now, I have at minimum 25 people a day reading my material from all around the world. I am hopeful that I will get to at least 100 people a day by the end of my doctorate. That’s alot of people reading my stuff and learning about my journey through grad school. Why not be like me and start now. Soon people will be coming to you for advice on how they can make the most of grad school.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, I love summers in grad school. Not only is it a time to be productive, but it is also a time to finally be able to breathe and relax a ton. For those in grad school now, let me know what types of things you’ll be doing this summer. I would love to know what everyone is doing. For those wondering how I will spend my summer, I’ll be writing up a paper, sleeping in, and going on a few trips throughout the summer. I will also be working a bit at the gym too. I have to make money to afford the plane tickets this summer lol.

Well everyone, I hope you are all having an amazing week. I know I sure am. I’m going to try and write another blog tomorrow, but we will see. If I don’t see you tomorrow, then I will the next day. As always, thanks for reading. Peace.

Update on what’s going on in my life

I have a feeling that some of you are a bit mad at me because I am not writing to you guys as much. Instead, I have been writing to the “internet”. Yes, I have been focusing on SEO and it has worked. I am getting like 10 to 15 people a day to my website. You guys know how hard it is to get organic traffic, so I am super happy about that.

Today, I want to write to you guys, my followers and friends. I haven’t really done this in a while and it shows as many people on wordpress aren’t liking my posts as much as they used to. I will make sure to write some of these informal posts here and there. They really do help me by allowing me to vent a bit/journal. As you all know, I have been coping with anxiety and a bit of depression for a while now. Blogging has significantly reduced those feelings and I want to thank you all for the support. You really are an amazing group of people and I think there are about 1500+ of you following my blog. Thank you all.

My Weekend

This weekend, I am heading to Sarasota to celebrate my girlfriends birthday. We are going to see her family friends that live there and have a fiesta! I am really looking forward to it and seeing everyone. I have been a bit of a recluse lately because I am trying to get a first draft of a paper to my adviser. Yes, I have another paper that I am hoping can get published in a high impact journal. Honestly, the data is a bit weird and it may just end up in some other type of journal that really isn’t much. But, I will be optimistic and say that I think this paper will get into a higher impact journal than my last.

If you want to read my last paper, here is a link. It’s a literature review, which means that it is long and boring lol. There might be a pay wall, though. Just read the abstract and you’ll know everything there is about it lol.

I am in the final stretch of my doctorate. I have about 6 months until I defend my research and I really have been going hard with lab work. By the end of September, I have to have a rough draft of my dissertation to submit to the school, so I need to get on that lol. Nothing like a bit of anxiety to really get you in the writing mood, right?

Sirius

Sirius is doing well. He was being a little brat the other day and escaped his carrier when I was walking up to my apartment. I had to chase him around the complex, but luckily I was able to catch him and bring him inside. He has been so cuddly at night which makes my heart happy. I have been oversleeping because of him too. He tends to curl up right next to my chest and it just makes getting up really hard. Also, he is very energetic when I am home which has been a problem being productive. He really loves to play with his toys, and me.

New Chapters

Lastly, I have been applying for jobs and actually got an interview, 8 months before graduation. I am slightly nervous for it, as I haven’t done an interview in like 6 years. I don’t know what to expect, but I know I will be ready when the time comes. This will be my first virtual interview, so it’s a bit different than what I am used to.

Final Thoughts

I hope everyone is having an awesome week. It is almost the weekend and the weather is getting amazing. I believe I will be spending the vast majority of the weekend outdoors and I can’t wait. Doing lab work is really fun, but spending time outside, with friends and family just really takes the cake. Also, there will be cake this weekend so I am excited lol. Let me know in the comments what you plan to do this weekend? Anything fun? As always, have an awesome day and I will see you in the next one. Peace!

How to Get Ahead in College

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

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

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

Getting ahead in college

Getting Ahead in College as an Undergrad

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

1) Procrastination will hurt you

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

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

eat healthy to get ahead in college

2) Stay Moving

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

3) Do not go for perfection

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

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

4) Sleep, Please

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Ahead in College as a Grad Student

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

1) Stay in contact with your adviser

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

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

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

3) Stop being such a recluse

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

Get Ahead in College With These Tips

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

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

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

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

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

5) Get a planner (like this one)

6) Stay organized. Clutter can make things difficult

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

How Much Free Time Do Grad Students Have?

Ahhhh, the age old question. Will you have any free time in grad school? The answer, is always, and will always be, YES!!!! If someone says that you will be busy from sun up to sun down, everyday, stay away from them. They are clearly doing something wrong. So then why do people say you won’t have any free time in grad school? If you want to find out what I think, you have to promise me that you will read this whole post. I’m just kidding, I’ll talk about it right after this.

woman jumping wearing green backpack
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Will You have free time in Grad School?

As I said above, yes, you will have free time to do things you love. In fact, you might have a ton of time to do many things. Yes, you will be plenty busy towards the end of semesters and deadline. But, for the most part, you’ll likely have enough time to do the things you are passionate about. People often say that you will be busy all of the time. This just isn’t true. The people that are busy all of the time are the ones about to graduate or the ones that are about to hit a bit milestone such as defending or doing their qualifying exam. People often want to feel important so they brag about the hours they spend in the lab. I guarantee that they spend like a hour actually doin work and the rest of the time is watching Netflix.

People say that you will be busy all of the time because maybe they think that everyone needs to be busy. Apparently, in grad school, as well as life, it’s a cool thing to brag about how busy you are all the time. You know what happens when you are busy all of the time? You burn out. Also, being busy all of the time and working non stop is a great way to just let your life fly by. I would rather end my day at a reasonable time and enjoy things than work a few extra hours to get some small tasks done. I get that hard work is good, but people take it to the extreme and really make things toxic.

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So about how much free time will you have?

If you are coming in to grad school directly from undergrad, you may seem like you have less free time. Undergrad, for most people, has a ton of free time. Now, by free time, I mean non classwork related activities. So, clubs, jobs, and other things I will put as “free time”. Outside of the classroom, you have ample amount of time to do whatever it is you do. In grad school, you’ll be focused more on coursework and research, so it may seem like there’s less time to do other things.

For those that are going to grad school from working full time, you’ll pretty much have the same amount of free time as you do while working full time. As I said in past blogs (link here), grad school is like a full time job. Once you’re done for the day, leave the work at the office and go home.

So, to answer the above question, grad school will take about 8 to 10 hours of your day. Sometimes much less, sometimes much more, and the rest is free time. That leaves about 8 hours of the day to do other things such as wood carving, doing other hobbies, working out, getting extra money, blogging, meditating, and everything else that I mention in blog posts lol. I highly recommend reading those posts if you are interested in any of them.

woman standing on a bed stretching her back
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How Much Free In Grad School: Master’s Program?

