What I learned from my first semester of grad school…

It sucks.

HAHA

Seriously, it really does suck though. But the kind of suck that you know will be worth it. Like the feeling you get mid-workout when you can’t breathe and you think your heart is going to stop. It’s kind of like that.

It had me so overwhelmed that I barely had time to breathe. I started my first 3 week summer session on the 30th of July, which the professors and administrators refer to as “OT Bootcamp.” At first I thought how bad could it really be? Thinking logistically¬†it’s only 3 weeks so how much work could they really cram into 21 days? Well as always, I was wrong. They had us take 4 classes and I suddenly began to understand that “bootcamp” was no joke. For 3 weeks, I lived, breathed, and slept OT. My brain did not function except for schoolwork. I’m pretty sure my body was just a walking vessel and I emotionally checked out because I can only remember bits and pieces.

With all that being said, I was able to learn a few SUPER helpful tips from this summer session that everyone should know before going into grad school. So here’s my unsolicited advice to you:

1. READ THE SYLLABUS!! I cannot stress this enough! Not only does the syllabus help you stay on track, but it also tells you how much time you should be spending on each assignment. No, it does not literally say “spend 4 hours on this assignment.” But what it does say is what percentage each assignment is of your final grade. This is gold. Seriously, the first week I ended up spending a solid 3 hours on an assignment that was just for participation. Such a waste of time. I’m not saying to blow off these types of assignments, I’m just saying, know which assignments you REALLY need to put in the most time and effort into.

2. Set up/declare your work space. If you have a desk you like to work at, organize it before you start classes so you can easily find pens and pencils when you need them. If you work best at a library, check the times it’s open so you can schedule your time around that (don’t forget to check the rules on eating in there too, super important to bring snacks). Anyone a coffee shop studier? Look for the closet place with the cheapest coffee and free wifi.

3. Make friends. Not like, “hey lets go grab a few drink friends” (although you can make those too of course), but make friends with your classmates. Exchange numbers and friend each other on social media. Trust me, you will be asking them for help, just as much as they will be asking you.

4. When overwhelmed with work and you don’t know where to start, begin with the assignment that has the soonest due date and go from there.

5. Do NOT, I repeat do NOT think about other assignments/projects while working on another one. This induces anxiety and panic attacks.

6. If possible try to plan out which assignments you will do on each day, so you remain organized and less overwhelmed.

7. This is my biggest piece of advice for everyone in any form of schooling: TAKE BREAKS! Your mental health relies on it. Doing 8 hours of work without stopping or eating is bad for you. REALLY BAD! You will be exhausted and your work will degrade in quality as you go. Do not forget that you are a person and need to eat and sleep and exercise and RELAX! If you have to schedule breaks into your day, then do it. I mean it. Write them in your planner, put them in your phone, have an alarm, legit anything to remind you to take a breather. I cannot stress to you enough how important this is.

 

These 7 pieces of advice would have really helped me at the start of the 3 weeks, but now that I’ve figured them out, I feel better prepared for the upcoming fall semester. So while I have this one week off between semesters, you can bet that I will be preparing my desk, writing in my planner, and reading each syllabus because otherwise, I will turn into a walking zombie again and my dog doesn’t like when that happens, and I guarantee your dog won’t like it when it happens to you too.

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3 comments

  1. Wishing you the best! I remember my first semester of grad school was seriously intense, and it wasn’t even all crammed into 3 weeks. I literally just focused on taking it “one day at a time” and then “one assignment at a time”. And there were times where I just laid on the floor of a library study room starring at the ceiling, but the end result is so worth it (or so they tell me…I guess we will find out soon enough! haha)! Great job and continue working hard! =)

    Liked by 1 person

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