How to Keep it Real During the First Semester of Grad School

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Carolina Planning Journal.

Every so often, it’s important to take a step back and consider life’s priorities and challenges. After my first semester towards earning a Masters degree in city and regional planning at UNC, I have this advice for my fellow students as this semester gets even tougher.

1. Don’t complain. Everyone is working hard and stress is contagious. When you’re talking about work and you’re talking about stress you’re not working and you’re amplifying your stress and the stress of those around you. If you’re stressed about your work, do your work. Or do something that relieves stress. Then talk about something more interesting.

2. You want to be here. No one else is making you. In all likelihood you are paying dearly for these two years, make them yours. Get the most out of them and focus on the things you care about. For the things you don’t care about: do what you need to do in order to get to the things that you do care about.

Get dreamy at the Honeysuckle Tea House
Get dreamy at the Honeysuckle Tea House in Chapel Hill, NC

3. You will be challenged academically in ways you never have before. Sometimes, your grades will reflect these challenges, but they certainly do not reflect your self-worth. After all, you are very likely to succeed in the end.

4. Spend time with your friends in the department. They are amazing people and their experiences are closer to yours than probably anyone else you know right now. And also make friends outside of the department. Because the world still exists. And make friends with people who are not in school. Because they will help you maintain perspective on your trials and tribulations; and actually they really don’t want to talk about school and neither do you.

5. Keep doing the things you love. They will keep you human and balanced. They will remind you that life exists not only before and after grad school but during it too.

Eat ice cream with a view at Maple View Farm

6. Keep regular hours. Stop working when you stop being productive. When you stop being productive return to step 5 and do them.

7. Dating apps are empty and will suck your soul.

8. Be healthy. Eat, sleep, and exercise regularly. 

Kick up your feet, even if you’re studying

9. Maintain perspective. The looming deadline is only just that. You’ve made it to many deadlines and you will make it through many more. And again, it’s just a deadline.

10. Prioritize. Act consistent to your ideals. You can’t do everything well and you can’t do everything. Throw yourself into the things you love and dedicate your time to what makes you happy. This may, in part, be grad school. This may also include other things. Consider them all as you choose how to get the most out of your time here.

Featured Image: The gorgeous Coker Arboretum located a few hundred feet from the Department of City and Regional Planning at UNC. Need to de-stress? Go to the arboretum!

About the Author: Rachel Wexler is the co-editor of the Carolina Planning Journal and pursuing her master’s degree in City and Regional Planning. Her bachelor’s is in english from UC Berkeley; prior to beginning her master’s she worked as an editor, cook, and musician. Her academic work focuses on economic development, neighborhood revitalization, and placemaking. Her non-academic work focuses on playing in general and playing cello in particular. She also thinks frequently about Oakland, California and Berlin, Germany, both of which she calls home. These are also the urban spaces that brought her to this charming small town to study planning.