So, I am going to break this into two sections. The first will deal with master’s students and the second will be PhD students. I won’t be covering medical students or law students because I am neither and do not want to give you the wrong information.

So, in a master’s program, you will be mostly dealing with course work. I laid out how many hours you should spend doing coursework based on how many credits you are taking (here). A rule of thumb is you will spend about 3 hours per credit hour studying. A full time master’s student will most likely take 9 credits, 12 at the very most. 9*3=27 hours a week on classwork which leaves the rest to doing whatever you want! That’s right, spend the rest of the workweek doing anything except classwork lol.

Of course, these numbers will fluctuate throughout the year. While finishing my master’s, I had weeks where I works seemingly non stop for like 2 weeks straight. Other times, I maybe put in 5 hours tops during the week. You will have plenty of free time in a master’s program, trust me.

How Much Free time in grad school: PhD Program?

three persons sitting on the stairs talking with each other
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This one is a bit different than a master’s. You will probably be doing research mostly, and you’ll technically be “on call” 24/7. This does not mean that you need to work all of the time. No, keep it like a job and make sure to end the day. I would say that a PhD is a 8 to 5 job with the occasional 8 to 8 days/ multiple days. Yes, you’ll have free time. As much as a master’s student? probably not, but you will have a decent amount of time to be a human. Remember, you’re human and not a robot.

I have known people to work and publish a ton and I know of people that put in like 3 hours a day and go do other things. An old coworker of mine held a full time job on top of his stipend while in his PhD program. I know many people that finish at 3 each day, get plenty of work done, and manage to make it to 2 or three intramural sports events. The amount of free time that you have in a PhD program is completely up to you.

This changes when there is a deadline. The amount of free time leading up to your qualifying exam is near 0 and the same when writing your thesis. Those are not year long events and will only take up a small percentage of your time in academia. Deadlines will have you running around, doing work, but all deadlines do. There’s nothing different.

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Final Thought

If you are thinking about going to grad school but are concerned that you will work your life away, don’t worry, you won’t. You’ll be plenty busy but not overly busy where you can’t enjoy the occasional hike around your apartment complex or going to a bar at night lol. I actually believe that being constantly busy in grad school is a terrible thing to do and you shouldn’t do that. Towards the end, you may start to actually like what you do. I know, I have gotten to a point where my free time is spent building things for experiments or reading about my research. Yes, I do work in my free time but because I actually want to. You may get to this point later on.

Enjoy these few years in grad school. You won’t get them back. The years will pass by very quickly so enjoy every minute of the ride. If you have any questions or concerns, send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog on how my cat doesn’t really let me work lol. I have a link to that blog (here). I hope you all have a wonderful week, and I will see you next time.

Should You Drop Out of Grad School?

Unfortunately, this is a tough subject to talk about, but one that is important. If you are asking yourself “should I drop out of grad school?”, you are either 1) actually considering it or 2) just a typical grad student lol. If you are seriously considering dropping out of grad school, then you are in the right place. I am not here to stop you from doing it, but I do want to bring up some things that may make you reconsider. Grad school is hard, life is short, and you deserve to be happy, regardless of some stupid degree.

Anyway, today we are going to focus on the age old question “should I drop out of grad school?” lol. It is a very difficult question to ask yourself and you will have to consider quite a few things before you go through the process of leaving. I will discuss some of those things to consider in this article. So, let us take a look at some of the reasons why you would even want to consider dropping out of grad school.

person standing near trees
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Reasons to drop out of grad school

SO, there are quite a few reasons to go to grad school. There are quite a few reasons to stay in grad school and of course, there are a bunch of reasons to leave grad school and drop out.

1) Your goals have changed

So , you may have started your grad school tenure with the goal of becoming a professor or getting a really good job in the field that you are getting a degree in. Over the course of the 3 to 8 years of grad school, you found that what you are going to school for is not your calling. Trust me, it happens way more than you think. This usually occurs when you are doing a PhD. A PhD usually takes a very long time and that gives you plenty of time to change up what you want to do in life. This reason to leave the program is completely justifiable and you should not feel ashamed if you fall in this category.

I would suggest at least making sure you get your master’s degree while in school. You will be surprised that just holding a master’s degree will get you plenty of jobs later on and there’s always a bump in pay. This is true even if your degree doesn’t have anything to do with the career you are in. Always get the master’s lol.

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2) You don’t get along with your adviser

So, this one can either be used to justify leaving or moving to another department. A huge component of passing grad school is working with your adviser and, at least, somewhat getting along. I know of people who had to leave their current studies because, no matter what they did, they could never please their adviser and always butt heads. Sometimes the advisers can be too much and in some cases abusive towards their students. This is a very good reason to leave them.

I would suggest, before leaving and dropping out of grad school, you search for an adviser that you will get along with. It is totally fine to switch departments or even colleges if you have to. Just not getting along with your adviser really isn’t the best reason for leaving grad school completely. If you are serious about your research, I highly suggest choosing the option of finding someone else.

3) Grad school is making you sick

Now, I am not saying that grad school is making you feel ill, well maybe, but I am primarily talking about mental health. If grad school is making you severely ill (mentally), you may need to reconsider it. I truly believe that reaching out for help should be the first thing to do. Getting professional help during grad school is probably the best thing I ever did and one of the best things you can ever do. If you want to read more about my experience with therapy in grad school, check out my blog post on it (link here).

Mental health needs to be your primary focus when taking care of yourself. The amount of isolation can really take it’s toll on your well being. If you have tried everything, and I mean everything, and grad school is just destroying your mental health, then you might need to consider the option of leaving. Grad school is not worth it in the end if you are going to be depressed. Trust me on this, your mental health is way more important than some stupid degree.

man holding his face
Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pexels.com

4) You can’t afford to live

So, you are going to be pretty poor in grad school. In some cases, you might have to eat ramen a few nights in order to get by. It happens, we hate it, unfortunately it’s part of the process. If you are having to give up on your physical health, mental health, and well being just to be able to afford rent, you may need to reconsider some things. Loans are definitely an option that I wish wasn’t one, but this might need to be taken into consideration if you are skipping meals or whole days of food just to be able to pay rent. I know people that live in very old, run down, apartments because that’s all they can afford.

Yes, you can get another job outside academia (unless you’re an international student. They can’t have second jobs.) and you can get more money. But that might push back graduation. If you get to a position where you are not able to eat or live in a safe environment, I would suggest looking for a different field to go into that pays more or just getting a master’s and leaving. Some of the very long PhDs are also some of the lousiest paying. 8 years of work at minimum wage might not be worth it, especially if you are in a field that might not have a lot of money for you coming out of college.

person holding pink suede long waller
Photo by Robert Bogdan on Pexels.com

Things to consider first before dropping out of Grad School

There are many things that you need to conder before you decide whether to drop out of grad school. This is a big decision and it should not be made in one day. In fact, taking a whole semester to decide is probably best.

