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Getting Back into the Swing of Things - Grad School Style!

UL Grad School -- 09/12/2016

We all know the feeling—when the glorious days of summer are ending, and the school year looms like a big Titanic made of books that demand reading. Instead of being weighed down by the impending avalanche of research papers and scholarly reviews, here are a few of our best tips to survive grad school by easing back into “school mode” with less stress.

Trick Yourself By Adjusting Your Schedule
As summer fades into the past, so does the luxury of sleeping in and staying up to all hours (voluntarily). To avoid hitting a brick wall when the semester schedule hits, trick your body by adjusting your schedule a few weeks before the semester starts. Resist the urge to watch that next episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and get up around “class time.” Use that morning time to enjoy a good breakfast and finish that novel. When the school schedule hits for real, you’ll be adjusted and ready to go!

Get Organized
The Boy Scouts weren’t kidding with their motto: “be prepared.” It’s also one of the best tips for grad school. If you have your class schedule, start thinking through how each week may look with class, work, extracurriculars, etc. now. Download a planning app like iStudiez and get your proverbial ducks in a row. Get ready for note-taking in Evernote. Set up a team space in Asana for group projects. You’ll be an organizational wizard, and you and your fellow grad students will all benefit. 

It Takes A Village
Speaking of your colleagues, preparing your support system ahead of time makes a huge difference. Grad schools tend to have smaller classes and tight-knit groups, so ask around to plan how you’ll help each other start off the semester strong. Study groups, research buddies, and “time-to-go-grab-coffee” times will help you get back in motion without burning out. Plan getaways and breaks with those friends, and keep those plans--you’ll need them to thrive. 

It’s Okay to Say “No”
When it comes to extracurriculars, it’s easy to take on too much. You’re in grad school to learn, and those outside-of-class opportunities are part of it, but remember, they’re not your #1 priority. You don’t have to say “yes” to everyone that will try to take a slice of your time, even for good causes. Getting involved with projects outside of school is fine, but keep your end goal in mind. That graduate degree is yours to seize, so it’s okay to have tunnel vision now and then. 

Treat Your Body Right
Don’t wait until the semester workload gets heavy to start that exercise plan. Time is definitely scarce in grad school, but you don’t have to do 90 minutes of P90X Yoga to reap benefits. Ride your bike to class instead of driving. Go for a run during lunch. Hit the gym after hitting the books. Research shows that exercising after a task can improve memory, and what grad student doesn’t want better memory?

Set Small, Achievable Goals
There’s a little bird called the Arctic tern that migrates an average of 44,000 miles every year, from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back every year. I doubt Mr. Tern gets up every morning and says to Mrs. Tern, “Girl, I just don’t think we’ll make it this year. We have 44,000 miles to go!” They just go a few hundred miles per day (piece of cake for this avian marathoner) and before they know it, they’ve reached their goal. Realistic goal-setting is a key tip for grad school students as well. Don’t worry about that massive syllabus or comps or thesis or dissertation or … the list goes on and on. Just focus on your next goal, and you’ll be there in no time.

You’ve got this! By following these top tips to survive grad school, you’ll avoid burnout and crush your goals for the next semester and beyond.