Feeling Dumb in Grad School

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

feeling dumb in grad school

Why you feel dumb in grad school

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

feeling dumb in grad school is like playing sports

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

There are very intelligent people

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

Feeling dumb in grad school is good

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

Dumb in research

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

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

feeling dumb in grad school

How to feel less dumb or cope with the feeling

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

Acceptance

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

Stay away from difficult subjects

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

Compassionate pep talk

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

Final Thoughts

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

Caffeine Use in grad School

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

coffee in grad school

How much is too much caffeine in grad school

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

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

Why we drink so much caffeine in grad school

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

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

Caffeine use in grad school

Is caffeine good while in grad school?

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

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

What to drink in grad school

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

grad school memes
Chan Narula
Grad school meme
David Hontz

So, When are you done with school?

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

When will you be done with grad school

Why people ask it in the first place.

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

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

Why It is FRUSTRATING

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

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

More Frustration

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

A Year of Blogging in Grad School

A few weeks ago (like 2 weeks ago), I was informed that I have been blogging for a year now. To be completely honest, I thought I was blogging for much longer than that, but no, it has been a year. I started this journey to help me cope with the struggles of grad school as well as help those that are in the same boat. I was successful in this endeavor. Blogging has been one of the most rewarding hobbies that I have taken up. So, today, I want to share some things that I have learned while blogging in grad school for a year.

What I have learned blogging in grad school

There are a ton of things that I have learned in the stretch of a year. Today, I want to share few of those and encourage you to start your blogging journey. If you are a grad student, I highly suggest starting a blog early. Not only is it a great stress reliever, but also a wonderful way to document your journey. So, let’s go over the things I’ve learned while blogging in grad school.

blogging in grad school

1) People want you to succeed

I think the coolest thing about blogging is having people from all around the world, reading your blog. People from Africa, Europe, North America, Asia, and South America have all read my blogs and that’s super cool. I have had individuals reach out to me from various countries asking me questions about grad school. I have also had many people just comment on my posts and send the nicest messages. Strangers, from all over, read my blog and are so encouraging and supportive. Grad school hasn’t been the easiest time, but it has been so much better due to the support from my readers.

2) Writing things out can lead to finding the answers or figuring stuff out

Many of my problems have been addressed in my blogs. Mental health, education related problems, making friends, etc. have all been covered. I have struggled with all of these things but have found that writing about them has given me a different perspective. Often times, I figure out what my problem is and how to address it. Writing about the struggles of life has allowed my brain to solve these problems and made things way easier for me.

blogging in grad school for mental health

3) Blogging in grad school has made me more mentally prepared

Sometimes I go back and read about the struggles that I have come across while in grad school. I can also read about how I have tackled those problems. I have seen myself grow and come out of a pretty dark mental state thanks to blogging. It is really cool being able to go through my blog posts and see how my mental state has gone from bad to wayyyyyy better. This was a great way to address my problems, gain support from the community, and overcome the hardships that I have faced.

4) My writing can always improve

Blogging each day (until I had to start my thesis) has definitely helped with my writing. I find writing my thesis to be easier and more enjoyable now because I can actually write something that makes sense. If you write each day, or at least a few times a week, you definitely improve with your writing skills. This is 100% true when you are in grad school. This is why I encourage grad students to take up a blog.

grad school blogging

5) I am not alone

Grad school will make you feel extremely lonely at times. In fact, I have written about feeling alone in grad school and how to overcome it (link here). Blogging in grad school has made me realize that I am not alone in my problems and plenty of individuals have the same problems. There are so many people out there that are facing what I am facing and the blogging community has helped me find those people. We have created a community that has been supportive and now I feel less alone. Without blogging, I may not have found these individuals.

6) Writing can be fun

I have had such a wonderful time writing for you guys this past year. Unfortunately, the grad school blogs will be coming to an end soonish because I am graduating in a few months. I have had such a fun time writing and learning what works and what doesn’t. It has been so much fun seeing my audience grow and having people write back to me. I will continue to blog, just on another topic. But I am glad my first blog was on the topic of grad school. It was definitely fun.