1) Will leaving affect future goals

Sometimes we make decisions off of emotions. I know that I do all of the time. This is a decision that should not be made because you had a bad day in grad school. We all have bad days, but we don’t want to mess up out future goals because of one bad day. When considering dropping out of grad school, consider your goals. Will they be influenced by this decision? If you have your heart set on being a profession, you know that dropping out will influence that. You can’t be one unless you get a PhD. If you want to be an engineer, dropping out may not hurt you at all and you can go on to having a fulfilling career. Take this into consideration when making this decision.

2) How will others react and be affected

So, this one is a consideration, but not a big one. If you have thought it through and you find leaving the absolute best option, don’t worry about what other’s think. You are making this decision for yourself. Unless it affects them, then don’t care. If this decision does affect them, say a spouse or a child, then you have to take them into consideration. This decision could mean that they might need to support you while you search for jobs. It could mean you having to move and that affects them just as much as you. Leaving academia is a huge decision and I know you’ll talk it over with others first.

cute family picture
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

3) Is it absolutely the right thing to do

Really, really consider this. I mean, sleep on it for weeks if you have to. Going to grad school might have been the best thing for you. Having a bad semester is not a reason to leave but having a few bad years and realizing that grad school wasn’t the best thing for you is a good reason to leave. Is leaving the right thing for you? That is for you to decide.

Final Thoughts

I hope you don’t consider leaving grad school and I hope you finish everything you started. Grad school is a hard and strenuous task, but I know you can do it. I am here to root you on and help you if you need the help. If you feel like you are in a position where you are thinking of leaving, please consider reaching out to me to talk about it. My email is benswaringen@yahoo.com. I would gladly talk about your options. The very last thing I want is for you to feel alone in this decision.

Anyway, I hope you all have had a wonderful day and week. This post was a late one for me. Usually I write in the mornings but I decided to write in the evening. I hope you found this post enlightening and I will see you in the next one. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog about the best coffee and coffee gadgets for grad school (link here). Peace!

Having a Roommate in Grad School

So a major part of grad school mindfulness and having a good experience might come from the topic that we have today. Having a roommate in grad school can be a really good experience or you might absolutely hate it. There is an in between as well so it’s not always a love or hate thing. I have had a roommate every year that I have been in grad school and now I am currently alone because my roommate bought a house and is living there now. So, I have the experience of living with a roommate as well as living by myself.

So, should you have a roommate in grad school and what are the pros and cons of having one? This is what we are going to touch upon today because I strongly believe that this is an important topic that not many people are talking about. So, let’s first talk about the benefits of living with a roommate verses why roommates can really be bad.

Pros of Having a Roommate in Grad School

So let’s dive into some of the pros of having a roommate while in grad school, shall we?

1) Rent can be cheaper

So, this is an obvious one. If you want to save up some money, grab yourself one or two roommates and get an apartment or house together. Grad school stipends are abysmally small. Like people don’t understand that we are employees getting paid below the poverty line. One way to cut back on those costs of living is with a roommate

2) You get to come home to someone actually being there

So, if you are like me, you spend a ton of time alone in an office and lab. I really don’t get to interact with many people except my adviser and the others who share my office. Coming home to someone other than them can really help with your mental state. It was always nice to know someone else was around, especially on those days where you feel a bit lonely.

3) You might make a life long friend.

Some of my old roommates have become some of my closest friends. I mean, if we can get along living together, we can really get through anything. Having a roommate makes you interact with someone and get to know them on a more personal level. You understand their habits and how they are outside of academia or wherever. Sometimes, you find that you are very similar to your roommate and you will develop a really close relationship with them.

Cons of Having a Roommate in Grad School

So, yes, there are cons to having roommates in grad school. I have been fortunate to have some truly amazing roommates. I know people who have had roommates from hell, so be grateful if you don’t get one lol.

1) You might not get along with them

Hey, this happens. Everyone is different and you might not get along with your roommate at all. Honestly, you won’t know unless you at least try. Sometimes, not getting along with them can cause some stress that might affect your research. This can lead to some mental health issues and those are not good. If you are going to have a roommate, I would suggest either getting someone you know you’ll get along with or search around for people that would be a good fit. Sometimes, you are just tossing a coin and seeing what you get. Hopefully you get a good outcome.

2) They might eat your food

Ok, I haven’t had this problem, but I know many individuals who have had this problem. Roommates might eat the food that you bought. As I mentioned earlier, we don’t make that much money. Food is a necessity and sometimes, unfortunately, a luxury :(. Having a roommate that deprives us the happiness that is food can be disheartening. If you are having trouble with this particular dilemma, talk to your roommate and let them know it’s not ok for that to happen.

messy grad school roommates

3) They can be messy

So, I have had this problem. I am fairly clean. Disorganized, yes, dirty, absolutely not. I have had situations where my roommates have left dishes in the sink for weeks at a time. Some roommates would leave food lying around and other’s were just extremely messy. I am OK with messy, but dirty is where things get complicated. You might be in a situation where a roommate is messy and possibly a slob. This can be quite a bad situation especially if you start getting bugs because of them. In cases like this, you have to voice your concern or they won’t learn.

Next Up: Living Alone!

So, I have had a few instances of living alone in both undergrad as well as grad school. As I mentioned earlier, my current roommate has pretty much moved out and I am all alone. Well, I have Mr. Sirius to keep me company, but I don’t have a human roommate anymore. There certainly are a few pros as well as cons of living alone, that I have noticed. I would like to share with you exactly those.

Being alone in grad school

Pros of Living alone in Grad School

So let’s first talk about the pros of not having a roommate in grad school. There are quite a few but I will keep it short so you don’t fall asleep.

1) You don’t have to deal with all of the cons about having a roommate that I talked about.

You won’t have someone eating your food. No body is going to be messy, except you. And, you don’t have to worry about getting along with anyone because no one is there. These are some really good things to consider.

2) You are able to decorate your place the way you want to

I think this is a pro to living alone. You can make your place the way you want it to be. My girlfriend does it best. She has been living alone for quite some time and her place is filled with really cool things that show the type of individual she is. Living alone lets you make your home more “you”.

3) You don’t have to worry about finding a roommate

So, this is specifically for those with a joint lease. In college, you will have many people come and go while you slog through your graduate degree. Some of those people might be roommates. If you have a lease that everyone signs, when they leave, you have to replace them so you can pay rent. I lived in a house where the rent would be 1800 a month if I didn’t have a roommate. That is the equivalent of my monthly earnings. Living alone, in an affordable place, allows you to not have to worry about finding roommates to replace yours.

