The 4 Things I've Learned From Attending Graduate School

It has been roughly a month now since I’ve graduated from grad school. With some time to reflect and recover, I thought it’d be a good idea to look back on my experience. Grad school was by no means easy, but it definitely had taught me a couple things. In today’s blog post I’m going to share with you the 4 things I’ve learned from attending grad school.

1. Time management is still everything.

Believe it or not, time management is still relevant. Unlike being an undergrad, one of the critical separators is having more responsibilities.

As I made my way through grad school, I noticed, a few of my classes were mixed with undergrads. There was nothing wrong with this, but I did learn that it was very intentional. As a grad student, you were given more responsibilities such as being a team leader and making sure everything stays on tasks, and things turned in on time.

You were also in charge of documentation and the final deliverable if the class was project based. This all sounds very simple at first but boy, was I wrong. Checking in with everyone and making sure everyone is on track is very time-consuming. Often times when I lose track of time I notice I derail, and it gets pretty bad.

It gets especially bad when you work with other grad students. Sounds silly right? The one thing I appreciate more about working with undergrads is that they are most likely not in their careers yet, so their time is a lot more flexible. Time management becomes the key aspect of every major class project and of course solo projects and homework.

Winging it or going with the flow may work out at first, but it is a lot more work. A lot more unnecessary work later than upfront. Had I been better at managing my time more, I would have burned out a lot less. Sometimes though it’s not even your fault.

2. Not all group projects work out.

Not all group projects work out, and it is very accurate. Like working in the real world sometimes you may come across groups of people you just dread working with. Grad school is no exception.

You have to understand though that it is okay. During my time in grad school, I’ve encountered many groups that made it very painful to survive the class. They were always late, never responsive, or did work last minute. This made things difficult for everyone, and it can get stressful.

This had taught me that a lot of school project groups are a hit or a miss. The critical thing is that you are communicative. Reach out and talk to the person who hasn’t been showing up. Or even speak to the professor if you’ve already attempted multiple times. Don’t let this eat you up but definitely don’t stay quiet and sit on it. Remember, it is your time and money that is being spent on the class but also that it is okay. It is not your fault, you did your part.

3. Don’t rely on motivation.

One of the things I’ll mention over and over again is that you shouldn’t rely on motivation. If I were being honest, motivation would have made me dropped out already. When I was on the borderline of deciding what I wanted to do after spending a year in grad school going for the game pProgramming, I would have never made it if I relied on motivation. After failing my first class, I was not motivated to do anything.

Instead, what got me through grad school was the fact that I wanted to be there. It was the fact that I wanted that Masters Degree to pursue my career. Motivation had nothing to do with it. If you have a dream, you want to achieve then push through it with everything you’ve got. Motivation is a nice thing to have, but it is also a bad thing not to have.

4. Don’t give up when times get tough.

Similar to what I’ve mentioned above, when you have no motivation it can feel tough to finish school. This has to be something you want, and if it is, don’t give up. Times do get tough, trust me. When I failed my first class and withdrew from two, I was close to calling to quits.

I wasn’t sure if game programming was the right path for me, but after some patience, I’ve figured out what I wanted to do instead. It took a lot of willpower to get out of the house every week, but because I didn’t give up, I ended up discovering the better path for myself.

Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game one foot from a winning touchdown.

Ross Perot

Grad school isn’t the same for everyone. Depending on where you go and what degree you are in the experiences varies and sometimes drastically. The most important thing out of this entire blog is that you don’t give up. Believe in yourself, and soon you’ll be at the end of that finish line.

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Tony V. Le is an Experience Designer who specialized in game and web development. He is also the owner of tvledesign LLC and publishes online tutorials and blogs about his experiences as a freelancer.

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