First Semester of Grad School | Lessons Learned, Survival Tips and more

With an education, you have everything you need to rise above all the noise and fulfill every last one of your dreams
— Michelle Obama
Finding success my first semester of grad school

GRAD SCHOOL BOSS’ING

I am writing this post knee deep in preparation for group project presentations and final papers and I couldn’t be more at ease. Its finally here- ‘Tis the season to pack up your books and get ready for the holidays but before that, I need to get through finals season which I am excited to just put behind me. I did it. I made it and I am officially one semester down with chasing this masters degree and I am overwhelmed with emotion.

I can describe this past semester in very different ways but right now, I just feel really blessed to be able to say that I am done with my first semester. My grades are EXCELLENT, my professors love me (I think and I hope haha) and I have pushed myself in so many ways that its unbelievable that I am not a different human being (well I low-key am though).

Starting this degree in July, nothing could have prepared me for the roller coaster that would be my life in the coming weeks and I mean nothing! I look at myself in the mirror right now and I can only smile. It feels like I have just run a marathon that I didn’t realize I was running and I won. Anyways, I am going to stop rambling now and share a few things- a few lessons if you will that I learned about myself in the past few months and few roadblocks that I managed to overcome as well. I can’t believe we made it #ODDFAM… just a few semesters left.

LESSONS LEARNED

YOU ARE NOT AN IMPOSTOR

So, I suffered from an interesting disease called, “imposter syndrome” and it was very hard to shake it off. Impostor syndrome is the feeling that you don’t belong in graduate school and it’s more common that you might think. It makes people believe that they aren’t good enough, smart enough, or deserving enough. I suffered from this when the semester started, I am one of the younger students in my class and everyone seemed to have years of experience in the field, they answered questions intelligently and wrote papers like they were Einstein himself. I remember feeling like I did not belong every single time in class and I constantly second guessed myself. It took a lot in me to shake that off and realize that I was admitted in the program for a reason and I was just as intelligent as my classmates. Once I realized this, I WAS CURED (I think). I embraced my confusion and asked questions, I set up time to meet with my professors to talk about any problems I was having and I made friends with my more experienced classmates to get help when I needed it.

YOU NEED A BALANCE

I realized quickly enough that I needed a balance, a work-school-life-blogging balance because at some point- I was tapped out! I would wake up daily feeling so drained and not wanting to get out of bed. I was broke, confused, exhausted and over everything. I remember calling a friend and telling her how much I regretted coming to grad school and that I just simply wanted to live. I soon realized that I had forgotten to take time for myself. Lesson I learned? YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING FOR LONG IF YOU DON’T FOCUS ON YOU AS WELL. Oops sorry for yelling but I needed that in all caps! Once I started making sure Sofi was happy- I was better. But, I won’t lie. I didn’t discover this mid-semester in fact, I discovered this a few days ago and the difference has been clear. Take sometime for you and embrace yourself before you begin to embrace everything else.

Lessons learned from a first semester grad student

DON’T SPREAD YOURSELF TOO THIN

Okay, so in grad school the full-time course-load is 9-12 credits per semester and compared to undergrad where its 15-21, the reduced load is for a very important reason. DO NOT SPREAD YOURSELF TOO THIN in your first semester. Luckily, I did not spread myself too thin and I made sure I just took 9 credits to get accustomed to the work load but I had colleagues who did a full load and have some regrets. While I am out frolicking and making friends, they are knee deep in homework so who won here? haha. My point is- know your limits and ensure you make time for yourself!

Okay, I am all out of lessons, but I’m also gonna share a few survival tips that helped me survive my first semester and I hope they help you too! If you have some please leave them in the comments below or simply share this post to help anyone interested in grad school!

SURVIVAL TIPS

  • Know your worth- go into grad school knowing who you are and what you are capable of

  • Work smart and not hard- you’ll have to read like 300 pages or more a week. Learn to read efficiently and quickly. Don’t stress if you can’t read it all too. It’s okay, you are not superwoman/man.

  • Reach out to people who have been where you are- you aren’t the first person to get your degree. Reach out to former students, professors, peers etc.

  • It’s okay to fail- dust yourself and step back up and quickly too.

  • Own the process- it is your education and your degree.

  • Learn to take a breather- you don’t have to be on the go every time. Take sometime to breathe and relax.

  • Ask questions- you don’t and can’t know it all so never be afraid to ask questions when you need to.

  • Get a Mentor- Yes! This is something I figured out really quickly. Get yourself a mentor who would be able to guide you through the tough times. Make sure it is also someone you trust.

  • Trust the Process- grad school is its own journey, trust that you’re ready for the process.

  • Your mental health is important- never forget about YOU in everything you do. Take care of your mental and physical health.

If you’re interested in a more detailed post, I will also be recording a video on my youtube channel explaining my first semester in Grad School. Keep an eye out for the post by checking out my channel below and subscribing!!


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Love always,

Sofi