I was not too sure what to expect when I first enrolled in graduate school. I wondered how different this was going to be from undergraduate studies. How much more work would there be? Would I have to spend more time studying than I did before? On my first day of classes, I realized graduate school is indeed quite different than undergraduate studies. Most of what I learned in grad school did not come from classes, but from other activities, like doing research and attending conferences. Graduate school taught me to think in new ways. I started to learn to think like a professional in my field of mathematics.
However, during this journey of becoming a professional, I was stressed, frustrated, and even cried from time to time. The most important thing I had to remember was that I was not alone. Seeking out friends and support from my fellow graduate students may have been one of the best things I did for my graduate career; having someone who understands what graduate life is like is invaluable. They provided the much needed social support as I was making my way through my demanding program.
Also, I learned the importance of staying organized. Less of my time was spent in class and more of my time was spent on academic activities that took place outside the classroom, such as attending colloquia and invited lectures, reading, and doing research. I know as a grad student I had a more flexible schedule, but lots of work had to be completed in that time. And solely keeping track of my schedule mentally was becoming far too difficult. I had to write everything down in a planner and was constantly making “to do” lists. I also learned that I needed an activity outside of school as an outlet. I had to make sure that I scheduled in some rest and relaxation as well as social time to maintain not only my mental health, but also my physical health.
Transitioning from being an undergraduate student to a graduate student can be a very difficult, but a truly rewarding process. For those who are considering a grad-student way of life, be sure you prepare to make a life-changing commitment and expect each and every day to be challenging. However, you will experience great pride in each obstacle you overcome. Stay focused and work hard and you will survive!