A Week in the Life of Fully-Employed Grad Student
Updated: Jan 23, 2018
Soooo, I’ve been getting comments from many people who are beginning their grad programs—FIRST, KUDOS TO YOU!!! Now, I know that some people are experiencing nervousness and apprehension, and that is NORMAL! I feel that way at the beginning of every class
because each class is different. But, I just tell myself, I’ve made it this far, I’ll survive this class!
I thought that it would be useful for people to see what my life looks like to have an idea of how I manage my time, and still live a normal human life! Please read on to see a summary of a normal week for me.
A caveat: weeks vary. The last two weeks of a class tend to be busier than the first two weeks of a class.
Monday: First, these are my relieved days because most assignments are due on Thursday and Sunday in my program, so I spend this day not thinking about grad school. I’m more concerned with getting things together for work, so I wake up a bit earlier than usual to review items that I need to take care of when I get to work that day. Then, I go to work, reacclimatize myself with what I need to do at work, and that is the bulk of that day. Like I said, I take the day off from grad school that day. I’m a full-time employee and my job is my #1 priority! I will log in and preview what the reading and assignment is for the week, but that is usually a strictly work day.
Tuesday: This year, I am out of the classroom, so I do not have the flexibility of schedule that I used to have. As a classroom teacher, I could organize my work so that I had a prep period of two where I could read to prepare for an assignment, but now I have to create a game plan. Like I said, work time is sacred, so I do not think about grad school at work. Period. When I get home, I check my weekly readings and assignments, and then begin to create an execution plan. How much reading is there? How long will it take me to read? What must I read for my Thursday assignment? My Sunday assignment?
Wednesday: I generally read early in the morning (3:30am-4am) or after work—or both. Reading depends on the amount and difficulty of my texts. For example, my philosophical foundations courses had pretty complex readings, so I had to allow for more time than normal to read, while other classes have fairly easy texts so I can wait until later to read. I also completely dissect the assignment that is due Thursday. What is the question asking? How many components are there to the question? How might I begin answering this question? This process helps guide my reading, which shortens my reading time considerably!
Thursday: I may way up EARLY on Thursdays to read as well. Waking up early is how I survive. I always tell myself that I’ll finish my Thursday assignment on Wednesday, but I never do! After work, I come home and lock myself to my computer. I spend that evening completing homework. Period.
Friday: I rejoice and relax, while secretly stalking my post and my classmates’ posts so that I can get an idea of how I might want to respond to them later. If I am moved by a post, I respond immediately, if not, I wait.
Saturday: If I’ve determined that my Sunday assignment can be completed in a day, and trust me, grad students hone this skill quickly—it’s the key to survival, I’ll revisit it Sunday. If I determined that this assignment is a doozy, I have begun gathering information that I will need in order to complete the assignment, reviewing exemplars, and outlining the assignment earlier in the week.
Sunday: I wake up early and get to work! I work best when I do everything at once. Some people can work on things in pieces, but I struggle when I break my train of thought. I tend to be laser focused, stopping for short breaks only.
As I mentioned before, week-to-week can vary based on the point in time of a class. If it is near the end of the class, that’s when big assignments are due, and I have probably started outlining them at the beginning of the week, or gathering the necessary data a week or so beforehand. On the other hand, there are shorter assignments due at the beginning of the course. A 2 page essay can be written fairly quickly, so it doesn’t require as much background work.
Well, I hope that this has inspired or helped some of you out there! Grad school can be overwhelming, this is true. There are some points that are more stressful than others and times when there is more work than others. The key to survival is making a plan and familiarizing yourself with due dates and assignments. If you do that, you’ll find that you’ll live a fairly normal life!
You can always contact me for more tips!