Heading to Grad School? Read This.

It seemed much less daunting when you made the decision, applied and (finally!) received your acceptance letter – but now it’s getting real. Grad school is about to begin. It’s never easy going back to school after two months of an easy, breezy Canadian summer, let alone after few fruitful years spent in the workplace. These days, a university degree doesn’t always cut it and it seems more and more late twenty-something young professionals (YPs) are heading back to campus to complete MBAs, BAs or to opt for practical and intense post-graduate programs in fields like public relations, marketing or journalism. Let’s not forget those entering law or med school, who have just signed up to live as students for the long hull. Here are five things to keep in mind if you’re heading back to the books this fall.

We Hope You Partied Hard this Summer
If you’re heading back to school this fall, we hope that you had a fun, event-filled summer with late nights, cottage weekends, road trips, music festivals and weekend afternoons spent on the patio. Things are about to change. Make the most of these precious last few weeks if you need to get it out of your system. Especially if you plan on holding down a part time job, you are not going to have the time or energy to accept every invitation to hit your email or text message inbox. While a late night may end at seven at your current job, you could likely leave the work at the office and have some sort of a work/life balance. Now you can’t. You have group meetings (especially if doing an intense certificate post-grad program), studying and assignments and that could keep you up all night like you were in high school. Until winter break, “happy hour” may just become a thing of the past.

You May Need to Chat with Your Significant Other
Not that this comes as a shocker, but you may need to chat with your SO just to confirm that they get that your life and priorities may be a little different for a while. Like it or not, you’re going to be spending a lot more time at home and at the library. You’ll need your alone time. He or she also needs to know that you will inevitably need to be more strategic with your timing and planning (i.e. you will need to know of a cousin’s wedding months in advance). Your SO could actually be grateful of all the more time you may have at home, even if you are studying or writing papers, but he or she just can’t get in the way like a young, attention-starved kid. On the other hand, having an understanding SO could be a positive influence to keep you grounded and free of temptation to spend your time recklessly with friends.

Stop Living So Large
You’ll be surprised at how simple it was once for you to agree to dinners, charity events, concerts and trips without a second thought. Especially if you’ve grown used to making a salary in the workforce for a few years, this may come as a shock to the system when you realize that, perhaps for the first time, you need to budget. Even if you have managed to save, you probably have zero income coming in – and those lump sums dwindle quickly. The good news is that you won’t have enough time to spend your money on fun things anyway.

Don’t Forget About the Gym
Don’t feel guilty about hitting the gym because of that persistent, nagging voice that tells you that you have so much work to do. Trust us, we suffer the occasional bout of writer’s block; but when we do, we find such benefit in hitting the gym for a few hours. You definitely won’t regret it. Instead, you’ll return to the desk fuelled up and recharged. Not to mention, if you live the same pizza, grilled cheese and couch-filled way that you did in your first year of university now, it won’t just be the “freshman 15” you’ll gain – and it won’t be so easy to lose either. Adding insult to injury, you won’t be able to afford new clothes that fit. Don’t let yourself go… it will only make things worse.

Treat it Like Your Job
At this point, you better be serious about it. Unlike first year, this isn’t a joke anymore and you’re only going to waste your own time and money if you don’t take it seriously. This means careful planning, scheduling meetings with mentors, keeping a calendar, and being just as dedicated to school as if it was your job. You need to be strategic when you plan, set goals and prioritize how much time to dedicate to what in your jam-packed life. Network now to secure valuable connections come graduation time. This means interacting with seasoned industry professionals, but also classmates – they will likely remain at least somewhat within your professional circle once you graduate and enter the workforce.


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