While reflecting on my student teaching experience, and the program as a whole, I thought of some of the advice I would give myself it I could travel back in time to the start of my master's degree program last fall.
Advice to the me of September 2016:
Given the intensity of the program, from the outset, you have to prepare yourself for a marathon rather than a sprint. Planning and time management are key to this. While there will certainly be some all-nighters required, planning ahead and avoiding procrastination can help you keep those to a minimum. Waiting until the last minute on every assignment is a sure recipe for stress and burnout.
While it often won’t seem like you have the time, it’s imperative that you take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Make it a priority to get enough sleep, to eat properly, and get some exercise. You may have to appoint someone to hold you to this because self-care is easy to sacrifice when the program is at it’s most intense. Just as important as sleeping and eating is allowing some time for you to be you—spend time with the people who are important in your life, and spend some time on yourself doing something you love. This isn’t time wasted, it’s an investment in your success in the program.
Keep in mind that life happens, even while you’re in grad school. It’s possible that major life events could occur during the program—births, deaths, etc. If they do, it’s best to be as open as you are comfortable being about what’s going on and the impact that it’s having on you as soon as you can. Ask for help when you need it, and don’t try to do everything alone.
Lastly, remember why you are in this program and what it means to you.