Writing used to be such a headache for me. English was my worst subject in school because of the writing. I just didn’t have it in me to be good at it. Now, I love writing and expressing myself in words. I have grown to really enjoy the process of writing articles and I know I will continue.

Final Thoughts.

Blogging in grad school has been such an enjoyable experience and I am so glad that i did it. Not only did it help with my writing, it helped with my mental state. If you are a grad student and want to start a blog, I encourage you to do so. If you have any questions, you can always email me at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I can give some helpful tips on getting started as well as answer any questions that you may have. Heck, just send me an email to say hello. I love receiving emails from my readers.

Let’s get into what you have all been waiting for, grad school memes!!!!! Here’s todays meme. Enjoy!

grad school meme
by Gina Arias

Fun Things to Do in Grad School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) Going to free events on campus

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

Other fun things to do in grad school

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

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

1) Pick up a hobby

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

2) Join a club or sports league and meet friends

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

woman pouring cappuccino
Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

3) Go to cool coffee shops

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

4) Explore the local pubs and breweries

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Mark Olson

The Challenges of Grad School No One Talks About

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

Challenges of grad school : getting older

You will get older

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

Challenges of grad school

Your friends will come and go

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

Challenges of grad school

Time will pass quickly and slowly at the same time

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

Challenges of grad school

You won’t feel accomplished after big milestones

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

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

People will never be as excited about something as you are

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

Challenges of grad school

You will spend a ton of time alone

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

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

Challenges of grad school : feeling alone

You will face mental health problems

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

grad school meme

Am I Working Hard Enough in Grad School?

One of the worst feelings is coming home at the end of the day and feeling as if you didn’t do enough that day. Grad school is notorious for making you feel like you haven’t done enough work for the day. Well, I am here today to tell you that you have done enough work and I want to let you in on a few secrets that I learned that will help you feel more productive. I want you to also know that you are not alone in these feelings. I guarantee that every grad student feels like they could have done more. Some grad students don’t stop working and burn out. It is part of the process of getting a grad degree, but I can hopefully help make it easier. So, if you are asking the question “am I working hard enough in grad school?” then this is the post for you.

Am I Working Hard Enough in Grad School

Why we think we aren’t working hard enough in the first place.

So, grad school is a hard thing to accomplish because the work load can be very little, or extremely overwhelming all at once. You often have weeks where you have like 3 to 4 hours, tops, of work. The following week can be 70 hours of non-stop chaos. It’s just how things are and I don’t make the rules. One of the reason people ask themselves if they work hard enough in grad school is because there can be a ton of time where you aren’t doing work. You might be bored for quite some time.

Another reason that people may be thinking they don’t work hard enough is because they are comparing themselves to the highlights of other students. One of the most toxic things you can do in grad school is compare yourself to other students in your department or other departments. Sure, there may be someone that has 3 first-authored publications, but that does not mean you aren’t working just as hard as they are. I know many individuals that compare themselves to me. Yes, I work fairly hard but I also make sure I make time to have a life. These individuals say that I am always working and it makes them upset because they aren’t working as hard. I am here to tell you that you work just as hard, if not harder. You may see only the highlights that the person has. Also, they might be just looking busy to keep themselves preoccupied. It happens.

More factors

These individuals are definitely asking the same question as you, “Am I working hard enough in grad school?”. I know for a fact that every student asks this question regardless of how much they get done. A main factor is the workload that their adviser places on them as well. There are students that get overwhelmed with work, like way too much work, and can’t keep up. Of course they are going to think that they aren’t working hard enough, because they aren’t able to keep up. Then, there are people who don’t have as much work and see someone else working hard. They’ll probably ask themself if they are working hard enough. The best way to really determine if you are doing enough is to just ask your adviser. I promise you that if they haven’t called you out for being a slacker, then you are doing enough work.

Really, Am I working hard enough in grad school

How to get rid of the terrible feeling?

So, after you asked yourself “am I working hard enough in grad school?” you may have this feeling like you need to work harder? Is this true? It is for me because I always feel like I could be doing more. I could be writing more. Heck, I could be spending more time in the lab. Regardless of what you do, you’ll probably feel like you need to constantly be working. There is a bit of anxiety that might show up as well. So Ben, how do I get rid of this feeling? Well, I have a couple of ways that might work. I hope one or more work better with you and you try it out. There are probably plenty more methods to try, but I want to share the ones that have really helped me.