Cons of not having a roommate in Grad School

Of course, with every pro, there is a con. So let us dive into what some cons are of living alone while in grad school.

not having a roommate in grad school is sad and lonely

1) You’re alone

I find this one hard to face, honestly. I am alone most of the day and I don’t want to really be alone when I get home. Yes, I have Sirius. But, I would love to be able to talk to someone that can actually talk back and not meow for treats lol. Plus, if something goes wrong or if I lock my keys inside, there’s no one to immediately help me. Being alone, especially in grad school, can really put a damper on your mental health as well. Something to be very mindful of.

roommate in grad school expensive

2) Rent is more expensive

Ok, by this time, you’re probably sick of hearing me say that we are poor. You get it, grad students are poor. Well, because we are poor, it is harder on us to live alone because rent is always more expensive without a roommate. I think the average rent for a studio in Gainesville is about 1100 dollars. Rent has gone nuts in the past 5 years. A studio was about 650 dollars in 2017. Crazy!!! Anyway, if you have the money, sure get a studio. For the vast majority of us, living alone is going to be a struggle, financially.

3) Lastly, no one is there to eat the food I make.

You might be curious with this one. Often, I make cakes and desserts but I have no one to share them with. This often means that I eat a whole cake by myself or a dozen cookies by myself. I do bring them in to work, but I only share my office with one other person and she is often not there. This is a serious dilemma that I am in lol. Many people may laugh at this, but it can be a hardship in grad school. Also, I like to create dishes from recipes that I have found and need other’s opinions. Sirius doesn’t like my food, so he’s not really helpful lol. It’s definitely a con to living alone.

Deciding to have a roommate in grad school or not

It is a big decision when you start grad school to live with others or not. In my opinion, I think having a roommate is a win. Living alone, if you are that kind of person, is good. But, having someone to come home to and help you out is something I really look forward to. If you are trying to decide which to choose, I would suggest giving it a year of living with someone else to feel if it is right for you. If you don’t get along and hate having roommates then live alone the next year. At least you tried and determined whether a roommate was good or bad.

Final Thoughts

I hope you found this post to be good. Hopefully you are still awake after reading it lol. Anyway, let me know what you think about having a roommate in grad school or living alone. Wat are your preferences? Do you agree with this article or no?

Also, if you have any questions or concerns about grad school, shoot me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. Also, if you haven’t read it already, go check out my post about starting a wood carving hobby. Link Here. Until next time, peace.

Why is a PhD Important

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

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

First Off, How do you even get a PhD?

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

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

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

why a PhD is important

So Back To Why a PhD is Important

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

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

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

So, should you get a PhD?

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

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

Are you Ready to Do a Doctorate?

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Anxiety in College Will Come Back, Be Ready

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

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

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

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

anxiety in college

Remember to Keep Up Coping Mechanisms

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

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

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

Helpful Places For Anxiety Reduction

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

Free

Guided Meditations

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

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

Therapy YouTube Channels

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

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

Calming Music

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

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

My Blog Posts

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

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

Not So Free

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

A Letter To Yourself

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

A Letter to Ben

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben (older version)

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

The Hardest Parts About Going to Grad School

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

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

Hardest Parts about a Master’s Degree

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

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

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

2) You will feel extremely dumb

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

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

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

4) Your friends will change

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

5) Still broke

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

6) You may have to actually do research as well

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

7) The work demand is insane for classes

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

Hardest Parts about a PhD

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

1) You have to contribute to science

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

2) You will lose many friends

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

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

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

4) Advisers demanding much more than you can handle

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

5) You’re very poor

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

6) Peer review

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

7) The stupid qualifying exam

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

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

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

9) No one understands what your doing.

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

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

The 3 hardest parts of grad school

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

You ARE Good Enough (Round 2)

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

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

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

You are good enough, repeat that 5X

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

What Should Your Major Be in Grad School?

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

Let’s Talk About Your Interests

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shop Around

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

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

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

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

Will it Pay the Bills?

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

College Student Motivation

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

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

Why Motivation is High at the Beginning of the Semester?

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

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

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

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

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

How Can I Get Motivated Throughout the Semester

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

1) Make sure to rest

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

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

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

3) Get a buddy to help motivate you.

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

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

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

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

5) Exercise

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

6) Focus on the progress and not the goal.

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Essential Skills For Undergrad Students

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

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

Essential Skills that All Undergrads Students should have.

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

1) Learn How to COOK

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

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

2) Learn how to manage money

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

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

3) Learn how to communicate

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

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

4) Learn to say “No”

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

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

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

5) Learn how to seek help

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

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

6) Learn How to Deal With Stress

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

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

7) Learn how to study effectively

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

How to Celebrate Getting Into Grad School

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

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

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

Ways to celebrate Getting into Grad School

1) Have a pizza party

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

2) Go on a trip.

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

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

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

4) Schedule a tour and celebrate on campus before starting

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

5) Buy new clothes

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

Final Thought

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

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

How to Deal With Grad School Stress?

Have you ever asked yourself why things are the way that they are? Like, why do we have to drive on the right side of the road? Or, why is it that you can’t just eat only one brownie when a plate is left in front of you? These are questions that keep me up at night. One of the things that I question and want to really get down to the core about is why is grad school so stressful? Does it have to be stressful? Why is there even stress in grad school? I thought we were done with that in undergrad. Today, I want to touch on this subject and possibly answer why grad school is stressful and what we can do about it.

Main Reasons for Grad School Stress

There are going to be a ton of reasons in grad school to feel stressed. Some are normal and some might not be. Do not worry though. You will get out of grad school alive and well, potentially a bit insane, but we can work on that later. Grad school is a stressful time but also a great time in your life. I want to discuss some of the reasons for stress and also want to discuss ways you can reduce this stress.

1) The workload is too much

I think that this is the main cause of stress in grad school. The first two years of a program will be heavy with coursework and maybe a few experiments here and there. This will be a bit overwhelming at first because you might not be used to this workload. For some individuals, undergrad was a cake walk and then they decided to go to grad school. The first assignment you have might be a 10 page analysis on the origins of life or something like that. If you come from a major that was easy, you can see how grad school might kick your butt at first. Many majors that were hard just stay right on track with the level of difficulty. Engineering, for example, is the same thig but you’ll probably write a bit more in your classes.

You will have a smaller course load than undergrad but you will be plenty busy. In grad school, the professors expect you to work, and work hard. You’ll get plenty of assignments to do on top of your lab work. This can definitely be extremely stressful and anxiety inducing.

2) You may not have any support

I think a huge part of stress in grad school is doing research alone. You don’t really have the support of others because, frankly, they have no idea what you even do. You will be alone most of the time and that can be stressful and a bit depressing. Stressful, because you end up putting way too much pressure on yourself, and depressing, because, well, you’re alone. These two, mixed together, is a dangerous concoction.

