Starting a New Chapter – Graduate School

By: Kelly Quinn – Behavioral Sciences and Health Education

So hey, you’re starting a new chapter! That can be really exciting…and scary! Graduate school can be a lot of things. Busy, difficult, expensive, sleep deprived, etc. A first piece of ‘advice’ someone gave me was “Sleep, social life, grades. Pick 2.” While they may not have been entirely wrong, they certainly weren’t 100% right either. I’ve done a little bit of everything. I bartended professionally in NYC for nearly all of my 20s. I went to acting school for two years, I studied for the LSAT twice, I graduated from a 6 month coding boot-camp. All of these endeavors required sizable changes in my routine and with that comes some sacrifices. In this post I’m going to go over a few things I’ve found and learned after my first semester in grad school at Rollins.

If it’s worth pursuing, it usually requires some sacrifice.

Keep calm and MOVE on.

Grad school has been a challenge. Many of the students at Rollins have moved to Atlanta from other cities in the United States. We have an amazingly diverse cohort of international students. Emory University is a community unto itself. Moving is stressful. While there are many students pursuing a degree directly from undergrad, there are a lot of students (myself included) who have been out of school for years and working, in the peace corps, traveling, or pursuing other interests. Leaving family, friendships, and a familiar home behind can be scary. Starting over in a new place can be scary. The first few weeks of school you might feel like you’re 14 again, trying to make friends in a crowded lunchroom. Some things don’t change. But take heart, everyone is feeling it. The best way to navigate is aiming to be adaptable and open minded.

Shots, shots, shots…of office hours, please.

You won’t be partying like you might have been in undergraduate. Your classmates are usually older and your classes are harder. Thirsty Thursday will (probably) be a thing of the past. Unless the thirst is for more help with SAS (don’t ask until you have to). Your teachers will expect more from you. They will not be holding your hand through this. They will, however, be more than open to guide you should you seek advice. Help will always be given to those at Hogwarts…I mean Rollins, for those who ask for it. My advice here, life balance (more on that later) is super important, but keep focused on why you’re here. You can skate by in some of your courses, but you won’t learn the material. Without that, you’ve spent a pretty penny to graduate without the skill sets Rollins is renowned for around the world.

Eck, I miss brunch.

Graduate school budgets are notoriously tight. Unless Bill & Melina Gates are your personal benefactors, you’re probably making this happen through a combination of a government life time servitude contract or sacrificing your first born to a primordial alien overlord. Seamless and brunch ADD UP. You will get into credit card hot water fast, and it will be $30.00 at a time. Keep an eye on thoughtless consumption (later this semester I’ll be writing a post on eating healthy in grad school). Make the brunches worth it! Get some friends, plan it out, hit one of Atlanta’s famous spots (The food scene is AMAZING), and enjoy every moment of it. Just keep an eye on the frequency. Your wallet will thank you.

Downfall thy name is time management

The devil in in the details. Unless you are that rare breed with photographic recall, you probably rely on some form of a task keeper. This will never matter more than right now. A typical semester runs between 9-16 credits. Each class will be assigning, reassigning, changing due dates, putting you into groups at varying degrees and work- loads all semester long. If you’re in work study, your job will require things from you. If your group mates are in work study, they’ll be under the same pressure. Finding the perfect overlap of convenience is impossible, but you can do your best!

Take that hour early in the semester to map out your assignments. Your professors
spend a lot of time on syllabi. READ them. They usually map out an expectation of how the work will be distributed over the course. Sure, that’ll change a little based on pacing issues or unforeseen circumstances, but it’s rarely far off mark. Emory’s Canvas hub calendar will do this for you, but it can be a little tricky to navigate. I recommend Google Calendar, or for the app-savvy Asana is very user friendly.

If you’re a traditionalist, treat that little spiral notebook with care. Take 30 minutes on Sunday to go over what the week ahead is looking like. Is there something you missed? If this week seems light (suspicious!), it’ll allow you to look ahead (A ha! The following week you have two midterms and a project due) and adjust accordingly.

Procrastination and poor organization will be your undoing.

“Self-Care”, we all say it but what does it look like?

I promised I’d mention balance. If you don’t schedule a day to rest, your body will for you. You can’t fire on all cylinders all day and you can’t run on empty. To the absolutely best of your ability find a day that it yours. A day where you aren’t a graduate student, you’re just a person doing something you enjoy. Georgia has so much to offer. The hiking is magnificent, the food is incredible, the music scene is fire. Maybe you need to lay in bed all afternoon with takeout and Netflix…do that. If it’s yoga or running, don’t give it up. If it’s art or cooking, don’t give that up either. Have some friends over for dinner and puzzles. If you manage your time properly the other 6 days a week (see above) that seventh day if for you. Enjoy it.