UW Graduate School

December 4, 2014

It’s the Home Stretch!

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It’s nearing the end of the fall quarter, and we’re thrilled that you continue to invest in your intellectual and professional development as current graduate students at the University of Washington.

You may have had these thoughts rolling through your mind about graduate school:

“Why did I do this to myself?”
“I’m not good enough.”
“I’m supposed to be on top of everything.”
“Will I seriously get through everything I need to before the end of the quarter?

These worries are totally normal, especially during your first year of graduate study.  We also know that these anxieties impact graduate students differently depending on gender, race, class, ability, sexuality, nationality, and type of degree program.  And they weigh heavy on your mind, in addition to the seminar papers you have to write, student papers that need grading, or lab work that needs to get done.  You might even be studying for your generals, looking for a job, planning a family holiday, or dissertating.

Especially during these crunch times, it can help to remember your purpose—why are you here? Your core purpose, the contribution you want to make, the stability you want to provide your family, your passion and curiosity—these are the things that will get you through the tough times. You do belong here, and you can do it. You are in graduate school because you are already serving your community and want to deepen this, or because of a passion for creating innovative technologies, a desire to contribute to scholarship, a hope of getting a good job that matters and sustains you—the list goes on and on.

In addition to remembering your purpose and passion, here are some other tips to help encourage you as you finish out the quarter:

Surround yourself with people who can pull you out of a slump. Friends or peers (in and outside of academia) who can give you a reality check that graduate school is not the entirety of your life, even if it feels that way. Plan a potluck with them, hang out at a cafe, go see a movie.

Exercise. Even a short brisk walk helps calm the mind and gets the blood flowing. It also releases stress hormones that tend to build up during this busy time of the academic year.

Make a quick list of all your accomplishments so far. Attended first day of graduate school (check), taught your first quiz section as a TA (check), developing a specific skillset (check), others? Celebrate these accomplishments and reward yourself (time away from the computer, a date with a friend, a chocolate bar. etc.).

Create situations that help you feel motivated. Is there a quote you love? Tape it to your computer. A band whose music makes you feel like you can do anything? Listen to it before (or after) a big work session. An image of a place that inspires you to get things done? Put this up where you will see it several times a day (maybe by the coffee pot?).

What else keeps you going? Let us know and we will share your tips with others.

Core Programs in the Graduate School is here to root you on! You have made it this far (a big feat), and we commend you for working hard. Give it your best shot—and remember this is all a learning and growing process. You do not have to get it “perfect” right out of the gate (no one does!). You are nearly to that much-deserved break!

Thank you to Florence Sum, Masters student in the Evans School of Public Affairs, for these tips.