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How to Survive Your First Year of Graduate School

Congratulations! Youíve finally decided to go back to graduate school. And now that you have been accepted into your school of choice, itís time to figure out how to balance classes, work, family, and of course, all the fun that goes along with being a graduate student.

The first thing any new graduate student should do is buy a calendar and write down all your classes and other obligations for the first two or three weeks of the school year. Sure it seems elementary, but with all of the excitement of starting school, (yes, graduate students get excited about starting school), itís easy to forget where youíre supposed to be at any given time. Remember, most graduate students have more on their plates than just classes: working as a graduate teaching or research assistants, committees, meetings with professors and other students, trying to find time to do your research; all of these things can get pretty hectic and itís easy to lose track of time. Itís best to write everything down, and take the calendar with you everywhere you go. It wonít do you much good if you leave it at home.

Second, get organized! Purchase a notebook for each class you take. Or, if youíre the type that likes binders, get one that has enough room for all of your classes and make sure you use dividers to separate your classes. Make sure you have supplies to get you through the first few weeks: pencils, pens, paper for note taking, and all the books you need for class. Graduate students are expected to be prepared for class every class meeting. Professors donít look kindly upon students who donít have books, who lose their presentations, or who havenít read the material. It is imperative that you are prepared for each class, and the best way to do that is to be organized. Know what you have to do and when it needs to be done. Otherwise, youíll burn out quickly.

Next, find a quiet spot at home to work on your studies. If youíre living at home, it should be pretty simple to arrange a small space for yourself that is reserved for studying and working on school projects. It may be more difficult if youíre living with a roommate, but it is imperative that you create a quiet place for yourself to work. Graduate students do a lot of reading, and I mean a lot of reading. Itís hard to concentrate when thereís a television blasting or people are traipsing in and out of the living area. If you canít find a quiet space at home, apply for a carrel (a small room at the library for reading) and use that space for quiet reading and studying. Most libraries make carrels available to graduate students by the semester or quarter.

Finally, make some time for fun. Graduate students at some schools are notorious for partying, and to tell you the truth, I donít know where they find the time. But apparently they do, and you should find a little time for fun as well. However, be cautioned, pulling all nighters may not be a good idea if youíre serious about your grades. Most students canít party all the time and get good grades too; and remember, in graduate school, there is no such thing as a ďC.Ē

Graduate school is an exciting yet stressful time in the life of a student, but it can also be extremely rewarding. If you keep up with your obligations, stay organized, study hard, and make a little time for fun, youíre sure to be successful and achieve all of your academic and career goals.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Stephanie A. Allen. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Stephanie A. Allen. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Nicole Amos for details.



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