So…I know most of you are very curious about applying to graduate school or beginning your first year as a graduate student. I would definitely say that my first year was amazing and made a huge impact on my educational journey. I would also say that it was a learning experience for juggling family/personal life, work, and academics. Here is my advice for first years:
- Form meaningful relationships with your classmates and professors. They will be your colleagues and serve as allies for years to come.
- Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion and speak your mind, particularly with challenging/controversial subject matter. Your individuality is what got you into the program, and your unique experiences will guide your learning process. As social workers we must be agents of change, and sometimes this means confronting issues head on and pushing through our feelings of anxiety.
- Be honest with your professors. If something comes up and you know you will need an extension, it’s okay to be upfront and ask for an extended deadline on an assignment. These rules are usually outlined in the syllabus i.e. if an extension is requested, ask at least one week in advance.
- It is normal not to complete all of the readings. Do the best you can. A take away I learned from my first year, is to make connections with the readings that personally interest you and will help you write papers. You can look ahead to the assignment prompts and think on how the information relates to you personally in order to identify areas of interest in the readings. Not only will this help you retain meaningful information and allow you to contribute to class discussions, but it will also begin a reference list and help form ideas for paper topics.
- Find something you enjoy and put it in your schedule. It has always been hard for me to put myself first. I wasn’t used to being intentional when it comes to self-care. The “go go go” mentality is unsafe and unhealthy. If we expect our clients to take care of themselves, then we must do the same.
**One great idea I learned from one of my classmates is the idea of a “Self Care Jar.” You can make a list of things you enjoy and put those things into a jar on scraps of paper. Each week, try to randomly pick one thing out of the jar as a treat to yourself or engage in a fun activity. IT’S OKAY TO RELAX and take time out for YOU.
There is also the idea of an “Achievement Jar”: for this option, you place a scrap of paper in the jar each time you achieve a personal goal or do something extraordinary throughout the year. At the end of the year/for New Years, pull each item out of the jar and reflect on all the wonderful things you did throughout the year!
I hope this has helped you in some way…GOOD LUCK with the start of your semester!!
Best regards, BA