Gearing Up for Grad School

Goodbye summer, hello grad school

Information compiled by the team - last updated December 2010

reading in hammock

After having spent a summer of leisure, reading  books, watching esoteric movies, and spending time outdoors the time has finally come to gear up for graduate school. Sure, you'll miss your free time, and your daily dose of Maury, but the truth is, you're probably ready to get back to school and continue on your path towards greatness.

How are you supposed to make the transition from the carefree days of summer to the pressure-filled days of the school year? Luckily, there are several strategies you can employ to make this transition easier. And if you follow them, you may even find yourself performing better in school than you did when you left in the spring.

Slow and steady wins the race

Ah, yes: The old fable of the tortoise and the hare. Perhaps you've heard of it?

There's a race between a tortoise and a hare.The tortoise starts off slowly but keeps up the pace and the hare starts off at a hopping speed putting him well in front of the tortoise for the first, oh, let's say seven-eighths of the race. Suddenly, the hare gets tired and starts to wheeze and eventually passes out cold. The tortoise, who has been maintaining a slow and steady pace the entire time, comes across the unconscious hare a few hours later. Unlike the hare, the tortoise isn't tired because he was confident in his steady progress, and eventually, he crosses the finish line ahead of the hare.

If you can begin preparing for school before it begins you may avoid having to sprint to the finish line.  Try reading a few books on the reading list, or brainstorm possible topics for papers, you could even begin to write your first few classes worth of notes for that lab course you have to teach in the fall. If you start to work at a slow and steady pace you may wind up like our friend the tortoise; crossing the finish line long before your classmates.

In the great words of The Eagles...

"Take it easy, take it easy

Don't let the sound of your own wheels

Drive you crazy

Lighten up while you still can

Don't even try to understand

Just find a place to make your stand

And take it easy"

[Rollicking guitar solo here]

People, like watches, cars, and boy bands, don't last forever. Eventually, everyone needs a break, and if they don't get one, their productivity and the quality of their work will suffer.

So remember to give yourself a breather every once in a while. "Take it Easy"...

Set aside times when you won't allow yourself to think about anything school-related. Spending one final summer  fun weekend hiking the Appalachian Trail or hanging out on a beach working on your end-of-summer tan will make a difference once it's time to begin the process of getting back into the school frame of mind. Remember, you're almost always better off spending a few days doing nothing even remotely productive if it will enhance the quality of your work once the school year (or pre-school tortoise-and-hare-inspired year) begins.

On your marks, get set...

Once you've relaxed a bit, and you've prepared yourself for the craziness of the school year, return to the classroom with all the energy and passion you had your first term. Remember,  graduate school is a time to make the most an opportunity; you get to spend time presence of some of the best minds in your field, work to become an expert in that field, and to prepare yourself for a career.   

The truth is most people are ready to jump back into the school year by the end of the summer. If you're the kind of person who has enrolled in grad school in the first place, then you're certainly the kind of person who enjoys the work on some level. So don't fight it: Give it your all, make the most of your time, and prepare yourself for a brilliant future. It all starts now, even before the first day of classes.


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