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What I learned in my first month of graduate school

Many of you know that I am currently working on getting an MSc in Digital Marketing at Roehampton University in London. Let me tell you, so far it's been crazy. Even though I am only halfway through my first semester, I have already learned so much about myself, marketing, and of course London!


While this may seem like an obvious statement, your graduate degree will be completely different from your undergraduate degree. It is up to YOU, and only you, to create a meaningful and educational experience while you get your degree. I want to bring you along with me on this journey so you can learn (or laugh) at my attempt to get through graduate school. Use each of these tips to make a memorable journey for yourself.


First, you don't need as many school supplies as you think.

Unlike high school or college, you don't need a lot of school supplies. This might be a bummer for some, like me, who love to buy school supplies when they go on sale every year. You only need a good laptop, a good filing structure, and a good bag to get through your entire degree.


However, I recommend buying whatever will make your master's journey more comfortable. If buying a whole pack of pastel-colored highlighters and matching pastel pens brings you joy, then go for it! Many of your classes will be very dry and, let's be honest, a little boring; so, any school supplies that help you focus and bring more enjoyment to your learning experience are worth the cost.


Fun fact: In the United Kingdom, you don't need to buy textbooks for yourself unless you want a personal copy. Many universities make copies available in the library or digitally.


The second most important tip is to organize your time.

Graduate school is often like a second job. You can easily spend 40 hours a week on lectures, preparing for seminars, or working on assignments. I cannot stress enough how important it is to organize your time into a schedule that works for you.


Currently, my weekly schedule is divided into three categories: school, work, and play. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are reserved for lectures and catch-up assignments. Tuesday and Thursdays are for seminar preparation and work. On Saturdays, I work and have some fun.


Having a weekly schedule for yourself helps you plan for the week, build a routine, and even increase productivity. But, organizing your time also lets you plan for fun. As much as it's important to prioritize your schoolwork, you also need to prioritize yourself and your mental wellbeing. Make sure to include some "you" time when you're creating a weekly schedule. For me, every Sunday is my chance to rest, relax, and recover.


Next, network, network!

Arguably the most important thing you need to do in graduate school is network. When you complete your degree, you should have two things: deeper knowledge in your field and a bigger network of connections. Having a network, not only gives you long-lasting friendships, but also helps you find future opportunities for new work, projects, or more network connections. Unless I am busy with work or school, I hardly ever say no to new events or outings. Each event is a new adventure in London or a new opportunity to foster meaningful connections.


So yes go to that school event and introduce yourself to new people. Yes, go to that extra guest lecture and ask the guest speaker questions. Yes, invite your professors to coffee or lunch on-campus to get to know them better. Yes, head to the pub with your classmates! Do it all because this will set you up for future success.


Utilize your all resources.

Juggling school, work, and social life will easily get overwhelming. Try to familiarize yourself with resources on campus. Many campuses offer mental health, academic, and even career services to help students. You should utilize each of them throughout your graduate journey. However, you should also utilize your professor's office hours, your classmates when you have difficult assignments or just need a study partner, and any online resources as well.


YouTube can be a great resource to learn new things quickly or even have a concept explained dumbed down for you. I often use YouTube to review complicated concepts or learn hard skills. For example, I used YouTube to learn how to take better notes and to learn how to read academic journals more effectively. I also regularly use YouTube for additional graduate school motivation.


Other helpful online resources to note are Google Scholar, One Note, and Lynda Lessons via LinkedIn


Additionally, learn to conquer readings smartly.

All of the "Five Grad School Tips" videos I watched over the summer warned me that there would be A LOT of reading. But, did I listen: No. I severely underestimated how much time I would spend reading journal articles, textbooks, and other random reading assignments. This is why it's important to read smartly.


You should know what you need to read (what you can get away with not reading) and how to read efficiently. Not every reading assignment needs to be read word for word. Some readings just need light skimming. For example, when I'm reading a journal article, I typically read the abstract first, then I skim the introduction, and lastly read the conclusion. If I have any questions I will skim the discussion and the rest of the journal article.


I take a similar approach when reading textbooks. I read the overview and introduction then I skip to the end to read the learning objectives and chapter summary. While skipping to the end of the chapter, I look through all of the headings so I understand the chapter's layout. Using the learning objectives and chapter layout as a framework, I skim the chapter until I fully understand those learning objectives. If I am unsure of a particular concept, then I dive deeper into the chapter until I understand.


Fun Fact: Graduate school typically involves a lot of discussions time so it's important to do your best and come to class prepared to talk about the readings for the week. Otherwise, class will either be extremely awkward or extremely boring.


Next, find a note-taking system that works for you.

Once you've found a method of reading that works for you, explore a note-taking system that also works for your learning style. There are so many different digital and psychically note-taking methods out there such as OneNote, EverNote, and the "Box" Method!


Personally, I prefer to take psychical notes in class because I know I get easily distracted by my laptop (and online shopping). However, for lectures and reading assignments, I take digital notes with OneNote for more detailed notes. While I know that there are many notetaking programs out there, I like OneNote the most. It's a simple program that is free if you have Microsoft Office. I enjoy it because I can access my notes from anywhere and it's very easy to do a word search rather than flipping through pages in a notebook. I also like that it automatically includes a URL source if you copy and paste text from the web. This small feature comes in handy when you're writing a paper and need to reference your sources.


Fun fact: sometimes universities give you access to Microsoft Office so double check if you get it for free as a student.


And, lastly, make the most of the experience

Everyone says that high school will be the time of your life and, if it's not, then college will be. So, graduate school is the last time to get it right and have an amazing experience. To make this a great experience, I've set a few goals for myself to help me become a better artist, businesswoman, and world traveler by the time I graduate. I recommend you do the same to make the most of your experience!


As for me, I am looking forward to two more semesters of organizing, networking, reading, note-taking, and socializing.


If you have any tips, comment them below or send me a message on Instagram.


View of London's skyline from on top of the London Eye. Here you can see the historic British Parliament building and the River Thames flowing through the city as the sun begins to set.
View of London's skyline from the London Eye


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