how I survived my first year in graduate school

As I start my second year of grad school, I’d like to reflect on how I managed to survive that first year.  It wasn’t easy, let me tell you.  I constantly relied on God, a wonderful support system of friends and family, and the wisdom and insight of my professors. Here are a few more things that helped me finish my first year as a Baylor graduate student…

I constantly remind myself of why I’m here: At the end of this second semester, a powerful thought hit me: Everything that I learn here applies to real people with real struggles. My first year learning about school psychology morphed the way I interact with people, especially in my graduate assistantship.  I’ve put strategies into place and noticed that I’m already helping people. I pull from articles I’ve read about study strategies and use techniques from my counseling classes, and I don’t know why, but sometimes I’m surprised to hear people say that I’m really helping. Below are just a few examples of things my undergrad students have told me since August:

  • “I hadn’t thought of that before.  That could really work for me!”
  • “What am I going to do without you next semester?”
  • “Thank you for all of your help!”

    While these statements are fairly simple in nature, in the context of all the struggles that my students experience each semester, these statements are huge!


I set aside “me time:” I quickly learned that if I wasn’t careful, I could easily spend all of my free time either working on homework or worrying about my courses. However, it took me a bit longer to realize that I needed to carve out time each day for myself. Whether I’m reading a book for fun, reading other blogs, searching through Pinterest, watching a silly show, or just sitting quietly–I learned to find things that I enjoyed and make time for those.

I share what I’ve learned:  As a school psychologist, I will be an advocate for my students.  The best way I know to do that now is to share what I’m learning in my classes.  I talk with my family and friends pretty regularly about articles I’ve read.  (Sorry, not sorry.) Not only does this prepare me for the real world and sharing information with parents of students, but it also helps me learn the material better.


I set realistic expectations for myself:  Similar to “me time,” I had to figure out what worked for me in terms of study time.  I quickly learned that it is unrealistic to finish all readings for class the night before.  I learned that I had to set aside time to read in advance, and I had to be honest with myself about how much time I would spend on each subject.  As an academic mentor, I’ve seen students who plan to study 20 hours a week and students who honestly plan about 3 hours a week to study, if they’re lucky.  Yet, I think the students who plan fewer hours perhaps have some advantage in that they are more honest and realistic with themselves. For me, it made sense to start by figuring out how much time I was already studying for each class, and then I increased that as needed.

I quit the comparison game: People LOVE to compare, and they will compare ANYTHING and everything.  How long is your paper? Have you started that project that’s due in 4 months? How long have you spent working on this assignment?  I totally bombed that quiz; what did you get?  (When they got an 80 on the quiz and you got a 60.)

I know the truth; you know the truth; everyone knows the truth:  When we ask what others are doing, we don’t really care what THEY are doing.  We just care about how they are doing compared to ourselves.  It’s selfish, and it will destroy your identity as a student and a person.

If I didn’t learn it in undergrad, I definitely learned this in my first year of grad school.  And I realized that it really doesn’t matter how much time or effort others put into their work.  What matters is how much time and effort I put into my work.  Just because others are spending more time and effort doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing better.  And if they are doing “better” (however you want to define that), as long as I’m doing my personal best, that’s what matters to me.


If you haven’t picked up on the theme of this post yet, it’s this: to succeed, you have to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, your capabilities and limits.  Then surround yourself with people who are willing to appreciate you for you and affirm that (and consequently, people who will call you out when you’re not being the best version of yourself).  Seek wisdom.  Seek growth.  Seize opportunities.  Lean on Christ.  I’m out of short, sweet sentences, but hopefully you get the picture by now. 🙂  This first year has been a roller coaster ride, and the next year is shaping up to be the same way.  But I wouldn’t have it to any other way.  Here’s to more opportunities!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s