1.) Put your own health (physical and mental) first. There will always be deadlines to be met, books to read, and essays to type. Schedule time into each day for “me” time, whether it be talking a walk, watching a TV show, or baking muffins. Though time for sleeping may seem hard to find, if you set yourself on a strict enough work schedule you’ll also be able to schedule yourself on a strict sleep schedule. After all, nobody performs well when they are running on limited sleep. Make sure to watch your eating habits, even though you may be shopping on a small budget. Go for fruits and vegetables (and yes, frozen or canned varieties count too!) in the grocery store, and skip out on buying pop or other drinks to save money. Stick to water instead for a healthy (and free!) hydration boost. Remember, you can’t do well in grad school unless you’re taking care of yourself, so make the time!
2.) That feeling of utter and complete confusion? The concern that you aren’t smart enough to be in your program, and you’ll fail out before winter break? Chances are, everyone else in your program is feeling the same way. It’s a documented feeling called impostor syndrome, and it can make you feel like shutting down. The best remedy I’ve found for impostor syndrome is to talk to your fellow impostors. I’ve found that many of my cohorts will readily open up and share their own anxieties if I share mine.
3.) Lean on the support systems you have around you. Sure, your friends and family who aren’t in grad school may not understand everything you’re going through, but don’t shut them out. You don’t want to add family or friend drama to the list of issues you’re dealing with, so make sure you maintain a good, balanced amount of contact.
4.) Don’t forget, humans are social creatures. As such, they need social contact. Luckily, my program is very active as far as events go. Even if your program is not as active, you can always make a change! Invite people over to your house for a potluck, set up a group trip to the local bar…just find ways to keep your social life active! You’ll be glad you took a break from the books and managed to enjoy yourself, even if it is only for a little while.
5.) Finding a spot that is conducive for you to get work done is paramount. I’m still seeking my own perfect spot. The library often feels clinical, and being surrounded by undergraduates makes me feel too nostalgic to get enough work done. Working on my couch seems to lower my sense of urgency, and I wind up watching Netflix instead of writing that 500 word reading response that’s due the next morning. My desk has everything I could possibly need on it, but sometimes it feels a little too serious to get set up there. Even though I haven’t succeeded in this yet, it’s important to try out different spaces and see how they work for you! After all, you’re going to be spending a lot of time working, so you may as well be comfortable!
These are my graduate school tips, but please share more in the comments section!