It’s that time of year again! When your facebook newsfeed is filled with pictures of your friends (or your friends kids) graduating. They’re looking all happy in their long gowns, holding their $20k+ pieces of paper. They have that naive glow about them, the one that says “oh yes, now life can begin!”. Two years ago I was one of those people. Now, two years later, I will be one of those people yet again. Except instead of posting a picture of my naive face, full hopes and dreams, all smiling and happy, I will be posting a different face. One of exhaustion, defeat, and final release from the payment of tuition.
Yes, tomorrow I receive my Master’s degree. One which has already endowed upon me a full time job (46+ hours per week), sleep deprivation, the lack of desire to socialize, and endless family questions of “what now?”, “when is the wedding?”, “when are you having kids?”, “can you see yourself working there for the rest of your life?”, etc. etc. Yes, the face in my pictures is no longer one of the inexperienced undergrad, who believes that now that they have a degree, they can do anything! My face is one of knowing that this is not quite the start of best part of life, but the start of the hardest. And I don’t even have debt to pay off, so I can’t complain (but I can, and DO thank my parents for being there to help my financially through this journey).
So, now that I’ve grown about 0.0175% wiser with a Master’s degree, I’ll confer some things I’ve learned over my university experience…
You will hear that one over and over, from everyone. So do it. Invited to a party? Go check it out. How do I know this? Because I wasted my undergrad years not doing anything. I was stuck in my shell of shyness, held back by a long distance relationship, and did not take advantage of the fact that I could experience so many things, meet so many people, and actually enjoy being social. Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer my solitude. But entering graduate studies I decided to take a different approach. I pushed my our of my comfort zone, forced myself to attend events, and made some great friends and some great memories. Even events that were not my thing turned out to be good experiences, because then I at least learned what I DIDN’T want to do. And that is half way to knowing yourself.
Yeah, you’ll hear this one too. And I know you’ll all say to yourself “meh, I’ve got plenty of time to do this” or “it’s multiple choice, how hard can it be?”. The answer? Hard. I slacked off my first year and that one shitty semester brought my gpa down so much that I struggled through 3 more years trying to get it up (yeah, yeah, penis joke here). Try different study methods, see what works for you. What worked in high school probably won’t work here. And that’s okay, it’s part of the learning process.
Don’t Neglect Your Health
As someone who already has health issues (Rheumatoid Arthritis, it’s a blast!), this was a huge one for me. Eat right and get your exercise in there. It will make you feel better and helps reduce stress. I found there was nothing better than going for a walk, a run, or hitting the gym during those tedious days of studying for final exams. Take breaks, you need them. Your brain needs them. Cramming doesn’t work. Spread your studying out over a long period of time so you’ll retain the information for longer and you won’t just forget it the day after you write your exam.
As someone who values sleep and could pass out at any minute now that I work full time, I encourage you to get as much sleep as possible. I know you’ll be partying all night, but seriously. When it’s exam time, or essay time, or whatever kind of time, your brain needs sleep.
Exploit Your School’s Services
Okay, maybe not exploit them, but make use of them. Your tuition likely covers health benefits (go use them), access to the gym and fitness classes, writing services, career services, mental health services, study areas, research help, and likely many other things. Use them. You’re paying for them.
There’s my bare minimum contribution to the myriad of articles probably written on this same topic (see how I used the word myriad? I’m making you smarter already). Basically this was just my chance to brag that I am now a Master! And to kill some time while I await the arrival of my parents who will be staying with me so they can attend my convocation. What fun! (not, this will be torture). Hope all of you graduates succeed, and hope all of you students make it to your graduation! Congratulations on all of your accomplishments, school or otherwise! Post secondary education may not be your path, and that’s fine. Do what makes you happy and don’t let others pressure you or bring you down. Surround yourself with people who will support you and stand by you no matter what decision you make!