Not having the support of others can make the whole experience super stressful. As I said above, you’ll start pushing yourself harder and harder and just stressing yourself out because you don’t have anyone to tell you that it’s good enough. I wish this wasn’t a thing in grad school and I wish people didn’t encourage pushing yourself that hard as well.

3) You won’t have a lot of time to interact and make friends

Sure, you will make friends, I wrote an article on how to (here), but you might not be as social as you were in undergrad. You may also find it a bit difficult to make friends. That just adds to the stress already built up. I found that not having a support group (aka friends) made it hard to vent and release some pent of stress from school. You may also feel stressed trying to get friends as well. No one wants to feel lonely while spending 5+ years in a grad program.

You will feel stressed to find friends and that can make things very hard for you in grad school. There are many ways to help to relieve this stress which I will talk about later in this post.

4) Financial Stress

Grad school stress is brought on by a ton of different things and I think financial stress is one of the big reasons for it. There is so much uncertainty in grad school and you might not know if you’ll be able to afford to eat next week. You don’t get paid that much in grad school, and holding a part-time job during can be almost impossible. I have written a ton about how to make money in grad school, but it doesn’t help that much with the stress. You might be adding even more stress to your experience because you are working extra to pay bills.

You’re practically poor in grad school and that’s just how it is, unfortunately. We are apprentices so they don’t have to really pay us more, since we are “learning the trade”. Many of us have families to take care of and loved ones. So, money can be a problem. Once I figure a sure-fire way to not be poor, I’ll let you guys know. Until then, we just carry on.

What to do to Deal With Grad School Stress?

There are many things that I discuss on my website about dealing with stress. In fact, the main reason for the blog was how to be mindful and reduce the hardships of grad school. Check out my other blogs (here) for more incite. Anyway, let’s discuss a few ways in which we can reduce grad school stress and potentially thrive off it.

1) Get organized.

This is such a simple thing as well as highly effective. It is so easy to just have papers all around, no planner whatsoever, and nothing to keep your organized. This can make it harder to get things done due to clutter as well as make things very stressful due to lack of organization. First, get yourself a planner so write down all deadlines and what to do everyday. Next, clean your desk. The more clutter, the more likely you misplace something important. Organization will make it easy to find things you need and you won’t feel as overwhelmed by clutter. The planner will keep you on top of assignments and deadlines.

The first thing that I did when I was overwhelmed with work was writing everything down in my planner. I saw how much work I need to do and when it was due. This allowed me to schedule my days to work on assignments exclusively and my productivity increased drastically. I also decluttered my desk and actually found some pretty important documents! Yay to decluttering.

2) Make sure to take breaks

I wrote the other day about how to prevent burnout. Constant stress in grad school can most definitely lead to burnout and a potential mental breakdown. When overly stressed, you need to take a moment and just relax. Meditate for like 15 minutes or go on a long walk. Get away from work for a while and things will get better. You may just be caught up in the moment and feel overwhelmed. After a nice little break, you might find clarity and realize that it’s not that bad.

Breaks will also prevent chronic stress from happening. This will make your grad school experience terrible and you do not want that. Remember that relaxation and rest are key components to productivity and stress reduction.

3) Seek out help

I think this is a very important way to reduce stress, yet people often don’t do it. It is amazing how reaching out to someone for help will alleviate so much stress in your life. If you are feeling overwhelmed with school, reach out to a professor or adviser and ask them for advice. May reach out to the professor of the courses you take and ask for an extension if you are feeling overwhelmed. They will most likely help you out. If you are really struggling, reach out to your friends and family for support. They will gladly help.

There are many places on campus where you can reach out to reduce stress. Study groups, student health centers, and tutoring places. All free to grad students. Take full advantage of these to help and reduce the overwhelming feelings you get in grad school.

4) Learn to shop deals

Things are getting pricey these days (thanks inflation), which will make financial burdens worse. One way to deal with this is shop deals. Take full advantage of being a student and look for student discounts. If you like music, Spotify has a monthly subscription for students that’s $5.99 and include premium Spotify and also Hulu. If you love Amazon, apply for their student program for a discounted Amazon prime membership. You will soon realize that you don’t have to deprive yourself of luxuries in life if you shop deals and use student discounts. Do this will keep money in your bank account and financial stress away.

Sometimes money can get really tight in grad school. You may even need to take out loans. This is fine as long as it helps to reduce that burden. Taking loans out is scary, but sometimes necessary to make sure to finish your degree. Take out loans only if you absolutely need to. Interest rates for paying them back can be high.

5) Exercise Please!

Everyone knows that exercise is a great stress reliever. So, why don’t we do it more? Well, people are so overwhelmed with stuff that they may be too tired or they just don’t have time to do it. We need to incorporate exercise into our life to make sure that stress doesn’t get the best of us. Take a look at this article by May Clinic. They go over all the different ways in which exercise helps you manage stress. Some of these include improving mood, reducing the negative effects of stress, as well as pumping up your endorphins. Really, guys and gals, go exercise. Heck, just go on a walk. That will make things a lot better for you.

6) Reduce Grad School Stress By Having Fun

Last, but certainly not least, have fun. Make grad school a fun experience. Try and have fun with work and make that a fun experience too. You’ll notice that your stress will probably come from how you perceive doing something. You may feel more stressed if you have to do something that you don’t find fun. Try and make those things fun by turning them into a game or giving yourself a prize for completing it. This will reduce the stress from doing it.

Final Thoughts

Grad school stress is terrible. You may feel more stressed than ever, especially towards the end. Try to combat these feelings if you can. It will make the whole 2 to 8 years way easier and quite enjoyable.

For those in grad school or those that have finished, how did you reduce stress or deal with it while you were doing your studies? Let us know in the comments. Thanks.

Is Grad School Fun?

Today, I want to talk about the fun side of grad school. Is there a fun side of grad school though? Well, the answer is “of course!” Grad school can be such a fun time in your life and I want to go over why grad school is actually one of the most fun times in my life.

Of course, grad school is much different than undergrad. The fun that you experience will also be much different than that which came with the 4 years of undergrad. You will likely spend more time doing other things like movie nights and dinners rather than going out to the club each night. I have found that I actually find getting to bed early and waking up early outshines the lifestyle of going to clubs and bars and drinking until 2 am. Grad school has changed me lol.

Why Grad School is Fun

So, grad school is a ton of work which may have people thinking that it’s not going to be a fun time at all. Man, are they wrong! Grad school is chalk full of fun activities, meet ups, workshops, and a ton more that makes each day exciting and great. I am constantly getting bombarded with emails about the 5000 different activities going on each day.