Walk it out

Technically, just get a bit active. Sometimes I feel this anxiety because I need to get all of this work done and theres not enough time to get it done. This is your brain lying to you. In fact, the reason you are getting so anxious is because you created a todo list that is unacheiveable bt are convinced that you can achieve it. In these cases, get active. Go on a walk, step away from work, and go do some form of cardio. I know that you may think this is dumb because you can get more done if you just keep working. That can be true but you probably won’t. Your head is not in the right place. Going for a walk may clear up you mind and actually make things a bit easier. You may realize how much work you have done and you may even realize that you are ahead of schedule. I find that when I feel like I am not doing enough work, a quick cardio session is what gets me motivate to do work. It also makes me feel more refreshed. So, next time you feel like you aren’t doing enough work, take a break. Go on a walk and listen to some music. It may just be the best thing for you.

working a bit more in grad school

Do a tiny bit of extra work

I always ask myself at the end of the day if I am working hard enough in grad school. It’s never during the middle of the day or in the morning. No, it’s always at the end of the day. If you are really feeling bad, designate an hour to just doing something that will be helpful towards your research. If you need to write a paragraph, write a paragraph. Some times, if I really feel like I didn’t work hard enough that day, I’ll find a research paper and read it before going to bed. Just a small task can really help you feel so much better. You do not have to commit like 3 hours after coming home to work. No, just designate an hour doing something constructive. Maybe just write down what to do for the next day or edit some of your manuscript that you’ve been putting off for a year lol. Anything is better than nothing and It will help significantly. I promise you that.

Create a To-do list each night and try and stick to it

This may take a bit of time to fully master. You may be asking “why do I need to master this?” Well, you don’t want to put so much on there that it overwhelms you and you don’t want to put too little that you get behind on work. You want enough on the list where it is doable, yet not overwhelming. I aim for 2 large things and 2 smaller tasks. Big tasks can be something like writing a page or two of my dissertation or get an experiment done. Small tasks can be something like email my adviser and ask a question or even something as little as drink coffee. The small tasks are going to make you really feel like you are getting a ton of work done. So, if you can, increase small attainable tasks and you’ll feel like your day is extremely productive.

seek help in grad school

If it get’s to be too much, seek professional help

Feeling like you aren’t doing enough is normal, but overwhelming yourself to the point of burnout is not. Grad school will push you to these limits and it is so important that you don’t let it get to that point. If you are working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, and feel the need to work more, then you may need to see a therapist. I have a ton of posts about seeing a therapist, and you can read about them here. Therapist will help to find what the cause of this feeling is. Maybe it’s something deeper than just feeling like you are behind. Who knows. If you are working a ton, on the brink of burnout, and feeling hopeless, therapy is a must. Many colleges offer some form of service to help students. My school offered TalkSpace. I highly suggest just seeing a therapist regardless of your feelings. They will help give you the tools to tackle any and all of these feelings that you have. Therapy will help you become a better student by providing you the mental health required to be productive. I think this was the best way to combat that feeling of being behind in my work. It’s 100% worth it.

Final Thought

When you ask yourself, “am I working hard enough in grad school?” I want you to go to a mirror, look yourself in the eyes and say “Yes I Am!!!” You are doing a fantastic job and are good enough to get that degree. You have been working so hard for so long. Yes, there are people that may work harder, but that’s them. There will always be people that work harder. It doesn’t mean that they are better than you. Compare yourself to yourself and no one else. Always aim to be the best version of yourself and see yourself grow. You are amazing.

So, we have come to the end of another amazing blog post lol. Time to add a grad school meme to the post because you deserved it! I hope you enjoyed this post and I will see you in the next one. Peace.

Rachel Carey

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 Busy Are College Students

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

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

attractive businessman busy clock
Photo by JÉSHOOTS on Pexels.com

What’s Left

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

architecture auto automobiles bridge
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Some Are Super Busy

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

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

Some College Students Just Aren’t That Busy

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

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

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

They Are As Busy As They Want To Be

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Is It Ok To Fail In Grad School

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

fail grad school

Why is it ok to fail in grad school?

