Before we start off, I would like to say that this post wasn’t just constructed from my own experience or opinion but after talking to a lot people, coming from different professional and educational program, people who have either struggled to adapt to their new grad life, people who are moving so easily through the program that it’s almost unfair, (seriously do you guys have some kind of a cheat code?), and people who have altogether quit. Don’t worry too much about the last case, they are few and far between. One thing, I want to you guys to recognize is that Graduate Studies is like going to the gym if you think just going there and starting at the treadmill will magically make you more fit, trust me been there done that and it doesn’t work. Similarly, just attending graduate school isn’t going to make you magically an expert unless you put in the work. Graduate School is a guide and means of achieving expertise. Also, to my fellow international students, remember that you are in a new country, a new environment, so don’t worry if it’s hard at the beginning, it is supposed to be and your professors will understand that. At RIT, every graduate department has tons of resources that will help you grow, every program has been designed carefully taking the needs of the students and the current trend in the field into consideration.
Graduate School is a guide and means of achieving expertise.
Now, not all graduate programs are the same, in fact, you will come to realize that not every class for a particular subject are the same, as the course structure will vary significantly depending on the professor. With that in mind, although I am a graduate computer science student, I will try to keep this as generic as possible. I am pretty sure you guys are fed up with my ramblings by now, so shall we get into the actual points (and a bit more rambling) that I want to drive home?
This is one of the most essential points I want to convey. You can easily overcome almost 40% of the challenges you will face if you can properly manage your time. You will have projects, midterms, homework, quizzes, research papers, and you will have at least two of these every week for all your classes. Apart from this, I can’t stress this enough, you must spend time studying and reviewing what the concepts covered before and after your classes. Trust me, you would be making your life significantly harder if you think you can do an overnight homework or a last-minute study for your midterms, forget the finals. If you are working on campus, you would need to take that into consideration too. Some of you might think managing time is easy, well unless you have a graduate degree in time management (if it one exists), everyone both undergrad and grad students in the USA struggle with it. Learning when to jump at new opportunities and when to say no to extra tasks is a skill which every academic should develop if they are to avoid going mad. So how do you cope up with this? That brings me to my next point.
Plan your work. Most of your project/homework deadlines will be given at least 2 weeks ahead, plan early on how to proceed with them and try to stick to the plan. Most people develop some plan or the other, but the problem actually arises from not being following the plan. So, stick to your plan guys. Also, make sure the schedule is flexible, life isn’t a play with scripts. Something important activity may suddenly come up that must be accommodated. Also, make sure you plan gives you a decent period to rest and is within reasonable expectation. It isn’t reasonable to think you can finish a week load of assignments in two days, so you can Netflix and chill. I have seen one of my roommates try that only to fail miserably where he “Netflix and Chilled” a little too early, only to find he had read the problem wrong while in a hurry to complete the homework. Evaluate your limits before you plan. You may be a slow coder or a fast learner, consider your strengths and weaknesses and make sure your plan reflects that. Make sure you include daily activities like cooking, laundry, and housekeeping in your plan. Make sure you have time for a proper meal 3 times a day.
Every student has access to RIT’s myCourses, where all your deadline will be listed, if not, check your professor website. You can set alerts for your deadlines, most of the times they have alerts by default.
Doing a project that is 10 days when you have a midterm in the next two days, is not working smart. You will have to learn to prioritize your work and I don’t mean prioritizing Netflix over an assignment. You might decide to prioritize based on the nearest deadline or based on which homework you feel is the hardest among different courses. Sometimes you can altogether avoid prioritizing if you stick to plan. Setting out enough time in your day to fulfill your tasks will help you with this process and enable you to, when necessary, say “nope, I literally do not have enough time to do that”. Prioritizing is nothing but working smart. Check myCourses regularly, sometimes your deadlines could be postponed thanks to your Professor, at which point you shift your priority.
Do not procrastinate! Seriously, you will be overwhelmed if you procrastinate even for a day, not joking on this. I have done this, everyone has, and everyone regrets it. Tomorrow always seems like a better option until you see your grade pop up on myCourses.