Two Smiling Women Sitting on Wooden Bench

Meeting new people

The most fun parts about grad school involve other grad students. You will get to meet a ton of people, from a ton of different countries, doing different things than you. When you are in your master’s, you may take courses with people that are in different colleges than you. My statistics course had people from every department and college in the university. This is fun because you get to experience just so much. You can talk with people about their research. You can learn so much new information and grow as an academic. This is also a great way to find new friends this way

Photo of a Woman Holding an Ipad

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Doing stuff you love

When you went to college or if you are going to college now, what did you not like about school? Was it taking classes that just didn’t interest you? When asking other students about what they love in grad school, one common answer is this, they love being able to do work they are interested in. When you are in undergrad, you may have to take a thousand credits of classes that you don’t find an interest in at all. This makes going to school not that fun. Trust me, I had to take quite a few courses that I hated to get a bachelors degree. I truly believe that one of the major things that makes grad school actually fun is being able to take the courses you want and are actually interested in.

People Throwing Pins

Doing activities rather than bar hopping

Don’t get me wrong, I do like going out with friends and grabbing a drink or two. I do find that I have been shying away from the Friday night club and bar hopping and focused my time on doing activities that don’t involve drinking heavily and pregaming. In undergrad, pre games then going to bars was the norm. Every Friday I would have people over to drink and then going to the nearby bars to drink even more. In grad school, I now focus my time on activities such as going to new town, seeing plays at theatres, going to the park and scootering around the neighborhood. My friends also like spending more of their time doing stuff like this instead of spending money at the bars. The appeal of getting drunk and stumbling home at 3 am has gone away.

You will find in grad school that the fun that you had in undergrad such as bar hopping tends to subside. Waking up with hangovers all the time just isn’t helpful in your studies and your interests will most definitely change. You will find fun in going to places like a bowling alley with other grad students or going to a trampoline park for a few hours. Heck, you may find fun in joining a running club or cooking class. These might be things that you didn’t really do in undergrad that you want to do now.

You get to research cool things

One of the most fun parts of being in grad school is being able to do research on things that interest you. Not only this, but you might get to work with technology that costs 10x’s more than your whole college tuition lol. Being able to use state-of-the-art research tools is definitely a fun aspect of grad school. you are also given a tremendous amount of freedom to do what you want, which makes the “mad scientist” in me very happy.

You might get to research some really cool things and potentially build stuff that no one has ever built. I have a friend who worked on and build a satellite that is currently orbiting the planet. That is one of the coolest things ever. Being able to work on projects like this is what grad school is all about. It is also what makes grad school so much fun.

Close-up Photo of Survey Spreadsheet

Reasons You Are Concerned That It’s Not Fun

I typed this exact search query into google when I started grad school. I was concerned. I was actually pretty terrified that grad school would be all work and no play. Man, I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Yes, grad school is a ton of work, but it is a ton of time to find yourself and explore the world of academia.

When you think of grad students, you may think of people staying in the lab all night. You might think of someone falling asleep on a stack of books. Rarely, do you think of grad students having fun and living their lives. This might be one of the reasons why you are searching this topic. You don’t want to be that person. Trust me when I say this, grad students have fun. We need to or else we might go insane. For master’s students, you can have fun every day of your life. Keep up the grades and you can technically be on vacation your whole 2 years. PhD students have to find fun or they will most likely suffer from a mental illness. So, scheduling in play time is essential.

Final Thoughts

If you are considering grad school, and want to know more about the fun aspects of it, shoot me an email. My email is benswaringen@yahoo.com. I would love to talk with you about grad school and any questions that you might have about it. I can tell you all of the fun things I do as well as other things that are also fun to do.

Overall, grad school is a fun and exciting time. Trust me, it’s not all work and no fun. That would make it a prison sentence, and we wouldn’t want that. I have found that grad school has been one of the most fun and rewarding times in my life. I hope you find it that way too. Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful day and I will see you in the next article post. Peace!

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.

It is OK to Slow Down

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Grad school, a wonderful time where you are running around, doing crazy amounts of things day after day, only to receive a piece of paper. Of course grad school is not just this. It is a learning experience and a chance to grow as a scholar. Yes, some things in grad school may not make sense as to why you need to do them. But in the end, you will be a much better researcher/scholar/whatever you become :).

Man Showing Wristwatch

One thing that I notice is how busy college tends to get. You will have exams, research projects, sports, clubs, homework assignments, outside work, the list goes on and on. It is busy. I remember undergrad used to be extremely busy. The biggest complaint I heard was how busy the semester was for everyone and how little fun they would have. Everyone justified it by saying what they were doing was a “resume builder.” Honestly, I hated this phrase and wish it would go away. No, we were all busy because we wanted to feel important and feared that we would miss out on things.

I am not trying to bash on being busy, though. I love the feeling of being busy, but when I am productive. Some people like to keep themselves busy for the sake of being busy, getting nothing done in the process. I don’t really like this. Now some people really are busy. The individuals getting ready to graduate or the ones trying to get volunteering experience to get into med school have great justifications. Some people just stay busy because they like the feeling. This is ok but sometimes it is really just fine to slow down. In fact, I highly encourage a slower lifestyle if you can.

Black Tortoise Standing

Why Slow Down

The older I get, the more I realize that staying busy and cramming as much as I can into as little time as possible is not sustainable. I like to enjoy things and not rush through them. Sometimes, I overschedule myself and find myself doing multiple different things during the day, while worrying about the next thing I have to do. This causes a great deal of frustration, honestly. Slowing down can help pne enjoy the task or thing that is happening at that moment.

Slowing down can help to cause less confusion, feelings of anxiety, and can lead to far less stress. The most stressful times in anyone’s life is during a time when a ton of things are happening that seem to be out of control. Notice that the most stressed individuals are the ones that cram so much into such little time. Slowing down, taking things off your to-do list, and relaxing are sure-fire ways to live a stress free lifestyle.

Slow Signage

How can I Slow Down?

“But Ben, how can I slow down in grad school? It’s always so busy!” Well, I have a few ways in which you can slow down, but you may not like hearing (reading) about them lol. So, let’s discuss some of the many ways in which you can slow down in grad school, in list form!!! Woohoo.

1) Say “no” more often

One of the best ways to slow down is to just stop saying “yes” to everything that people ask you. You are very valuable in the academic scene. Technically, you are seen as cheap labor, so many people may come to you and ask you to do extra work or write a paper. They may even entice you with your name on the publication. If you can’t do the work for them, you are allowed to say “no”. It is not the end of the world.

Woman in White and Black Dress Standing Beside Glass Window

2) Reduce time on your phone.

Much of our time these days is spent on our phones. One way to slow down and get some more time to relax is by just turning off your phone. Social media, text messages, emails, and other apps can make us feel overwhelmed. Our phones can keep us busy for hours on end, taking time away from things that truly matter like getting other work done, or even just spending time with another individual. It’s time to be ok with turning off your phone.

