With the fall semester coming up, I took some time to reflect on my grad school experience as an MPA graduate and current PhD student. I am definitely not a grad school pro but with two little kids, various community projects and a city council run, I’ve learned a thing or two. Also, everything’s better with memes.
Blinking White Guy
It can take time to get the hang of grad school, especially if it’s been a while since undergrad and/or you’re working on your degree part-time. But don’t give up on school or even one class too soon! Some professors and courses are unappealing and overwhelming at first glance, but often times they will also make you work the hardest and give you the greatest sense of accomplishment. So, blink hard, roll up your sleeves and remember- you’re here to learn a lot and become a better scholar and professional!
Grad school is the perfect place to meet people who can help propel your career so be memorable. Put your personal flourish on everything from your papers to your outfits. One of my classmates told me that he limits himself to only one comment each class so that everything he says is profound and thoughtful. That might be a bit restrictive, but he’s got the right idea. Find your “thing” and use it with as much passion as this guy salts his meat.
You cannot outsmart grad school. I repeat, YOU CANNOT OUTSMART GRAD SCHOOL! Undergrad is the only place where you can be wasted for most of the day and still do a pretty good job. That attitude doesn’t fly in the workplace and it won’t work in grad school either. You have to work, you have to plan and you have to show up. If you do, professors will be more likely to be flexible when things happen that are outside of your control.
There will likely be times that you’ll spend weeks working on a project and your computer will crash at the last minute or you’ll accidently delete an important Dropbox folder. Maybe your professor will call you out in front of your classmates or an administrative issue will set you back a semester. Grad school can be overwhelming, especially if you have a job and a family to manage, as well. It’s okay to cry. We’ve all broken down at some point.
Grad school can be intellectually, physically and emotionally draining. It takes time, energy, patience and effort. It’s almost impossible to get through it alone. If you want to truly succeed, you will need a supportive network. Above all, focus on building and maintaining relationships with friends, family, professors and classmates. And don’t forget to show your gratitude at the end of each semester!