5 Tips for Grad Students

I’ve been through grad school twice and both times I stressed out so much during the process, but I felt that it was very much worth it for me. So, I thought I’d write down a few short hacks that could help to get you through.

But, before I get started, I’d be remiss if I first didn’t state that you better KNOW WHY YOU ARE GETTING YOUR DEGREE. Harsh start? Maybe. But, I just don’t think anyone stresses this enough! If you’re going to pay to get a graduate degree, you better know what career you want out of it and you better have researched the salaries associated with that degree and whether or not you really need this new fancy piece of paper in order to thrive in your industry. Student loan debt is a HUGE problem in this nation and I hate seeing people become a part of it without understanding what lies ahead for them. It’s extra frustrating to see this TRILLION DOLLAR issue become such a normal part of being a millennial. Benjamin Keys, a Wharton real estate professor with a specialty in household finance and debt, states that “(millennials) are starting off at a disadvantage relative to previous generations” because of the fact that so many of us hold thousands of dollars in debt.

  1. Speaking of money, get your employer to pay for it. Many companies these days will pay for continued education. Ask your Benefits team if this is something they’d be willing to help you out with. Or, check out some of these companies that seem to have pretty good education benefits. I found that article via a super quick Google search so I’m sure I have not even scratched the surface.
  2. Keep the end goal in mind. Once/if you do decide to take the plunge, whether you’re getting your MA or your doctorate, you’re going to face some grueling times. You will have a lot of school work to finish and if you opt to work while taking on this academic challenge, your life is going to feel like it really sucks for a bit. You’re going to feel overwhelmed by deadlines and your stomach might turn a little thinking of achieving your career goals all the while reading piles of books and academic papers, but visualize that very last day of school and feel your heart warm up a bit knowing that you are making a commitment to bettering yourself.
  3. Get moving. It can be easy to get sucked into a vortex of reading, writing, reading, writing and what have you. Learn to pull yourself out of it and go for a walk, run a mile (or 2, or 5…) and maybe get some weights to use while you’re .doing small tasks around the house. When I was getting my Masters I gained SO much weight because I stopped doing this. I literally weighed myself the day of my final presentation and laughed out loud because the number was so ridiculous to me. But, hey, at least I laughed and chose not to cry?
  4. Go out with friends. Seriously, just do it…you have time. You might be tempted to blow off/politely decline a friend’s invitation to go out for a drink or eat because you’re “so busy” and you “have so much work to do” but don’t. You’ve probably made time for Facebook and Instagram all those times you’ve been stuck in a writer’s block so instead of doing that, get your shit together and just spend some face time with people who love you. It’ll help you, trust.
  5. Make sure you have a good advisor. That person is going to be a huge part of making or breaking your research. If your advisor is someone that barely gives you feedback or skips meeting with you frequently, identify this issue early on and see if you can change to someone else. I had some colleagues with advisors that were never responsive to emails and this almost ruined their academic careers.

So, just a short list to get you started on your wonderful journey of education. What would you add?

References
“The Student Debt Crisis: Could It Slow the U.S. Economy?.” Knowledge@Wharton. The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 22 October, 2018. Web. 18 January, 2019 <http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/student-loan-debt-crisis/>

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