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Peer Advice: Maximizing Your Grad School Life Experience

Image of book open with light pouring out of the book

So, you finally got accepted into graduate school. Congratulations! This marks the beginning of a new chapter of your life.

Your chapter right now is a blank slate. You may already have a title, but your pages are pristine. You have infinite ways to fill these pages, but you’re limited to the number of sheets you have. How are you going to maximize each page? What stories will you tell in them? What photos will you show in them? What will you put in these spotless pages of your chapter where when years go by, you can show others what you’ve experienced, reminisce about your journey in graduate school, and know for sure that you’ve made every page worth its space?

Well, I have some advice for you. Allow me to be your book editor. Permit me to share my bits of advice, which are my tried and true, and let me develop your thoughts. Let your imagination run as you form your ideas, and let me guide your process as you create your masterpiece.

My first advice is to find ways to serve others. Winston Churchill famously said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” If you give your time, energy, and strength to serve others, you will discover a remarkable sense of purpose. This is step one in maximizing your grad life experience. Our school offers many ways for you to give your service. You can join clubs and participate in clinics where you serve patients, apply for student ambassador and serve prospective students, or find a work-study job on campus to serve your community at MBKU. Regardless of what you do, I advise you to dive head first into the waters and immerse yourself in ways to help. I’ve experienced the joy of serving patients in various community services, and I’ve held the privilege of serving prospective students as a student ambassador. I’ve tasted the rewards of serving others and urge you to do the same. Truly, it will enrich your experience in grad school. Seize the opportunity to serve.

Group photo of SCCO students   Photo of SCCO students in Building A

Following the advice of getting involved and serving others, I advise you to participate in activities. Whether it is school-related activities or activities with your classmates, take on them all! Okay, not all, but enough where you feel content with involvement. If you’re outgoing and love participating in activities, I would tell you to have fun. If you’re the opposite and prefer to be at home, there’s no shame at all. However, I would challenge you to take the risk and partake in what activities there are to offer. You only have a limited time as a graduate student and you are only young once. So squeeze in every chance to join school events and hangouts with others. Prioritize your studies, but recognize that participating in uncommon events will give you memories for a lifetime. Don’t carry the regret of wishing you should have done something or gone somewhere. I’ve been there, and it’s not fun. I learned from my mistakes in college and changed my approach in this manner. I’m glad to share that I’ve attended our school’s winter formal, gone to a beach event with a school club, participated in our school’s spirit week, and even played golf with the men in my class––something that I’ve previously never done. So participate and engage in the many events and activities offered to your plate, and witness the difference it will make in your journey.

Group of SCCO students   Students at the beach

SCCO students during Spirit Spectacle Week   SCCO students golfing

Lastly and most importantly, I advise you to intentionally build relationships. I know people have different personalities, some that cater to you and others that push you away. But that’s the beauty of personalities; each person is unique, and within each personality, there is room to build a relationship, even if it requires a particular approach. So carry the audacity to engage with people. Be the first to start a conversation with students and intentionally get to know them. Wrestle any fear and boldly interact with faculty on campus. Take the extra mile to greet not only the faculty and students but the campus security, the custodians, the technicians, and others. If you struggle with the confidence to engage with others, remind yourself that you’ve already conquered a grad school application. What more is a conversation? If you’re reading this and you have no desire to interact with others, I encourage you to reconsider and imagine where one conversation can take you. You can never know the potential of a relationship until you intentionally seek to build it. I can testify that I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone to build relationships with those around me. From one block at a time, it has led to abundant friendships, joyful memories, and even conversations with those I’m not as close to that I wouldn’t consider mundane. I’ve reaped, and am continuing to reap, the harvest of building relationships, and I can’t encourage you enough to do the same.

SCCO students having a holiday meal together   SCCO students gathered for a holiday celebration

Well, I’ve shared my main pieces of advice with you, and although I have more to share, I’m occupied with filling the pages of my chapter. As you begin to write, to draw, to express your life in the pages of your new chapter, I hope you will consider what I’ve shared. Though this is no formula for a perfect grad life experience, this is what I have lived out, and am continuing to do, to brew meaning out of graduate school. Go be the author of your chapter and fill every page with value, leaving your legacy and inspiring others until one day, I come across it and read it.