10 new year's resolutions for prospective grad students

The New Year is here, which means it’s time to make New Year’s resolutions.

If you’re starting graduate school in the fall, you can’t approach this like you have in the past. It’s tempting to go with the generic “eat healthier,” “exercise more,” “save more money” resolutions, but as a prospective grad student whose life is about to change in a huge way, you need to give it more thought. Here are 10 New Year’s resolutions for prospective grad students.

1. Save Money.

This could be saving for your grad school program or, if you already have that covered, saving for other expenses. The reality is, unless you’re doing something like a part-time MBA or online criminal justice program, you probably won’t have time to work and attend grad school. You’ll still need money to survive. If you don’t want that to be all student loan money, then work and save up this year before school starts.

2. Savor NonGrad Student Life.

The free time, the money in your bank account. Pretty soon, you’ll probably be poor and busy, and surviving on coffee and instant noodles. So enjoy the luxuries of non-student life now. Spend time with friends. Eat at restaurants. Enjoy yourself.

3. Get in Touch with Professors.

You may have browsed professors’ online bios when choosing where to apply, but actually reach out to them now, since they may be your future advisers or even take part in the admissions process.

According to Georgetown University, “In the case of Ph.D. programs especially, faculty are often involved in the admissions process because they are able to choose research assistants. Showing interest in their research, tenacity in your application, and creativity in future research interests makes you stand out from other applicants.”

That may or may not apply to your chosen program, but doesn’t hurt to stay in contact with professors throughout the year.

4. Change your Top Ramen Habits.

You can either eat less Top Ramen, since you’ll most likely be eating lots of it during grad school. Or you could eat more Top Ramen, to prepare your body for the unhealthy staple of graduate life. Whichever works. Just choose soon and stick with it.

5. Talk with Current Students.

Don’t be blindsided by grad school life and the demands of studying. Reach out to people in the program or who have already completed it and find out what you can expect. Of course, it differs from student to student because some of your course of study will be based on the topic of your thesis, but you can still learn from these students and help yourself mentally prepare.

6. Start Thinking About your Thesis or Dissertation.

This might sound like crazy talk, since you haven’t even started the program, but giving this some thought sooner rather than later can’t hurt. It’s good to know what your interests are. It may change, but starting the conversation with an adviser sooner rather than later is never a bad thing.

This is essentially a book-length project here. You don’t want to put it off too long.

7. Binge on Netflix.

Pretty soon, you won’t have time to do this. Enjoy it now.

8. Change your Reading Habits.

You can either not read at all, to take a break before reading a lot in grad school, or you could read a lot, to prepare your mind intellectually for grad school. If you do the latter, it’s a good time to tackle some titles from the list of things you’ve always wanted to read, since reading for pleasure won’t be much of a thing soon.

9. Get your Beauty Rest.

Because you’re likely going to join the 40 percent of Americans who, according to Gallup, get six hours or less of sleep a night. Pull eight- or nine-hour sleep sessions until school starts, if you can.

10. Start Thinking About Life after Graduation.

Yes, it sounds crazy to consider life after graduation, since you’re just starting. But this year, you really should.

According to admissions expert Dr. Don Martin in an article for U.S. News & World Report, “Time will literally fly by. And before you know it, you will be graduating. That’s why it’s so important to take time now to check out your school’s career development office and learn about the services provided. Thoroughly review the website, and if you can, set up an appointment to visit the office.”

Of course, it’s OK to also plan to eat healthier, exercise more and follow all those other clichéd new year’s resolutions that we all make (and typically break). But as a future grad student, give these 10 a shot, too, to prepare yourself for success in the fall.



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