This time a year ago, I was excited and honored to start my first year as an #SAgrad. The excitement of starting my first graduate courses, working in my office as a Graduate Residence Director, and starting my path of a Master’s degree felt like a dream of hard work and dedication coming true. Now as a second year graduate student, I wanted to share some awesome tips and lessons I used to help make my first year a complete success and one of the reasons why this final year means the world to me. Here are five tips that can help first year grads overcome the nervousness and worries of balancing different roles and expectations as a first year graduate student.
1. Make Your Mark For Success
Graduate School is an awesome time to work on projects, committees, and groups that you are passionate about during your program. Whether you are in a one, two, or an extended year program, this is your time to make your graduate experience fun, educational, and a memorable part of your life. If you have a passion, idea, or program that can benefit your professional development, students within your institution, and means a lot to you, then go for it and make sure your vision is a success. What I love about grad school is the idea and flow of creativity and dedication it provides, within and outside of academics, toward creating new ideas. As you start your first year, make your values and thoughts known, as your ideas can create a new program or event that can benefit students and your graduate community.
2. Find Your Organization System
With your graduate program, time is limited as the days may become busier with classes, work, and more, depending on your program and assistantship. My recommendation to have a balanced daily routine is to find your own style of organization. It could be a Passion Planner, To Do List, Google Calendar, or another method to help you plan your time for when you need to work, rest, and prepare for your classes or meetings. Remember that your style of organization may be different from your peers and that is okay. Find what works for you and have fun planning your productive and positive weeks as a graduate student.
One of the biggest tips any graduate student can learn their first year is to network as much as they can with other graduate students, professors, professionals, and other people within and outside of your institution. Networking can be effective as you become socially and personally connected with other people that may be interested in a similar passion, educational field, or professional opportunity that can engage your interest in the future. An important note: networking does not have to always be in person. Thanks to the awesome SAgrad community, I got the chance to network and communicate with some great graduate students from all around the country and it’s been a rewarding experience going into this final year. Make sure you talk to others and be yourself as you make a difference, and others will become excited to hear your ideas and methods towards an impactful change.
4. Spread Your Creativity
As a graduate student, your experience will be very unique and informative. Besides learning about the academic topics within your major and graduate program, graduate school is about learning who you are as a person and getting involved in programs and projects that you really care about to make your professional development grow. My biggest advice is to find what you are passionate about and work in a professional position, networking event, or create your own opportunity in that field. An example from my experience was my leadership position as an RHA Leadership Trainer during my second year. Leadership is a passion that I want to help develop for students, and my department supported and assisted me with this position by creating it which influenced my own leadership experience as a second year student. So find your passion and make it as successful and known throughout your graduate experience.
5. Have Fun
While it is so important to work hard, attend meetings, help students, and be awesome at your academics, make sure to take some time for you. One of the biggest lessons I learned as a first year SA Grad (still learning currently) is to take time for personal self-care. It can be having a social night at your apartment or home, reading a book during the productive week, or meeting a friend for a lunch event. Take time to put your planner away for a few hours and enjoy the success of your hard work.
My advice is to follow your passions, stay true to yourself, and never give up, as every day is a motivational reminder to keep reaching for success.
Good luck and congrats to the new #SAgrad members. I wish you all a successful start to your graduate journey.