Hard work over the last few years has been leading up to this moment. You have been accepted into graduate school and the start of this new endeavor is only a few short months away. The excitement of moving on to a different part of your life is quickly diminished with the thoughts of last minute undergraduate assignments and upcoming finals all while trying to prepare to head to grad school for a master’s degree or potentially to an MBA program. Take time to prepare with these 3 simple strategies.
Organize Now, Prepare for Later
Organization is a critical part of college life. Exemplified as you prepare for your master's program, whether it is an online graduate program or traditional program. Not only do you need to maintain your organization as you finish up your undergraduate degree but add to that the organization necessary to prepare for grad school.
The flood of paperwork (both on paper and digitally) and associated tasks increases as graduate school nears. Instead of becoming overwhelm, manage this by creating folders to store grad school documents to ensure you are keeping on track with necessary tasks. A simple approach is to start an account with a cloud storage provider like Dropbox or box. These apps allow documents to be shared securely, and they offer the ability to view files from any device at any time. Already using one or another of these file management tools? Simply add separate folders for your grad school documents to avoid overlap with current coursework and your day to day activities.
Email frustrates all of us. Most receive email after email each day and furthering your education will only see that tread continue. You will be starting to build relationships with professors, communicating to school administrators and starting to reach out to professional organizations. Isolate these communications by creating additional folders in your email client to track all things graduate school in one spot. This will make it easy for you to respond to admissions emails or professor correspondences all while maintaining connections with your daily life.
With both the end of your undergraduate career and the beginning of grad school on your plate at once, it’s possible to forget to complete certain tasks. Some tasks are less critical than others but missing anything could be potential disaster as you begin to transition.
Project management will not go away in today’s fast paced work environment. Tools like Trello, and other project management apps, give you the ability to stop the sticky note madness and opt for a clean, flexible client that can manage multiple parts of your life all while keeping you on task with the information you need.
Just as you created separate files and folders for your undergraduate and graduate items, create two separate task lists. These lists should include all of your assignments or important tasks, such as submitting documentation to graduate (undergrad list) and registering for first semester graduate courses (grad list). By checking off and documenting each task as you complete them, the transition to graduate school will be seamless.
Build a Mentor Relationship
Finding a trusted professor or a friend who has been through the process successfully to serve as your informal mentor as you transition into grad school can help you stay focused and calm, no matter how stressful things get. He or she can also keep you on track to meet important deadlines and walk you through expectations of your graduate degree program or assistantship.
When choosing a mentor, look for a person who knows you well and has time to help you. The most common mistake made when selecting a mentor is choosing one with a great resume and connections but no time to help you. Ask the prospective mentor if they are comfortable serving as your mentor as well as if they have time to devote to mentoring you into graduate school and beyond. Usually, it makes the most sense to choose a person with experience in your chosen academic field or who knows the grad school transition well. Start with those that may have written recommendation letters to support your application to your graduate degree program. These are most likely your biggest supporters and are often willing to see their recommendation through by helping you succeed.
Your mentor should also be familiar with the tasks you need to complete up to graduation and the start of grad school. Schedule regular meetings with him or her to discuss the things you still need to complete and questions that may come up about your nearing transition. Mentors can serve as a great sounding board when you need advice or inspiration, and they can help hold you accountable for all you need to get done. Additionally, your mentor can be a valuable resource throughout graduate school to answer questions on program requirements, discuss research topics and connect you with other professionals in the field for future opportunities.
Linkedin is also a critical resource. It is not a substitute for a mentor but can offer similar aid by finding answers to questions and connecting with people in your field of study. If not already on LinkedIn, signup and get started working on your professional profile. Keep things professional, as an undergraduate (and graduate school student), by adding relevant coursework, past jobs and extracurricular activities like volunteer engagements. Start by connecting with your mentor and others you are familiar with in the field. Also reach out to those involved in the graduate degree program you are enrolling in to start building those relationships.
Your decision to enhance your future by continuing your education in graduate school is one that will pay dividends throughout your life. The transition, however, can be one of confusion and stress. Take time to organize, manage your projects and find a mentor in the months leading up to starting grad school. Focusing on these three strategies will make the experience much more rewarding.