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

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

when it's ok to fail in grad school

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

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

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

When is it not ok to fail in grad school?

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

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

don't fail the classes in grad school

Don’t fail the coursework

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

The Qualifying Exam

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

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

learn to fail in grad school

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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!

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.

How Much Free Time Do Grad Students Have?

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

woman jumping wearing green backpack
Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

Will You have free time in Grad School?

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

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

clear glass with red sand grainer
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So about how much free time will you have?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Much Free time in grad school: PhD Program?

three persons sitting on the stairs talking with each other
Photo by Buro Millennial on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem on Pexels.com

Final Thought

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

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

Should You Drop Out of Grad School?

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

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

person standing near trees
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Reasons to drop out of grad school

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

1) Your goals have changed

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

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

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2) You don’t get along with your adviser

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

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

3) Grad school is making you sick

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

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

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4) You can’t afford to live

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

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

person holding pink suede long waller
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Things to consider first before dropping out of Grad School

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

1) Will leaving affect future goals

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

2) How will others react and be affected

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

cute family picture
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3) Is it absolutely the right thing to do

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Having a Roommate in Grad School

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

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

Pros of Having a Roommate in Grad School

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

1) Rent can be cheaper

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

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

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

3) You might make a life long friend.

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

Cons of Having a Roommate in Grad School

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

1) You might not get along with them

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

2) They might eat your food

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

messy grad school roommates

3) They can be messy

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

Next Up: Living Alone!

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

Being alone in grad school

Pros of Living alone in Grad School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cons of not having a roommate in Grad School

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

not having a roommate in grad school is sad and lonely

1) You’re alone

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

roommate in grad school expensive

2) Rent is more expensive

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

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

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

Deciding to have a roommate in grad school or not

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Why is a PhD Important

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

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

First Off, How do you even get a PhD?

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

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

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

why a PhD is important

So Back To Why a PhD is Important

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

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

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

So, should you get a PhD?

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

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

Are you Ready to Do a Doctorate?

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Anxiety in College Will Come Back, Be Ready

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

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

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

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

anxiety in college

Remember to Keep Up Coping Mechanisms

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

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

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

Helpful Places For Anxiety Reduction

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

Free

Guided Meditations

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

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

Therapy YouTube Channels

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

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

Calming Music

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

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

My Blog Posts

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

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

Not So Free

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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During Your Master’s

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Why choose 3 Classes

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

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

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

man in black and white polo shirt beside writing board
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Why Choose 2 Classes

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

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

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Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

Why Choose 1 Class

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

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

woman in hijab working on pad in office
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During your PhD

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

The Hardest Parts About Going to Grad School

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

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

Hardest Parts about a Master’s Degree

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

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

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

2) You will feel extremely dumb

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

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

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

4) Your friends will change

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

5) Still broke

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

6) You may have to actually do research as well

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

7) The work demand is insane for classes

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

Hardest Parts about a PhD

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

1) You have to contribute to science

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

2) You will lose many friends

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

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

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

4) Advisers demanding much more than you can handle

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

5) You’re very poor

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

6) Peer review

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

7) The stupid qualifying exam

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

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

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

9) No one understands what your doing.

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

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

The 3 hardest parts of grad school

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

You ARE Good Enough (Round 2)

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

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

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

You are good enough, repeat that 5X

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

What Should Your Major Be in Grad School?

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

Let’s Talk About Your Interests

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shop Around

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

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

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

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

Will it Pay the Bills?

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Life at College: What it’s Like

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

Life at College for Undergrads

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

Freshman Year of College

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

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

Sophomore and Junior Years of College

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

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

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

Senior Year of College

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

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

Life at College for Graduate Students

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

Life as a Master’s Student

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

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

Life as a PhD Student

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Essential Skills For Undergrad Students

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

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

Essential Skills that All Undergrads Students should have.

