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Tips For Getting Through Your First Semester Of Graduate School...And All That Follow

I am a first year graduate student finishing up one of the most challenging and fulfilling semesters I have had in my academic years. I decided to reflect on my first semester of grad school so far and compile some brief overall tips that helped me in the start of my journey!

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1st and foremost: Practice good health habits

I'm talking about health mentally, physically, and socially. Grad school will wear you down quickly if you don't have a healthy lifestyle. If you prefer, join a nearby gym or try to stay active in some way through exercise, and learn how to make healthy meals for yourself to avoid eating out all the time. There are numerous studies that show your brain needs proper nutrition to aid your memory and recall abilities. In addition, don't forget to do what makes you happy, whether it's a hobby or hanging with friends. Remember mental health is just as important as physical health. Make and keep friends that make your life better. Don't shut people out. They are there to support you and uplift you. Also, give yourself study breaks. Bottom line--It is easy to get so absorbed in the "go go go" lifestyle of a student, but it is important to take time to care for yourself and be with friends/family.

Don't be too hard on yourself

In grad school you will very likely deal with harsher professors and tougher expectations. The bar is set higher than ever and will be raised even more in the following years of school. Know that you are good enough. You earned your place in your graduate school and you should be proud of that accomplishment. You are training to be a professional, to help make the world a better place, and it is not going to be easy. Your first semester is probably going to be overwhelming and stressful to say the least. Just remember why you are there and what you are there to accomplish. Everyone has their bad days, but at the end of the day, you are there to make a better you. Stay positive.

Learn your method of studying early on

Many people in undergrad were used to cramming for exams instead of getting into a habit of consistent, quality studying. Graduate school material piles on, and piles on fast. The only way to keep up and gain a true knowledge of the material is to recognize your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to how you personally study. Set a goal each day for the amount of time you want to study. For me, I prefer to study in my room where I am most comfortable and there are no distractions, but for you, it could be the library, or even with a study group. It is best to test out different methods at the beginning of the semester before the exams get even more intense. Remember a majority of what you learn in grad school will be applied in real life. For those of us taking boards, it's no longer a "know-it and then dump-it" deal, it's more of a "oh wait I need to know this for real life" sort of thing.

Make lists

Lists will save your life. In undergrad I was always the person who had an agenda but rarely filled it out. In graduate school, I make lists for everything- for groceries, assignments that need to be completed, subjects that I need to study that day etc. They are helpful and will save you from drowning in all of the deadlines coming your way by letting you know what you need to get done and when you need to get it done by.

Be nice, and be yourself

It seems silly to be typing this point but I think it is an important one. Just be nice. In school when things are tough as is, showing people kindness can make all the difference. This isn't really a grad school tip, but more of a life suggestion. Also, don't be afraid to be who you are. You'll find your niche and make some great friends in grad school just by being yourself, I promise.

Remember, you got this!

Whether it's two, three, four, or more (to all of the future residents) years, just remember to breathe. Everyone says school goes by in the blink of an eye, although there will be plenty of days that just never seem to end. I think reflecting on yourself and ending each day on a positive note is important. No matter how bad, tough, or long your day was, remember there is always room for improvement tomorrow. Before you know it, as I am now experiencing, your first semester will fly by.

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