January 21, 2014

How to Succeed in Grad School

Well you may be able to tell that school is back in full swing due to my lack of blog posts.  And you would be correct.  This semester will be a little tougher than last semester, but at least I will have a clue as to what to expect.  No one told me graduate school would be so hard!

Like seriously, you have to study  And someone (cough, me, cough) is a pro at procrastination.  So that means I somehow always ended up trying to cram for my tests a few days before the actual test.  And it doesn't work.  

This semester I am taking 3 classes for my Pathology Assistant program: Microbiology & Immunology, Specimen Processing, and Gross Anatomy.  So far Microbiology has been a review of the classes I took in undergrad, but the professor basically said "study what you think you should know".  Umm, what? Specimen Processing is our first pathology class so there is pressure to do fabulous, but I am hoping this one will be okay for me since I've been in the field for 5 years. I have really enjoyed Gross Anatomy so far because it is super relevant to my program.

But these tools were required for the class.  Because it is a cadaver dissection course.  Who is cringing?  It is interesting as hell, but I am struggling with smelling like formaldehyde after lab days.  Not pleasant.

So after one whole semester, I am totally an expert at graduate school, so here are my 3 tips to succeed in grad school!

1. Study. 
This should be a no-brainer, but if you are in grad school to begin with, I am sure you did fairly well in undergrad.  And if you were like me, I didn't have to study that hard in undergrad.  So what a shocker it was now that I'm in grad school and need to study all the time.

The key to mastering studying is to find a great study location free of distractions so you can make the most of your time.  I love going to the school libraries (away from TV and my dogs) and I always make sure to bring lots of snack foods.  I also "reward" myself every few hours with a break that I spend checking my cell phone and doing the social media thing.  Also, vary the way you study.  Read over the material, type out the material, and try to explain it out loud.  The more senses you use, the more likely you will be to remember it.

2. Dedication.
Grad school is no joke.  It requires a ton of dedication.  You have to get perspective and decide what is most important to you.  I am assuming if you are spending a load of cash (or student loans) on graduate school, it is fairly important.  So you have to put it first.  Put your schooling and studying before blogging, checking your social media, and hanging out with friends.

I suggest reading over the new material 10 minutes before class each day so you know what will be discussed that day.  I also use the time in between classes to review material from the day before so I won't spend every ounce of my free time studying.

3. Balance. 
Now what fun would your life be if everything you did was school?  It wouldn't be.  So make sure you find balance with what is important to you, what you want to do, and what you have to do.  Can those dishes wait?  Absolutely.  Can you give up all your hobbies.  Absolutely not.  You would be miserable!

I set mini-goals each day of the things I need to get accomplished. These goals can include things I need to get done like laundry and dishes and things I want to do like shopping or catching up on my DVR.  And since I want to take a mental break most days at least some of the time, I make myself have a review day each week to make sure I fully understand the material..

What tips do you have to succeed in grad school?  Also, make sure you check out my post tomorrow when I explain more about my grad program!

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