Notebook

3) Make to-do lists

One great way to slow down is to make a to-do list of everything that needs to get done that day. Then, start reducing the size of that list. We often make lists that are unattainable. I know all of my to-do lists have about 100 things on them, yet I can only manage to get 3 to 4 done a day. Make a list of essential things then subtract other things that are not as important. Do you really need to wash your car between zoom meetings today? Probably not lol. So take that off of your list.

4) Get Organized

Organization will help you stay on track. Organizing yourself is a great way to slow down as well. Focus on the most important things in order and you will probably finish in a reasonable amount of time and have more free time to do the things you enjoy, or just chillax.

Man Walking Near Body of Water

5) Schedule in Walks

I love walking. It’s in my top 5 favorite activities to do. I am also part of a virtual walking challenge (link here), which helps push me to do even more walking. One of the best things to do to slow down, that I know from first hand experience, is go on walks. This helps because it takes time away from doing work and forces you to focus on exercise and what is going on around you. I walk about an hour to an hour and a half each day. During that time, I am not working, I am off my phone (unless I am listening to my audibles) and I am focusing on the present. Walking has definitely made me appreciate the “now” and I have found that my life is not quite so hectic because of it.

6) Quit working at the same time each day

If you want to slow down, schedule a time and quit working at that time. For me, that’s 5:30. I have actually created a habit and my body naturally stops working at that time. My brain shuts off, I get hungry, and I start to really shift my focus elsewhere. It is a really good thing because my body knows when to just stop for the day. If you don’t really do this, you may just continue to keep working for a very long time or stay way too busy. You have to schedule a time to just stop.

Final Thoughts

Life in grad school can get hectic and stressful at times. I get it, I really do. But sometimes slowing down is the best option. Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems can and will occur in grad school. This is why overwhelming yourself with stuff might not be the best thing to do. I had to force myself to slow down due to mental health reasons. If you want out know more about my mental health, check out these blogs (here). I have to slow down to reduce stress and anxiety. Fortunately, I am in a good place now, but I do worry for some of the new grad students. Please make sure to take care of yourselves in grad school. It is a long and hard journey.

**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

Should You Do An Internship in Grad School?

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

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

Woman Coding on Computer

Master’s Students

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

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

Gold and Black Statue of Man Holding Book

Law Students

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

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

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

Free stock photo of art, artistic, arts and crafts

PhD

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Please Be Kind To Yourself

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I have noticed many new students beating themselves up because they don’t understand something or they are having a hard time with experiments. Honest, this really upsets me. I know how hard one can be to themself. I was that individual that would put myself don if I got a B on an exam. God forbid I get any lower. It has taken years of self help and a whole year of therapy to get to where I am today.

Grad school is here for one purpose, to learn. One thing that comes with learning is failure. Failing over and over and over is a hard, yet important thing to do during this time. Yes, there is a lot of pressure from your adviser to do well, but they want to see you try and learn along the way. They do not want to see you beat yourself up over small things.

Be kind to yourself. You will make a ton of mistakes in grad school, but as long as you learn from them, those aren’t really mistakes, right? I have seen way too many people leave because they just couldn’t take the stress of grad school. It’s hard, and that gives you even more reason to be kind to yourself while going through it.

I do not want you to end up with a mental health issue by the end of your academic tenure. I have experience quite a few problems throughout my journey and I don’t want that to happen to anyone else. So please, be kind to yourself and don’t sweat the small stuff.

This blog post is a bit short, I know, but it is an important one. I want to make sure that your experience through grad school is a pleasant one and sets you up for a wonderful life down the road. This time in your life can be very hard. Most people are in their mid 20s and just starting out in life. Being kind to oneself can make sure that mental health issue don’t arise. This is why it is so important to be kind to yourself, take breaks, and make sure to show yourself love. It was the best thing I ever did for myself.

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

How to Ace Your First Exam

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

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

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

first exams

What to Expect on the First Exam

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

Two Men Studying Together

Review Sessions are Awesome!!!!

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

Week Before Exam

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

Woman Sleeping

Make Sure to Sleep

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

Person Behind Books

Day of the Exam

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

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

Brown and Black Wooden Chairs Inside Room

After the Exam

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

Final Thoughts

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

Rainy Day Mindfulness

Today has been quite a gloomy one. I woke up to a sick cat and a very overworked and tired girlfriend. Quite a lot was going on and it really didn’t make the morning too fun. One thing that did help was the gloominess of the morning. Today has an 80% chance of rain, throughout the day. It is one of those days where you just want to snuggle under the covers, watch Harry Potter, and eat a ton of candy. Unfortunately, today is a lab day, so I am doing experiments. I need mindfulness.

Two People Walking in the Forest

Walking and Mindfulness

The best part of this morning was the walk to campus. I say it all the time, but one really should walk everywhere, if you are able. This morning was the perfect whether to walk to campus. It’s slightly cool, there’s hardly any wind, and it’s extremely overcast. I was considering scooting, but figured that a walk would be better. Usually, I will listen to music on my walk, but today, I decided to just walk without the added distraction. It made all the difference.

I have to be honest with all of you, I haven’t been practicing mindfulness as much as I had in the past. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. I was primarily using mindfulness to calm my very anxious mind. In the past year, I have gotten to a point where I don’t have panic attacks often, I don’t have ruminating thoughts, and my depression has basically disappeared. I believe that it all comes down to my mindfulness practice and living in the moment. Because I wasn’t actively trying to prevent anxiety and depression, my mindfulness practices have lessened. Today, I decided to just try and be in the moment on my walk to campus.

Mindfulness

This mindfulness practice involves just walking and paying attention to the sights, sounds, and smells that surround you. On rainy days, you really get to experience quite a few different sights, sounds, and smells. It was very calm at the time that I left, so the sounds were mostly cars. Every once in a while, I would hear the squirrels or birds in the trees, which made for a nice transition from the sounds of motorized vehicles passing. Now the sights and smells were better than just the sounds. When it’s rainy, everything is a bit more gloomy so you get to experience familiar things in an unfamiliar manner. Most days are sunny, so I am used to experiencing those things in the sun, but on rainy days, they look way different.

A Woman in Pink Dress Standing while Holding a Flower

Smells

The smells, oh the smells, were quite intense. Not anything bad, though, just more potent. Apparently from this article , “When it rains, spores produced by the actinomycetes are pushed up into the air, releasing the geosmin and creating that fresh, distinctive scent, according to Smithsonian.” Thanks spores, you made my walk quite good smelling lol.

From below of thick cumulus clouds floating high in air on bright sky with orange beams in nature on evening time

I was at Peace

Focusing on all three of these senses really brought me more in touch with my mindfulness practices. For 30 minutes, I was living in the moment, not worrying about the work I had to do, the troubles of the day, or thoughts about the future. I was in the “now”. I almost forgot how amazing this feeling was and how peaceful I became during the walk. The whole rainy day vibes really made me peaceful as well. It would definitely be nice to have a few more of these days in the near future.

