Graduate School Life Lessons

Graduate school is a time to be inspired by theorists, writers, and scholars.  During this past year, I have read and written more than I ever thought possible, and my brain has expanded as a result.  Along the way, I have also learned and re-learned some important life lessons.  I wonder if they parallel lessons others have learned in graduate school.  

1. Don’t procrastinate.  This is good advice for any period of life, but especially for graduate school.  The work load always hits hard during midterm season and final exam season, especially since we tend to write papers rather than take tests.  Therefore, it’s important to plan ahead. 

2. File folders in your email and your account are beautiful and helpful tools, especially if part of your assistantship is doing administrative work. 🙂 

3. Stay active.  Graduate school has its stressful periods, and I spend significantly more time sitting than I did at my job last year of teaching middle school students.  Therefore, I have put on ten pounds since the start of the school year, and I know others who have had this happen to them.  Therefore, try to get some form of exercise every day, and yes, walking counts!  Exercise helps me at least to remain positive and to sleep better. Also, if you’re like me and you have the unfortunate combination of gaining weight easily and loving wine and desserts, try keeping the wine and dessert out of the house and only indulging on those vices when you are out and about with friends. 

4. Eat healthy and drink a lot of water.  It is harder to do the former when you live in a college town, believe me.  But it helps my overall mental state. 

5. If someone who is a significant part of your life is not being supportive of your hopes and dreams, it’s sometimes better to let that person walk away.  It sucks in the short run, but it’s better in the long run.  Life’s too short for people who bring you down more than they lift you up.  (As a side note, ladies, if you’re pursuing higher education, I suggest finding a smart significant other who has a strong ego.  I’m not saying he has to be an “alpha male” personality who is trying to fit society’s definition of “success”.  I just think it’s best if he feels comfortable in his own skin and is at least working toward what he wants in life, both career wise and on a personal/social level).  

6.  Besides your family and a few of your closest friends and closest advisers, the only person you can really rely on, besides God if you believe in that, is yourself.  It sounds cynical, but it’s true, and I wish I had realized it sooner.  Some people are not who they seem to be, and unfortunately, since we’re all human and we all make mistakes, people will let you down at times.  But I really believe that as long as you do the best you can with the circumstances you’re in, things still have a way of being okay in the long run. 

7. When God closes a door, He (or She) opens a window.  Some situations don’t work out the way we want them to or the way we initially planned.  That’s just how life is, and that can be hard for people like me who need a certain amount of structure and reliability to thrive.  But sometimes, when a situation doesn’t work out, an opportunity that fits better may be around the corner.  

8. Be willing and open to forgiving people for their shortcomings, because again, we’re all human.  Also, for my fellow perfectionists out there (and we run rampant in graduate studies), be willing to forgive yourself when you make mistakes.  It doesn’t help to wallow in them, but it does help to learn from them.   

9. Remind yourself of what your end goal is and what you hope to accomplish.  The day to day gets busy, but for me at least, considering the big picture is helpful. 

10. Take time to spend with your friends and explore new places.  It helps with the burn out factor. 🙂 

I hope these reminders are helpful to people, and I’m curious to see what other people think!  For now, enjoy the beautiful weather and a short Maymester break, if you have one! 


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