I can’t stress this point enough (see what I did there?). Stress is one of the most common hurdles in life and it’s no different in graduate school. Stress is a very important issue as it can sometimes lead to depression if not properly managed. What causes stress in a graduate student? Well, that depends on you, I personally get stressed on almost everything. There are people who don’t get stressed even if it’s the end of the world. I would suggest you to not be in either of those categories. There is no way to avoid it, what you can do is try and manage it.
RIT offers an array of services under the Tigers Care program to help with the stress, if you ever feel overly stressed out or depressed, I would suggest you make use of the services. They offer counseling and consultation, 5 days a week except for the weekends. There are many activities conducted regularly throughout RIT for stress management. One of my favorite stress-busting activity is hanging out with the therapy dogs. They visit the Wallace library many times during a semester. Another method to cope up with stress is to join clubs. There are a huge number of clubs at RIT and they will welcome you with open arms. Most of the clubs have a weekly meeting, join them, make new friends, there is no better way to deal with stress other than to hang out with your friends. Want to take a quick Nap? Look no further than Naps.rit or as I would like to call it, NapZzz. Naps.rit brings you the best napping spaces around campus. Knowing where to nap on campus is perfect for those moments when you need to unwind between classes. You can find more information about these various facilities in the links provided at the very end of the post.
Most of you might be new to Rochester, heck even the entire country. You will definitely want to visit new places, go for parties, enjoy life outside of academics, which you should but remember the purpose you are here for. You will have breaks in between the semester to spend time on your favorite leisure. So, remember to focus on your goals first, achieving them should be the first priority. Success doesn’t come overnight, it comes with hard work and sacrifice. Everything in life follows something I call the “law of equivalent exchange”, one cannot gain anything without giving something in return, success is rarely gained without sacrifices and hard work. RIT is a university where hard-work will not go unnoticed, work hard and you will reap your rewards at RIT. That said, it is also very important to relax when it’s time to. Do not burn yourself out by overworking. Find a balance.
Everything in life follows something I call the “law of equivalent exchange”, one cannot gain anything without giving something in return, success is rarely gained without sacrifices and hard work.
Graduate school is the place where ignorance will not be forgiven. Don’t involve yourself in activities or controversies that you shouldn’t even be near to, like Academic Dishonesty in particular. This is very serious guys, I might even write a blog about it next time. Don’t copy solution for your homework from others or from the internet. Don’t even think about it. Every University in the US has very strict academic dishonesty rule. It is a crime, as simple as that. In RIT, especially in the Computer Science program, if you ever get involved in it, you better start packing your goods because you won’t be staying here for much longer. It has happened to some of my classmates, it happens in every department and in every semester. A huge percentage of your orientation will be based on it. So, you cannot plead ignorance. Therefore, be responsible, if you need help with your homework, talk to your professor or TA, they will gladly help you out. It is better to admit you don’t know how to proceed with a problem statement than to use a solution that isn’t yours and make a career-ending decision.
Aside from the above, sometimes all that is required is proper motivation. There will be days where you will feel tired, days where will not be feeling like getting out of bed, days where you might question yourself whether all this worth your effort. In such cases, all you have to do is think of your purpose of attending graduate school in the first place. Focus on your, focus on your family, your parents, all the sacrifices you did or your family did in order to get you here. Use that as the motivation for your hard work. RIT provides a ton of facilities from start-up incubators to 24-hr labs.
I decided to make this post after witnessing a lot of people failing to find work-life balance. I, honestly, believe this stems from some of the above mentioned factors. It’s ok to make mistakes, you will make mistakes, but you should learn to pull yourself up after each fall. Graduate school isn’t just about studies, you will learn a lot of life that will stick with you throughout your life. That said, learn to enjoy your new grad life, you will learn a lot of cool things, meet a lot of new people and 10 years from now you might look back and smile thinking what the fuss was all about.
For more information regarding, Tigers Care: https://www.rit.edu/studentaffairs/tigerscare/
For more information regarding Naps.rit: https://naps.rit.edu/