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.

Nervous About Starting Grad School

Grad school is an amazing experience. That’s all I really want you to know in this post. I have had a wonderful time throughout my 5 and a half years as a graduate student, but starting off was nerve wracking. Being nervous about starting grad school is completely normal. Here is a secret that no one really wants you to know. Everyone is nervous at first when starting grad school. I don’t know a single person that wasn’t.

See, humans are a funny bunch of individuals. We tend to hyper focus on the negative “what ifs” that come with everything. This usually leads us to get nervous in the first place because we think “What if I fail? What if I hate my classes? What if, what if, what if!!!!” We get in this terrible cycle of what ifs and that really makes the beginning of grad school a scary experience. I am her today to tell you that being nervous about starting grad school is completely normal and you will get over that almost immediately. I am also going to share with you today some ways to handle the nerves and how to make the most of grad school at the beginning.

nervous about starting grad school

Reasons why you are nervous

1) Feeling nervous starting grad school because of uncertainty

There is a ton of uncertainty in grad school. More than undergrad, that’s for sure. I believe that uncertainty is one of the major factors that leads to people being nervous. They truly don’t know what will come next. I’ve been in this exact situation. Starting grad school was filled with nerves because I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know if I would fail or thrive. The uncertainty really caused me to worry a ton until I actually started and found out that everything was just fine.

One way that you can conquer this aspect of starting grad school is just exposing yourself to grad school. Let me explain. See, when you don’t know what is going to happen, you tend to start thinking of all the bad things that can occur instead of the good things. One way of overcoming this is exposure therapy. There will be many things that might make you nervous and the best way to overcome that feeling is to just do it. It takes a bit of courage, but it’s well worth it.

Say, you are nervous about going into the gym for the first time at school. If you gain a bit of courage and just go there, you will show your brain that it’s not as scary as you made it seem. This will make it easier to go again, because you know you are not in any danger. Same with classes. You will be nervous and won’t want to go. Once you go to your first class, I guarantee you will feel way relieved afterwards.

nervous in grad school and making friends

2) Feeling nervous about making friends

Making friends is a very exciting and nerve wracking experience. Every year, I have to go out and make new friends because all of my current friends are leaving. That is a struggle about being in a PhD program. Anyway, I find that it get’s a bit harder the higher you get up in your education. Grad school is as high as you will get which means that making friends might be a bit of a struggle. It is no the end of the world, though. I actually have a few posts about friendships in grad school. Go check them out here and definitely check out this one about how to make friends in grad school. All of these posts are quite helpful.

Friendships will take a bit of time in grad school. It will make you a bit nervous when you are working a while and haven’t made many or any friends. Give it time. I promise that it will happen but might take some time. For me, I had some friends from undergrad that were still in school, so that made it easier. When they left, I had to work to make friends. It took a few months and a few classes, but I managed to gain a ton of really good friends. Just because you don’t have many friends at first, doesn’t mean you won’t make a ton.

3) Nervous about the amount of work

nervous about work in grad school

This is a justifiable reason to be nervous. The workload in grad school can be a bit overwhelming. Some days you will work 3 hours (2 of those probably sending emails or reading) and other days, you may be in the lab for 10 hours and then writing 3 papers afterwards. This is what grad school is all about lol. Though I say it is justifiable, it does not mean that you have to be nervous about it. Yes, there will be a ton of work, but you will most likely be able to handle it. Heck, you got through undergrad just fine. Actually, you did so well in undergrad that you were accepted into a grad program. You can do the work.

A way to get over being nervous for doin g the work, or being nervous about the amount of work that will come, is to plan things out and be proactive. Yes, start early. Many people complain about the amount of work they have to do because they aren’t ready for it. They may put it off until the last minute, causing more and more to pile up before it becomes overwhelming. This is totally on them and can be completely avoided if you prepare. This means starting assignments early, staying on top of deadlines, and, unfortunately, giving up all you can drink Wednesdays to get work done. I promise you that if you prepare, you will thrive.

nervous about moving somewhere for grad school

4) Felling nervous about starting grad school in another state or country

This topic can be a whole post by itself. Many people move away to another city/state/country to go to grad school. This is a huge deal for most people and can make you pretty nervous. Once again, remember that this is normal. Being nervous about moving anywhere is normal. At first you may be nervous about just being alone in an area you aren’t familiar with. Don’t fret. Think of it as an adventure and you are just starting out. All adventure start off scary but will, in time, get quite comfortable.

