The idea of grad school deeply excited me. It was a dream come true and I could not wait. Somewhere in me I felt this could be the do over I needed but I was in for a totally different experience. I started doing my research, looking for housing, bought my ticket and was ready for the trip or so I thought. Arriving with gleaming eyes of hope and excitement, I met most of my friends the first week. Most of whom were intrigued by my personality and genuine enthusiasm. This was the 40% extrovert personality activated. For the rest of my stay, I was mostly a 60% introvert, observing and retaining my friendships.
My first quarter which no one had previously warned me about was the worst one I had. This was where I made 90% of the mistakes in grad school and if you can get this right, you should be okay (no guarantees). I applied the lessons from the first quarter to my remaining two quarters and it made all the difference in my life. Honestly, I am grateful for the tribulations I encountered in that quarter and I realized that before and during Grad school, I had searched for helpful videos and blogs online. I did not find any reflecting what I went through so I decided to make one for you. I hope you see this in time. With God’s help and remembering his promises you will have a good time in school.
Take note of your prospective school’s system
There are two main systems, the semester system and the quarter system. The semester system has a duration of 15 weeks while the quarter system has a duration of 10 weeks. Sadly in my fall quarter, the first week was one day in my school. This meant unfortunately that we had approximately 8 weeks of lectures and I week of exams. My tip for this first semester/quarter is to do as lowest number of courses as you possibly can, probably between 2 and 3 and check the courses’ grading system. A class that will have 3 mid-semester exams would be a nightmare in your first quarter. Foolish me, I went to take three of these classes and 1 class with a final exam. Please do not be like me. I had three exams to deal with on the third week of school and I don’t think stress can describe how I was feeling; I was overwhelmed. If you are going to stick with the quarter system, I would advise you to do this as this will save you a lot of stress. Give yourself time to adjust to the new country, grading and classes.
Ask for help when you don’t understand
This was a problem for me when I first arrived. I thought everyone knew what was going on and I was the only one with questions and being mostly an introvert didn’t help me at all. Lucky for me, someone always asked my question and that would save the painful journey of raising my hand which entails breaking out in cold sweat and my heart beating like I’m about to jump from a plane. My past experiences did not help to alleviate this feeling.
They always say there is nothing like a stupid question, but I tell you the way some people look at you there is something like one, especially if they feel you’re supposed to know it. This made me timid to voice out my questions or to do so in doubt that it would be answered. The classes here challenged me to speak my mind and I found that my questions made a lot of sense and even when it seemed like it did not, an answer was always provided. Please answer questions people ask you, if they knew the answer, they wouldn’t have asked you. There is nothing like a stupid question.
The assignments were arduous, and you could not do them alone, you needed the help of God, your classmates, teaching assistants and even professors. They were designed that way to encourage teamwork and to push you to think. So, you have to be ready to open your mind to learn because the professor might take a different approach to a similar topic just to stimulate your mind.
Do not procrastinate (Repeat)
In this fast-paced system, procrastination is your enemy. Except you are like a brilliant mind I met who thrives on it and does her best work then, then procrastinate away. If that is not your case, please schedule time to do your assignments which are given weekly. You do not want to do them a day before because they are not designed that way. If you can finish them at least two days prior, you can have a day to go over them and notice your mistakes. Assignments are not all; you still have to study each week because trust me there will be no time next week. Ensure that you take out the time to do these assignments ahead of time to get most of the weekend to yourself.
Plan to rest
With the stress of school, you need that time when you can do nothing important, watch movies, go out or just talk on the phone with family and friends. These are the times that are treasured, so ensure you schedule this time daily for at least one hour and do your work in time so that you can rest on the weekend. It is so essential. You need this time to get back up and be replenished. You deserve it.
Have a confidant
The stress level in grad school is extremely high and if you have not been in school for a year or more, you have most likely forgotten the mental stress you experienced in school. It is not something you can prepare for, so have someone that you can communicate with regularly. It can be your parents, friend, psychologist, just have someone that can understand a little of what you’re going through or that will at least listen. You will need to rant, share frustrations and happy moments. It is an emotional roller coaster. You cannot do this alone and your mental health is vital so that you can make it to the end whole. Remember that God is your first confidant and you should pray daily committing this journey into his hands.
Please check out part 2 of these tips and I hope these tips help you have an amazing time at graduate school, and I wish you the very best.
Have a great day,