Things I wish I knew before I went to graduate school

This post is dedicated to my bestie who is thinking about continuing her education.

I went to graduate school a year after I received my bachelor’s degree. I romanticized the program before arriving. Well, I am going to try to save you from that mistake by keeping it 100. Depending on the program you are going to, graduate school can be an intense social environment. Grad programs tend to be smaller than undergraduate programs which means there might not be any diversity. I’m not only talking about cultural diversity but also personality wise. Your personality might not mesh with 90% of your programs body and that’s okay. I am a native Chicago Southsider and sometimes my life seems like a mashup between Dave Chappelle’s When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong skits and Daria.

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But for the next one to four years, these people are going through some of the same classes you are going through so buckle up. As long as you treat people with the same respect you wish to be treated things usually go smoothly. If it’s not reciprocated then just ignore your haters and keeping working on your future.

Basic advice for people who are thinking about going to graduate school.

Have a clear vision of what you want for your future (At least somewhat of a vision).

There will be times in your program when you just feel like given up. You wonder what is the point of being here. You might not have a mentor to guide you when you are at your breaking point. That is why it is important to have a vision of what you want in the future. If you do not know what you want to do right now it’s fine. I would suggest hanging out in a non-academic space before you go back to school.

You are responsible for you own education.

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The teachers in graduate school might be the most knowledgeable  in the subject you are studying but they might be horrible teachers. A lot of the teachers in higher ed don’t care about their students unless you are involved with their research. It’s your job to get noticed. Meaning that you have to do most of your learning outside of class. That could be networking with people who are already in the industry via Meetups, conferences, or online communities.

Get involved in things that you are passionate about or bring you joy.

Being a part of organizations or clubs that bring you joy not only boost your moral but you are also more likely to go above and beyond.This could translate into letters of recommendations from other club members and a good story to tell for upcoming job interviews.

Do not completely disengage.

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I have a nasty habit when I am not being challenged  academically, I just go on autopilot. I’m going to give you advice that my 7th-grade teacher Ms. Jackson gave me “Fake it until you make it!”  Smile, be polite and engage because it might be the difference between an A and an A-, or a potential letter of recommendation from that teacher.

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