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

1) Learn How to COOK

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

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

2) Learn how to manage money

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

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

3) Learn how to communicate

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

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

4) Learn to say “No”

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

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

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

5) Learn how to seek help

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

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

6) Learn How to Deal With Stress

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

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

7) Learn how to study effectively

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

How Many Hours a Week Do Grad Students Work?

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

woman sitting in front of macbook
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Realistically, how many hours do grad students work each week?

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

black laptop beside black computer mouse inside room
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How many hours do grad students work:PhD

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

The breakdown

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

When it is slow and when it is not

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

The sweet spot

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

photo of man holding a book
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How many hours do grad students work: Master’s

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

Non-Thesis Based

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

Thesis Based

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

man holding ice cream cone under cloud
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Overall

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

How to 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.

Tips For Grad School

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I figured that the best thing to do, at this stage in my academic profession, is give more advice to younger grad students. So, today I want to share some of the best tips that I can come up with alone with tips that I have been told throughout the 5.5 years while in grad school. I will try and make them different than my “hacks” links to that article here. These are tips that I feel will help you survive grad school as well as thrive as a graduate student.

Before we get into the best tips for grad school, I just want to congratulate you on deciding to even think about grad school. It is a very tough decision, but well worth it. I think one of the best things that I have done for myself and my future career is to dive right into grad school. I have already received a Master’s and (hopefully very soon) a doctorate. It’s tough, and I hope that does not discourage you from chasing your dreams.

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

Let’s get right into the 10 best tips for grad school

1) Go To Class

You would be surprised how many people just go to grad school to slip right back into their undergrad ways. You should be taking courses that will help you advance your career and studies. This can only be achieved if you actively go to class. Sure, skipping some classes might be essential, especially if you have to finish a homework assignment. But for the most part, you need to go to class. You will learn and retain so much more information. Also, going to class will ensure you pass the course and continue on with your degree.

tips for grad school : go to class

2) Get to know your professors

The best resources that you have, besides the library, are professors. They are your gateway to a successful academic career by providing you with all the skills and help you need. They know the struggles of grad school and know how hard it can be and how demanding it can get. Fortunately, most, not all, are will to help you navigate your way through school. They are also great to have as references for jobs later on. Get to know your professors. They might get you a job or research position after college.

Woman Sitting on Brown Wooden Chair Beside Coconut

3) Take time away from studies to relax and have fun.

I cannot stress the importance of rest enough. Grad school may have you working your butt off. Some times I will be in y office for 14 to 16 hours just working away and forget to even eat. This can and probably will happen to you. You know what comes with working 14 hour days, 7 days in a row? I’ll tell you, it’s called burn-out and it is awful. Plus, grad school is going to be a sizeable chunk of your life, so do you want to spend the entire time working? If the answer is yes, well I can’t really help you lol. But most people will say no. By resting, you can reset your bidy and actually become more productive. Also, I find that resting is when I come up with my best ideas.

tips for grad school: exercise often

4) Stay active while in grad school

Join a club, join a sports league, just stay active. This helps significantly end your day and transition into your “non-academic life”. I joined a kickball league, so my Wednesday nights are dedicated to that. It takes me away from my work so I can interact with other people. Also, has helped me make friends, reduce my stress levels, and control my anxiety. It is also a great way to exercise. That’s another part of staying active, exercise! If you are hesitant to start, I say start slowly with a walking challenge. I, also, suggest taking a look at my fitness page for more ideas. Studies have shown the benefits of exercise on student’s. Take full advantage of that.

tips for grad school :learn to cook

5) Learn how to cook

The fastest way to lose all of your money and get bad eating habits would be to eat out all of the time. I get it, fast food is convenient and tasty. Yes, but it is expensive and can be unhealthy. I do love buying McDonalds every once in a while, though. Eating out is good in moderation, just don’t do it all of the time. One really good tip is to learn how to cook and in bulk. Rice, chicken, and vegetables is a healthy and very cheap meal. I bought a rice cooker, like this one. Don’t get me started on how you need a rice cooker in your life lol. Anyway, I will make brown rice, cook some vegetables up, and add chicken. Get your favorite hot sauce and you have a cheap and pretty healthy meal. Make this in bulk and bring it to your office the next day.

