You did it! Not only did you make it through your undergraduate degree with flying colors, but you also worked your way through graduate school's required hardships, like the grueling application process, entrance exams, ascertaining letters of recommendation and more. And now the road to your career is welcoming you like a red carpet, and it seems as if the hard part is over. Or has it only just begun?
The hoops you need to jump through to get into grad school can distract you from the reality of the hard work ahead. But graduate school doesn't have to be intimidating. Remember when you thought college was scary? Now, as a seasoned student, you are ready to tackle a new challenge with ease. Relax and you might even enjoy yourself. Here are some tips to make the most of your new venture and smooth the transition from undergrad to graduate school.
Graduate school is about more than just academics. In order to feel connected and part of your campus, explore the different extracurricular activities that interest you. There are a vast number of choices, ranging from groups that are university-wide to those for graduate students only. Join a mountain biking club, participate in a pre-professional society or run for student government. These experiences will help you to meet other graduate students while doing things that you enjoy. And they won't hurt your resume either.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Making new friends is part of what graduate school is all about. Meeting people and socializing is not only a great way to unwind, but it also helps you forge relationships like those you will have with future colleagues. However, while everyone loves a party, make sure that your social life doesn't affect your grades. Your courses should always be your number one priority. Don't pick up the bad habits of skipping class, oversleeping, or turning in late assignments. Reward yourself with fun outings after all your homework and studying is complete.
Create a Time and Money Budget
It's easy to get overwhelmed by so many conflicting demands. As a graduate student, you may face more personal and professional responsibilities than you had as an undergraduate, such as work or family. Make a schedule and calculate your available hours per week, including school as well as outside obligations. Then divide up these hours for study, rest, entertainment, etc. Once you've laid out your schedule on paper, it will be easier to see where your time is going and how you can use it more efficiently. Additionally, money might be more of an issue now, especially if you have taken out loans to finance your education. Similar to the time schedule, listing your monthly expenses will also help you to be aware of your spending habits and highlight areas where you can possibly cut costs.
Forge Your Career Path With Experience
Graduate school is a time for you to solidify your career goals, and your courses are more specific to your field of study than they were in your undergrad years. Whether you are already clear about your ultimate goals or not, explore your interests through electives and internships. If your program doesn't have required fieldwork built in, create your own opportunities. Get to know your professors and the career services staff. Many campuses offer services such as career fairs, recruiting programs and counseling appointments. Visit the career center early to make sure you don't miss out on anything. Join professional associations in order to network within your industry. Take advantage of the resource you have in your classmates as well. Many of them may be working professionals who are attending school part time or have worked for several years before going back to school. Their valuable industry insight and contacts can help you to get your foot in the door.
Receiving your bachelor's degree proves you can be a successful student. Don't doubt your abilities in graduate school even if the work seems more difficult and the expectations higher. Remember, the students around you are all in the same boat, facing the same fears, whether they are fresh out of college or returning to school after working. It is helpful to form study groups and to attend help sessions. Don't be afraid to enlist tutoring if necessary. Make a list of your accomplishments and post it above your desk to remind yourself of how far you've come and how much you can accomplish.
Don't Forget to Have Fun!
Before entering the so-called "real world," reap the benefits of student life. At what other time in your life will you have exposure to a world-class learning environment, as well as a pool of people roughly your own age with similar interests? So sign up for that extra course, spend a few more minutes playing ultimate Frisbee on a sunny afternoon, and give yourself a break. You've worked hard and you deserve it!