If you are starting grad school in a totally new area, know that it’s ok to be nervous about it. The best thing that you can do is just go out and explore. Familiarize yourself with everything as soon as possible. This will help you settle right in. You will have to give it a few months to truly get acclimated, but it will happen. During this time, call people that are close to you. Talk with them on a daily basis, which will help you get some comfort in your life during this transition. Also know, grad school goes by quickly. If you don’t like where you are, you’ll be out of there in no time. That though usually calms the nerves.

Final Thoughts

In the end, being nervous about starting grad school is actually a normal thing. I would be more concerned if you weren’t nervous to be honest. You are starting something completely new and of course there will be some nervousness that comes from it. Just know that these feelings are fine, normal, and will go away soon. You will start off a nervous wreck, but will soon find yourself in a very comfortable position. Grad school, as I said before, is a wonderful and exciting experience. It will have it’s ups and downs, but it is certainly nothing to be nervous about. For those that are starting in the fall or spring, welcome. You are definitely welcomed here.

Sorry about the lack of posts guys! I have been travelling a ton and that has really reduced the amount of screen time that I have. I promise that I will post more often from here on out and I hope you are all having a wonderful summer so far. It is getting hot out there, so make sure to drinking plenty of water lol. As always, I hope you are all having a wonderful day. If you haven’t already, go check out my post about getting ahead in college (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 Can I Have Fun in Grad School

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

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

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

ways to have fun in grad school

Ways to Have Fun in Grad School

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

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

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

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

Pets in grad school

2) Get a Pet

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

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

3) Learn to Love The Journey

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

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

Sports to have fun in grad school

4) Join a sports league

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

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

Hobbies in grad school

5) Start a new hobby

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

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

6) Go to as many events as your schedule allows

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

How Busy Are College Students

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

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

busy in college

What’s Left

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

super busy in college

Some Are Super Busy

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

not being busy in college

Some College Students Just Aren’t That Busy

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

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

Be as busy as you want to be in college

They Are As Busy As They Want To Be

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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.

How to Prepare for Grad School After Acceptance

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

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

What Degree Did You Get In to?

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

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

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

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

prepare for grad school after acceptance by understanding visiting the campus

1) Get to know the campus

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

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

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

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

3) Schedule Classes

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

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

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

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

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

prepare for grad school after acceptance by understanding research

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

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

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

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

3) Start Reading About Your Research Field.

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

PhD after a Master’s

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

prepare for grad school after acceptance by understanding research methods

1) Familiarize yourself with lab procedures of research methods.

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

2) Communicate with your adviser, a ton

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

prepare for grad school after acceptance by travelling

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Should You Drop Out of Grad School

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.

Should You Drop Out of Grad School

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.

Should You Drop Out of Grad School

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.

Should You Drop Out of Grad School

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.

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!

Grad School Letter of Recommendation

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

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

grad school letter of recommendation

Grad School Letters of Recommendation for Master’s Students

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

Build a Relationship with Them First.

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

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

Why they are important

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

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

Other reasons

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

Grad School Letters of Recommendation for PhDs

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

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

grad school letter of recommendation

How to Build These Relationships

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

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

The Good About PhDs

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Why is a PhD Important

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

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

First Off, How do you even get a PhD?

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

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

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

why a PhD is important

So Back To Why a PhD is Important

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

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

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

So, should you get a PhD?

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

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

Are you Ready to Do a Doctorate?

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Anxiety in College Will Come Back, Be Ready

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

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

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

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

anxiety in college

Remember to Keep Up Coping Mechanisms

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

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

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

Helpful Places For Anxiety Reduction

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

Free

Guided Meditations

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

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

Therapy YouTube Channels

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

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

Calming Music

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

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

My Blog Posts

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

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

Not So Free

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

During Your Master’s

Why choose 3 Classes

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

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

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

Why Choose 2 Classes

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

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

Why Choose 1 Class

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

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

During your PhD

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

A Letter To Yourself

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

A Letter to Ben

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben (older version)

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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.

Life at College: What it’s Like

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

Life at College for Undergrads

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

Freshman Year of College

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

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

Sophomore and Junior Years of College

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

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

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

Senior Year of College

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

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

Life at College for Graduate Students

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

Life as a Master’s Student

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

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

Life as a PhD Student

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

College Student Motivation

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

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

Why Motivation is High at the Beginning of the Semester?

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

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

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

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

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

How Can I Get Motivated Throughout the Semester

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

1) Make sure to rest

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

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

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

3) Get a buddy to help motivate you.

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

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

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

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

5) Exercise

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

6) Focus on the progress and not the goal.

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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.

What is a Grad Student?

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

What a graduate student is

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

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

What is a Master’s Students

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

Course Based Master’s

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

Research Based Master’s

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