I have just completed my first official year of graduate school! Let me tell you… it went by so incredibly fast. I feel as though I have just started this counseling psychology program. It is crazy to think that this summer I will begin my graduate level internship and start working with actual clients (ah!). Well, after completing this first year, I have compiled a short list of some things I have taken away in this first year alone. I am sure there will be plenty more things I will learn in the next year and a half, but for now, here’s what I got!
There is a LOT of reading
When I say there is a lot of reading, I mean a lot. I do not think that anyone can fully prepare for the amount of reading that takes place in graduate school. If I am being honest, if you do not set a good chunk of time to JUST read, it will never get done. Like, I am talking about empirical articles, peer reviewed journals, handouts, the oh, so wonderful DSM-5, other class textbooks… *exhale*… aaaaand lecture notes. I seriously commend those who can get all of their reading done in time for class (kudos to you all in cohort 10- you know who you are). Brace yourself.
Graduate school is not a competition
I had heard of horror stories from others, complaining that graduate school is a dog eat dog environment. I can confidently say that this is simply not the case. Everyone that is in the same program as you, has the same end goal- to earn their degree in the respective field. If anything, those you are interacting with completely understand what you are going through and can relate to it a majority of the time. You feel like you are struggling? Guess what, I guarantee there is someone in your program who feels the same way. Did awesome on a paper? Great! I am sure someone can share that victory with you. I have not experienced any level of competitiveness in graduate level studies. There is such a high level of support you can receive from fellow members of your program. I believe that this support stems from the simple fact that everyone is in the same boat. There is not one person who is better than another- that is a fact.
Self care is essential
There are going to be times where you want to rip your hair out, throw all your books away, and cry. You may cry- and that is okay. You will forget to eat meals, and you will stay up all night writing to meet deadlines. That is just the reality of earning an important degree. While the above examples sound unpleasant, they are bound to happen some time or another (unless you are incredibly good at time management and are emotionally stable). In the midst of all of that, it is important to take care of yourself!! LET ME SAY THAT AGAIN..it is very important to take care of yourself. Everyone’s self care routine looks differently; if you do not have a self care routine, I would highly advise you develop one asap. If you are interested in my self care routine, feel free to ask.. I am sure I will write about it eventually. Bottom line is, if you do not take care of yourself first, you will be unable to produce your best work at work, school, internship, practicum, etc. It just will not happen. So please, please, please make time for yourself. Self love is the best love. You need to quickly find a balance to live a happy and healthy life- you will thank yourself for it later!
Scheduling is important (especially for your social life)
I am completely guilty of blowing people off last minute due to school related matters. This does not always have to be the case. You can and will have some free time, once in a while. However, if you do not schedule and/or manage your time correctly, it will quickly feel like you never have free time. Yes, school takes up a significant amount of time, but this does not mean it has to take up ALL of your time. What I am trying to say is.. if you want a social life, and any friends at all, make time for it. Schedule yourself accordingly. This is not only for the sake of your social life but also for your sanity. If you are never taking a break to go out and have a drink with a friend, read a good “just for fun” book, or spend quality time with family, then you’ve got some rescheduling to do. Schedule time for the books, the paper writing, the lecture review, but also schedule the outing with your child, significant other, or best friend. Your studies are important, but so are those who are close to you. Besides, you deserve to have brunch with your friends, have a date with your S.O, or go on a spontaneous mini road trip, and instagram all of it! If you set a time for everything, you will have time for it all.
You don’t know anything
After completing this first year, I can tell you that I feel like I knew nothing. If I had a dollar for every time I had to google, do further research, or literally pick books apart for information, I would be rich. I would like to tell you that my undergraduate studies fully prepared me for graduate work, but I am not going to lie to you that way. It is hard, and there is SO much more that I need to learn. Toss everything you thought you knew in the trash right now. Just kidding, that’s dramatic. However, the amount of knowledge I am now acquiring, makes me curious as to how I even made it this far. On the bright side, graduate school teaches you a ton! But hey, what more can I expect? I am trying to master something. Graduate school will challenge you, and you will be better for it. I promise.
Well, that is all I currently have to share with you all. This post is intended to be lighthearted and not all will have the same experience. This has been my own experience, and I am so grateful for it. I am also immensely grateful for those who have been by my side during this past year (especially cohort 10). Through the laughs, the tears, the anxiety, and the doubt, I survived. We survived. I would not have changed anything about it. I am eager to start this next semester and plan to take it head on (and far better organized I promise).