I highly encourage you to just go for a 30 minute walk and focus on the sights, sounds, and smells that you experience during the walk. Don’t listen to music, don’t look at your phone, and most importantly, don’t think. Just tune into your surroundings and be in the moment. If any thought pops into your head, acknowledge it and let it pass. I guarantee that you will have an amazing experience.

Challenge

I want to challenge you to take a 30 minute walk sometime today or this week and just observe everything around you. Go outside, if it’s not too cold, and just live in the moment. focus on the different sounds, smells, and try and pay attention to details of things around you. Look at a tree and focus on what the bark looks like. Things like that. But please, please, please stay off your phone. 30 minutes without looking at your phone is a long time, I know, but it is worth it. I hope you accept this challenge and try mindfulness out for yourself. I guarantee it is worth it.

Final Thoughts

Today didn’t start off as planned but most of my days don’t start that way. Walking in the rain helped to ground myself and find peace in this world, even for a short amount of time. I highly recommend walking in stormy weather. There is an odd sense of peace, unless it’s a hurricane. Then maybe stay inside lol. I hope you all have a wonderful Tuesday, I will be in my lab for a long time today, doing experiments. Let me know in the comments of mindfulness techniques that you use. I am sure we can all gain something from those.

More of My Favorite Quotes

I wrote a few months ago, a blog about my top 10 favorite quotes. Since then, I have read and heard many more quotes that I want to share with you today. If you want to check out my last blog, here is the link to that page. I figured that motivation might not be as high today to do work so hopefully these quotes give you that boost of energy and motivation to get right back to being productive. If not, then I suggest checking out my blog on how to be more motivated (here).

Photo of a Sign and Eyeglasses on Table

Anyway, let’s get into the quotes that I have read/heard recently that I think are worth sharing.

1) “If we do it now, we’ll never run out of time”-some Redditor (lol) 

2) “If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success”-John D. Rockefeller

3) “There is nothing permanent except change”-Heraclitus

4)”If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”-Albert Einstein

5)”In order to write about life first you must live it.”– Ernest Hemingway

6)”The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”-Stephen McCranie

7)”Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.” -Jonathan Lockwood Huie

8) “It’s okay to look back at the past, just don’t stare.”-Dover

9)”Two of the most important days in your life are: the day you were born and the day you find out why.”-Mark Twain

10)”In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.” -Robert Frost.

Final Thoughts

I hope these are some good quotes that are inciteful and possibly inspiring. Let me know of some more quotes and I will probably make another post with them. Until next time friends, stay amazing!

How Many Classes Should I Take?

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

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

If You Want a Quick Master’s

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

For not as driven individuals

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

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

Woman Sitting on Chair Beside Table While Using Phone

For Those Working Full Time

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

5 Stages of Grad School

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

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

The 5 Stages of GRAD SCHOOL! (OOOOOOOOO)

Group of Friends Hanging Out

1) Classes and Pre Quals

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

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

Person With Tattoo on Arm Holding Pen Writing on White Paper

2) Qualifying Exam Prep

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

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

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

White and Tan English Bulldog Lying on Black Rug

3) Post Qual Slump

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

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

Text

4) The “Now What?”

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

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

Standing Woman Facing a Speeding Train

5) Fast and The Furious

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

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

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

Final Thought

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

Time to Accept Uncertainty

One of the best lessons that I learned while in grad school was life is all about uncertainty. I laugh at people when they are just “so sure” of something. If you were so sure then you can make a ton of money being a fortune teller. Life is such a crazy ride and I love every minute of it, yes, even the bad moments. We are all given this crazy opportunity, that is life, so try and enjoy this ride. Anyway, I just wanted to share a few of the things in my life that came from the uncertainty. Things that I didn’t know would occur and things that are going to change my life in some way.

I am going to be an Uncle

One of the coolest things that no one was really expecting was my brother’s girlfriend to get pregnant, which means I am going to be an uncle. She is actually due today so my family is waiting to hear from my brother and her today sometime. I am super excited and so is my family. This is one of the cool things that I was just not expecting. I always thought that I would be like 40 before I became an uncle, but nope, it’s happening either today or tomorrow!

My graduation is later than expected

One thing that grad students always think is that they will finish their PhD on time. Hahahaha, this is definitely not the case for me. I was scheduled to finish up this semester, but my committee and Covid had other plans. Looking at some Reddit posts and forums online, I saw that this is fairly normal. These past years have been so uncertain with Covid happening that I actually thought at a point that I would not graduate. Fortunately for me, I will graduate this year, at some point, so at least that is a certainty? lol.

A fun one. I got summoned for jury duty

I was summoned for jury duty. This was something I wasn’t prepared for and I have to drive back to my parents for it. I do want to be part of a jury but getting summoned not, while finishing up my doctorate is not the ideal time, unfortunately. I was so certain that I would never have to do jury duty, man was I wrong.

Person in Gray Denim Jeans and Gray Low Top Sneakers

More Uncertainty

There are a few things that I just don’t know about and I am extremely excited for. These include where I will live after receiving my doctorate, what my career will be, and will I still keep in contact with friends I have now. These are all things that will be in my control but parts of those things may be out of my control as well. I will see in the next few months what is in store for me and my life.

Final Thoughts

I think embracing uncertainty of life and riding that roller coaster is such a fun experience. Being so sure about things can lead to great disappointment. You can never 100% know what will occur and when, so you might as well just enjoy the journey as it happens. One day you might be living in your home town, enjoying life, and the next day, you are travelling the world. Things like that can and do happen. I hope my life is adventurous and exciting like that, and you know what, it might be.

I have written about uncertainty in grad school before. In fact, I really think you should go check it out, if you haven’t already. It offers some ways of dealing with uncertainty. As always, thank you for spending the time to read my blog. I will see you all in the next one.

Days I Don’t Want To Write

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

Let’s Get Started

Close-up of Hand Holding Pencil over White Background

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

So Key Tip #1: Write for imperfection

Woman Typing on Laptop

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

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

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

Woman Sitting on Brown Wooden Chair Beside Coconut

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

Final Thought

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

How Do Grad Students Get to Class

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

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

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How grad students make it to class each day

how grad students get to class :bus

1) Bus

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

how grad students get to class :bike

2) Bike to Class

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

how grad students get to class :walk

3) Walk

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

how grad students get to class :scooter

4) Scootering

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

how grad students get to class :scooter

5) Gas Scooters

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

how grad students get to class :car

6) Driving your car

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

how grad students get to class :skateboard

7) Skateboard or Longboard (electric and non electric)

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

how grad students get to class :uber

8) Uber or Lyft

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

Finals Thoughts

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

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