Also, cooking is a great way to make friends too. You can invite people over for a dinner which will definitely impress them. Going out to dinner can be costly, but having a spaghetti dinner for 2 to 10 can be way cheaper and fun . You will impress the heck out of them.

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

6) Find a way to get to class other than driving.

If you live close to campus, the best way, that I find to get to class, is by walking. It is great exercise and gives me a time to just, be. Life can be quite much sometimes but all those worries tend to just subside during that 30 minute walk to campus. I wrote about the ways that grad students can get to class. You should go and check it out here. There are so many different ways to get to class though. Scootering is fun, walking, biking, running?, literally any way you want. But one thing I advise against, unless you live millions of miles away, is driving yourself to campus. There are so many resources available like busses to get you to campus. Use these resources because it will save you the hassle of buying a parking pass, finding parking, and paying for gas.

Man in Gray Long Sleeve Shirt Lying on Bed

7) If you are having trouble, reach out.

One of the best parts of grad school is the amount of help you can get. I said above about professors helping, well, they are not the only resource. There are so many resources that can help you with any problem that you have. One of the things you will find in grad school is that you will need help with something. This can be with school, your health, how to cook, you need help with peer review, etc. There are resources for those. In fact, I can be one of your resources too. ‘

The best resource that I had was being able to see a therapist. This was included in my insurance. I hope this is included in yours as well because it is a great opportunity. If you are wondering what my experience was, check out my blog about it. But, just know that there are so many resources available and you really need to take advantage of them. They are there to help you.

tips for grad school: back up your computer

8) Back up your computer and files often

I can not stress this enough. Have a back up of everything that you do. Accidents do happen and life brings a ton of curveballs. I have had work just disappear all of a sudden. My buddy had his hard drive crash and it was going to cost him $700 to extract what was on it. Back up your work!!!!! Honestly, this may be the best tip you see on this list. You will write a lot of stuff and have a ton of data. You do not want to lose months or even years of data because your computer died on you. Also, fun fact, coffee will absolutely destroy your computer if spilled on. So, please get a way to back up your stuff. It may save you years of work.

tips for grad school: write every day

9) Write everyday!

I have written about the importance of writing. You can go and check it out here. Anyway, you will spend a ton of time writing and you should. Grad school consists of this huge thing called a thesis. It’s big, it’s scary, and you’ll have to write it. But, if you take my advice right now, and write everyday, you will see it’s really not that bad. In fact, you might even write it in much less time than you though. Writing is like practice. The more you do it, the better you get and easier it is. Many people in grad school don’t write enough which dulls their ability to write. Sharpen those skills by writing each day and it will make life so much easier later on. 1000 words seems so achievable if you have been doing it every day. It seems almost impossible is you haven’t written in a while, though.

tips for grad school: live in the moment

10) Live in the moment, not the future

I want to finish this list with a favorite tip for grad school . I often find myself thinking about what needs to be done or what the next day has for me and often forget that all that I have guaranteed in my life is the moment that I am in. Sometimes the best way to reduce stress and anxiety is just focus on the now. Yes, there may be deadlines looming, but those aren’t here yet. Focus on what you can do right now and less of what needs to get done. My therapist told me to focus on the now. I spend a ton of time worrying about the future and don’t really take advantage of what’s going on in the moment. Take some time out of your day to just focus on what’s going on around you. You will find that anxiety subsides and you gain some clarity. You don’t know what the future holds, so why worry about it?

Final Thoughts

Here are some of the 10 best tips for grad school that I can come up with to help you in grad school. These tips have helped me a ton and I guarantee they will help you too. I really hope your grad school experience is great and let me know some other tips in the comment. As always, I hope you have a great day and week.

Does GPA Matter in Grad School?

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

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

When GPA Matters

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

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

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

When GPA Doesn’t Matter

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

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

Layers in an Office

Does GPA Matter for Jobs?

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

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

Several Handheld Tools on White Printer Paper

What To Focus On in Grad School

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

Overall

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

Final Thoughts

I am curious, for those that went to grad school, what was your GPA? Also, what was your undergrad GPA? Did GPA matter in your program or was it just something that you needed to keep above a