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So You’re Starting Grad School…Now What?

Do you smell that new $500 textbook smell? It’s the beginning of graduate school season.

Perhaps you just quit your job after being there a little more than a year (because you’re a millennial and that’s how the job market works). Or maybe you’re transitioning to a part-time role because you’re a baddie who can do both. Your situation might begin with moving back in with family to help with childcare, so you can have some extra time to study, but don’t want to compromise family time. Either way, you made the choice to invest in your education, so you can get the pay back later.

Investing in yourself is necessary, and it can mean something different for everyone. In my case, investing in myself means:

  1. Moving away from my comfort zone to a place with no family or support around the corner;

  2. Leaving a job I loved;

  3. Leaving a boo thang I love;

  4. Sacrificing savings and stepping further into debt.

I’m nearly three weeks into adjusting to a new city and here’s a little unsolicited advice on how to make your new post-grad journey going back into the classroom less stressful: Reset.

I hope that anyone on a new journey can relate to this piece, but as I’m writing this with my sisters in mind, I know we tend to minimize things. We don’t want to make a big deal or cause a fuss, but honey, this is a huge leap. Take time to digest the decision you’re making. If you can, take a vacation or staycation as you transition. Enrolling in school will affect your finances, your social life, your workout regimen, etc. Reflect. Journal. Binge “Queen Sugar.” Do whatever it takes to declutter some space in your mind before classes start.

Set realistic goals.

I’m sure Michelle Obama had a sure-fire plan as soon as she stepped into the White House.  Aretha Franklin knew how big her career would be (Rest in Power). Beyoncé probably thought she and her crew would ride together and run the world for life. #StillGoals

In case you think you know how this first semester party is gonna go do down, think again. Make a list or a spreadsheet of the most important things you hope to achieve and keep it simple. Don’t go chasing waterfalls if you’re used to the ponds.

Find support.

This may look like getting cozy at the campus career center or finding that one professor who will push you toward the outcomes you’re hoping to reach. Tell your roommate or significant other you need them in your cheering section. Find your community, your people and let them know how they can keep you accountable. Let them know how to be a sounding board for you when things get rough. Do not think you’re a burden for asking for help.

Get on the grind.

Get your to-do lists ready. Minimize stress by staying on top of your game. Take time to order your books and read the materials so you can show up prepared. If you’re new to the campus, map your way through the library and computer rooms.  Find your classmates early on social media and make a study buddy or book sharing pact — it takes a village to graduate! Identify the lazy folks so you can avoid them for group work projects. Find potential challenge areas and address them before they have a chance to mess with your head.

Make an outlet.

Your schedule will fill up, and your days ahead will be long. You will fail, and you will rise to challenges. With all the built-up anxiety I carry around, I find myself wishing I could run 10 miles or lay around and binge my favorite show. Prepare yourself to find healthy ways to deal with stress, such as working out, cooking yourself a good meal or simply sitting still to reflect on what you’re learning so that you can make the most of your experience.

Enjoy the ride.

Investing in your education means you’ll be reaping the benefits once you’re done with your degree. Scope out job prospects, get professional feedback on your resume and create your own custom vision board for the tangible things you’ll achieve along the way. You’re also going to grow and change in this process, and some of the priorities that you started with may shift. Take advantage of all the student discounts you can find in your area (clothing, software, gym memberships — you name it!) and make the most of your new schedule. Give yourself grace, and don’t take every grade too seriously.

Use your magic and get ready to glow. Got any tips for me? Class is now in session.


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