Starting graduate school this Fall? If you're like most students, you're probably both excited and anxious for classes to begin. What should you do now, in this last summer before starting grad school?
Bet you didn't think I'd suggest this. Although you may be tempted to get an early start on your research, you should make time to relax. Grad school will be challenging and stressful (and fantastic too). Avoid burnout before the semester even begins. Take time off to relax or you may find yourself fried by October.
Stop Working (or Reduce Your Hours)
This may not be possible, but try to take some time off from outside employment. The last summer that you will be free from academic responsibilities..
Graduate students work during the summer. They do research, work with their advisor, and perhaps teach summer classes. If you must work this summer, take as time off as you can. Do you whatever is necessary to begin the semester refreshed rather than burned out.
Read for Fun
Come Fall you’ll have little to no time to read for pleasure. When you have some time off, you’ll probably find that you don’t want to read. Enjoy a good book this summer.
Get to Know Your New City
If you are moving to attend grad school, consider moving earlier in the summer. Give yourself time to learn about your new hometown, before the whirlwind semester starts. Discover grocery stores, banks, places to eat, study, and grab coffee. Something as simple as having all of your belongings stored away and being able to easily find them will reduce your stress and make it easier to start fresh.
Get to Know Your Classmates
Most incoming cohorts of graduate students have some means of getting in contact with each other, whether through an email list, Facebook group, LinkedIn group, or some other means. Take advantages of these opportunities to form friendships. You’ll study together, collaborate on research, and eventually be professional contacts after graduation. These personal and professional relationships can last your entire career.
Clean Up Your Social Profiles
If you haven’t done so prior to applying to graduate school, make some time to review your social media profiles. Do they present you in a positive, professional light? Ditch the college partying pics and posts with profanity. Clean up your Twitter profile and tweets as well. Anyone who works with you is likely to Google you. Don’t let them find material that makes them question your judgment.
Keep Your Mind Agile: Prep a Little
The key word is little. Read a few of your advisor’s papers – not everything. If you haven’t been matched with an advisor, read a bit about faculty members whose work interests you. Don't study. Don't burn yourself out. Keep an eye out for topics that interest you. Note a stimulating newspaper article or website. Don’t try to come up with a thesis, but simply note topics and ideas that intrigue you. Once the semester starts and you make contact with an advisor you can sort through your ideas. Over the summer your goal should simply be to remain an active thinker.
The summer before starting graduate school should be a time to recharge and rest. Prepare yourself for the amazing experience to come.
There'll be plenty of time to work and you’ll face many responsibilities and expectations once graduate school begins. Take as much time off as you can – and have fun.