4 Lessons Learned from My First Semester of Grad School

Back in August I finally made the decision to go back to school. I say finally because I was going back and forth on the possibility of grad school for quite some time. But since I found myself continuing to bring the option up again, I figured it was time to bite the bullet and go for it, while it’s feasible. So after almost 4 years of being out of school, I made my way back.

Transitioning back to school while working full-time and continuing my passion of blogging was pretty tough, but I’m proud to say that I somehow survived it AND ended my first semester of grad school with all A’s!

Here are 4 lessons I learned from my first semester of grad school.

grad school

Grad School Isn’t Like Undergrad

When it was time to sign up for classes, I opted to register for 3. But what I didn’t fully realize at the time was that grad school and undergrad are totally different. 3 grad school classes is essentially equivalent to being a full-time undergrad student. Yikes! If you have other commitments (i.e. working full-time), I suggest only taking 2 at at time, to avoid burnout. There’s a lot more time required for grad school courses!

Plan Ahead

You get most of your assignments for the semester (at least the required reading material) at the beginning of the semester. Avoid procrastinating (we’re all guilty of this) if you can and try to space your studying out during the week. Due to travel/friends in town, there were a couple weeks where I didn’t have the weekend to get work done (where I did the bulk of my studying). I felt a bit stressed out having to cram everything in at the last minute, when I definitely could’ve been a bit more productive earlier in the week!

Give Yourself A Break

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with your daily responsibilities alone. So when you add school to the mix things get even crazier. As important as it is to study, it’s also important to step away and take breaks. You don’t want to get burnt out (especially early on), so manage your time as best as possible and allow for breaks to get out of the house to have some fun!

Keep the Big Picture in Mind

I’ll admit, there were a few times (mostly when my anxiety during test times was through the roof) I was asking/telling myself why are you doing this? This is stupid, you already have a degree. What the heck were you thinking? Run!!! But then I brought myself back to reality. It’s important to keep the big picture in mind. While stressful moments are inevitable, there’s a reason I decided/wanted to go back and so I’m going to tough it out and follow through. The achievement at the end will be worth it!

Are you in grad school? Thinking about going back?

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  • I really want to go back to school, but I’m afraid working full time and grad school may kill me. Nice to see someone doing it successfully!

    • It’s definitely not easy, but it’s a great feeling of accomplishment when you’re able to cross courses off the list! I recommend starting slowly to ease yourself back into it if you decide to go back!

  • Good for you! My husband is in grad school right now too and it is very challenging, but such a wonderful opportunity!

    • Thanks, Kristin! It’s very challenging (esp while working), but agree! It’s a great opportunity.

  • So good to know. Congratulations on the straight A’s! I still don’t know how people work full time and do grad school. I’m not even considering it. I stress out too much and am a work-a-holic, so it wouldn’t work for me. Even though it will be tougher on finances for me, I want to plunge headfirst into full-time grad school and be done in the 2 years.

    • Thank you! I had a few semi-meltdowns in the midst of it all lol but I survived! Now I know what my boundaries are going forward so I won’t overload myself! There are definitely pros and cons to full-time and part-time but I certainly agree that it’d be nice to finish in 2 years instead of stretching it out!

  • Great to know about your student life. I’m a full-time student and taking breaks is quite essential! :)

  • Paige Allison

    Your first point is absolutely on-point! Grad school is NOT like undergrad. You get far more work and are expected to produce at a far more advanced level, as you should be when pursuing an advanced degree. I remember getting my syllabi the first week of classes back when I was in my Master’s program and thinking, “Do they really expect me to read two to three books per week per course?!” Yes. Yes they do.

    • Exactly what I thought! Some of the content is a struggle to get through reading too! I can’t wait to read some “fun” books while I’m taking a break until the next semester starts!

  • Great tips! I start grad school next year and am super nervous and excited for it! I attend school online and full-time enrollment is two courses and they’re eight weeks long. I believe it’s the same for graduate programs, except they’re ten weeks long. I feel like this will help a lot when it comes to balancing the work load with everything else I have in my life, but we will see, I guess! Thanks for the tips! :)

    • You’ll do great! What’re you planning to study? It’ll take a little bit for you to get into your routine, but once you get back in the groove you’ll start to feel better about it! Good luck!

  • Cat

    I feel like my grad school friends either fall into one of two camps: those that are totally underwhelmed and not challenged and wonder if they wasted their money and those who are super challenged and never have time to do anything else. While the second certainly sounds more exhausting, I think it’ll feel more rewarding in the long run. It sounds like you’re figuring it out!

    • Thanks Cat, I am! There were definitely days I felt underwhelmed and others where I felt so overwhelmed. Funny how that all works!

  • I started grad school this semester as well.
    I am doing it all online and working full time and of course blogging.
    It has been quite an adjustment but I have been loving it so far.

    xoxo, Jenny

    • So great to hear that, Jenny! Some of my courses are available online but I have to go on campus for others. It’s a nice mix, sometimes you need that human interaction! What’re you studying?

  • This is helpful! I’m thinking about going back soon, I need to challenge myself and I think it will look good on my resume. Keep plugging along, girl!

    • It’s definitely a great thing to have on your resume. Just takes a bit of time and money to get it on there :P What do you think you’d go back for?

      • As of now, I’m thinking a masters in curriculum and instruction with a focus in adolescent literacy.

  • I wish I could get paid to go to school because honestly I would never leave. I would LOVE to go back and go to grad school but that will have to wait unless I find a company to work for that will pay for it.

    • I hear you! I’m fortunate that my company is helping to cover costs for me going back to school, but it’s tough working and doing school at the same time!

  • Jackie

    This post is at a great time! I had been back and forth about going back to school as well and just made the decision to start! Classes begin Monday for me!

    • That so great, Jackie! Good luck with your classes, hope it’s a smooth transition back!

  • I can’t imagine juggling a job, blogging, and grad school, so I definitely commend you for being able to do so – especially with all A’s! I’ve thought about going back to school to get a Master’s as well. I definitely didn’t appreciate college courses as much as I should have, and I would love to go back and learn more!

    Annessa / http://www.seekingsunshine.com

    • Thanks, Annessa! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw my grades lol. It was a bit overwhelming transitioning back but now that I know what to expect I’m hoping it’ll be a little easier! I hope you’re able to get back to school again soon too!

  • Evi Aki

    Excellent tips! I just finished my first semester and it was a struggle! You definitely have to be committed when going to grad school.

    • Thanks, Evi! Congrats on finishing your first semester as well!

  • Congrats on a successful first semester!! I feel like I would be a disaster because I’m such a procrastinator, ha!

    • Thanks, Katie! I definitely did my fair share of procrastinating, but in the end it all got done! You could do it!

  • CDG

    2 Grad classes are for the week. You bring the pain when you do 3 Grad classes! Proud of ya! Love your blog. CDG

    • Lol thanks, CDG! So happy to have the first semester finished!

  • Congrats on finishing your first semester of grad school!!! My business school classes end Friday and then just a paper and exam left…the end is in sight!

    • Thanks, Jordan! I’m so thrilled to be done and have a little time off! Good luck with the rest of yours, you’re so close and then it’s party time!!