How to Survive Grad School (while working full time)

Truth? I don’t 100% have the answer for that. Classes started January 8. I’m taking two: one on Mondays and a hybrid one that meets six Wednesdays a semester. For context, I’m at work from 8am – 5pm and have anywhere from a 30-90 minute commute, depending on the weather. And usually on Saturday night I help D with work from 9pm – 4am.

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So, there’s not buckets of time, which I’m trying to figure out how to manage. So I thought I’d write down my top 5 things I’ve figured out so far, to help me remember.

1. Don’t be Hyper Organized

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I know that this seems counter-intuitive, but the thing is: life happens. And it happens. And it happens. I believe in being structured and having a schedule, but I include in my schedule the chance to miss a day of homework. I think it’ll help me out to actually write out how I came up with my current homework schedule, which is working really well.

2. Get Good at Saying No

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Yep. I know. Annoying. BUT, here’s the thing about saying “no” that took me a long time to figure out: you’re actually being kind to other people when you acknowledge your own limitsIf I tell you I can do something at a time when I’m overwhelmed, I will likely only give it a max of 80% of effort. How does that help you? Whether that’s a conversation or a pie, you aren’t helping by giving only a portion of your attention of something to someone else. So, get good at “no.”

I’m a big fan of “no, because, and.” “No, I can’t come over because I’ve only gotten 10 hours of sleep in the last three days and I want to be able to give you my full attention.” “No, I can’t take on an extra project because I have four going right now and I wouldn’t be able to give you my best work if I added another.” People almost always are like “Yeah! That’s totally fine!”

Note: use this with your boss sparingly.

3. Sleep is Your Friend

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My moms cat is hilarious

When I was 20, I could operate on 3 hours of sleep a night and still submit/create fabulous work. Now that I’m just a few months away from 30, getting around 6 a night is a serious struggle. I will adapt, but I also know that if I drop below 6, or don’t get more than that on the weekends, I’m going to turn into a zombie who can barely make sentences. I am willing to forego a lot to ensure that I’m getting enough sleep. It doesn’t do me any good to be half-asleep in class, and it’s risky to be half-asleep at work.

4. Meal Plan/Prep on the Weekends

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I cannot stress this enough. You can totally fly through life and never meal plan if you’re better at choosing healthy options than me. I just really like foods that don’t contribute to my overall health and what I’ve found is that when I don’t have something already with me, I’m not going to stop somewhere and get a salad – I’m going to stop somewhere and get a fried thing, or a carb-filled thing or a thing full of refined white sugar.

On the weekends, I fill up four mason jars with fruits (I keep yogurt and granola at work), make three or four salads, bag fruits and veggies for snacks and plan dinners. I look at my class schedule and my homework schedule and use that to determine how much of whatever it is I’m making. I take leftovers with me to class and on heavy homework days, I make sure to throw something in the crock pot the morning of. This is giving me good, natural energy and saving me a lot of money.

5. Post Why You’re Doing What You’re Doing

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In undergrad, I had to get homework done. I needed A’s and I needed to get through it to get a job. That was it. I learned a lot. I had a lot of fun. But it wasn’t in my soul the way this program is. On some level, I’m in grad school because I can’t move up and get a better job with more pay without it because the field I’m in. That’s never not going to be true. But what brought me here is the idea that I cannot stop caring about children and education and the things that influence both. I would stop being me if I stopped caring.

And so all over my desk at work and all over my house, are these reminders that the purpose of me going isn’t to get it over with: it’s to be fully inside of it and soak up every little detail as best I can. That’s what will make the difference in the end.

 

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2 thoughts on “How to Survive Grad School (while working full time)

  1. Pingback: How to Organize Your College to-do List | Intricate

  2. Pingback: Class Schedule Management | Intricate

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