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hug_of_war's avatar

Do you have any tips for staying organized in graduate school?

Asked by hug_of_war (10715points) August 22nd, 2014

I’m starting my master’s in speech pathology on Monday. I’ve been out of school for 3 years, and in any case I’ll be spending a lot less time in class and more time independently studying, as well as working with real clients 2 hours a week.

I’d appreciate hearing about how graduate school was different than your expectations, anything that helped you stay organized and on track, and how it differed from your undergrad experience.

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4 Answers

muppetish's avatar

The only thing that genuinely surprised me about my MA program was how competitive and petty the students in my department could be. There was definitely some amount of animosity toward the students who were selected for scholarships, awards, or TA positions. There was also a lot of fake-friendships based on those who wanted to use others for their notes. Other than that, it was pretty much what I anticipated: a lot of reading, a lot of studying, a lot of worrying, and a big dose of imposter syndrome.

I used Evernote to keep all of my notes organized. I ditched highlighters in favour of post-it notes/flags to mark important passages. I took a lot of handwritten notes that I later transcribed because going over things twice helped me to remember them better.

After every session with my students, I took down notes in a journal about how class went. I kept a file for each of my students to keep track of their progress or problems.

Now that I’m entering the PhD, I’m learning the benefits of forming bonds with your cohort (the students who enter the program at the same time that you do.) It helps to be able to bounce ideas off of people who are in the same boat as you.

hearkat's avatar

I was ahead of my classmates, because I actually had a personal computer (a Macintosh SE) back in the early ‘90s. I created a clinical note template for undergrad speech therapy, and for my reports in graduate Audiology. I used a color-coded system on my calendar for knowing which classes had tests or projects due on any given date, and I blocked out my schedule hour by hour, study time, free time, class time, exercise time, etc.

I recorded lectures on tape, and I played that back, with the book open and my notes and re-wrote my notes in a way that made sense to me rather than how the professor or the book phrased it. I went through pregnancy and having a newborn during grad school, so most of it is a fog.

I trust that you’re already in touch with your school’s special services department to get help with study aides and such. You may want to ask them if there is someone they can assign you, like an advocate or case worker to be in touch with you and especially for you to reach out to in case of emergency, since you’ve already had a couple incidents there.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Between working full-time, working on a thesis, spending 20–30 hours a week on a “10” hour teaching assistant assignment and taking all my classes there was no organization. I also had professors fighting over my time for their own research projects outside of my thesis and there was a lot of pressure to comply. There was no sanity at all. I completed one year of that and then had enough. If it was not for my full-time job or the TA work I could have finished. That was engineering research though. Speech pathology may be more practical and geared for your success. My advice would be not to take on anything extra if you can help it.

All that said I did find teaching to be rewarding. That’s probably why I neglected a lot of my work to help the undergraduates in my courses whenever they needed it. That’s not something I expected in myself but found it came somewhat naturally.

trailsillustrated's avatar

Auto pilot everything you can.

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