Van Morrison told us there would be good ones, and The Sherilles indicated otherwise. The truth is that going from a full-time job with a paycheck, high intensity deadlines and a boss to answer to is different from the student life with a much smaller income, deadlines with plenty riding on them, and team mates holding you to your responsibilities. Perhaps even more rewarding than the working world, it takes some getting used to initially.
Your alarm rings at 6:15am so you can hit snooze a few times before actually having to pull the warm covers off, exposing the cold morning air. You think about what you’ll be working on today, conversations you need to have, details that need double checking, and deadlines upcoming. You drag yourself into the shower and stand under the water until you feel you’ve taken enough time and should probably move toward the front door. Your clothes from the cleaners are crisp and you feel more awake and alive as you button up and head down for a quick breakfast, and peck your significant other on the cheek to say “good morning.” This is the routine you’ve known for a few years, and one you are not likely to continue as precisely once you’re again a full-time student. Instead, you stay warm in bed until certain you’ll be late unless there’s a go-go Gadget transportation miracle, you hop in and out of the shower with the speed of a rabbit, you hope that the pants and shirt you grab are right for the dress rehearsal of the presentation you’ll go over with the communications team, you grab a granola bar and Diet Coke in one hand and your backpack in the other, hoping you’ve thrown everything into it that you need for the day, and you rush out the door.
You stayed up past midnight working on a class project that your teammate really understands well, and you know that if you can pick her brain a little more, you’ll understand it better both for the purposes of your final deliverable as well as the test. You don’t have a boss to answer to—you have a team and you want to pull your own weight, and your own final grade is up to you. Office hours, teaching assistants, and those folks with experience who know how to explain something so well—peer learning leaders—are what will get you where you want to be. And your significant other needs to still feel significant, so you can’t forget to write a card thanking her for all this support through late nights and inconsistently scheduled days by making meals, dropping off dry cleaning, and finding the best deal online for the international editions of textbooks. It’s up to you, and you answer to yourself in the end.
Things that I’ve learned really help me are keeping the routine of waking up at the same time every day (even on the weekend!), making a priority list complete with time guesstimates on how long each item takes, and remembering and nurturing your support group are all survival skills to hone as early as possible. It’s certainly about learning and maximizing all you can, and one way to do that is to make sure that everything outside of the learning environment is also in good shape.
I highly recommend setting a standing date night with your significant other that isn’t susceptible to being replaced for group meeting availability. I would make a big effort to keep in touch with friends you regularly were in touch with before you started back at school. Some sort of physical activity— the gym, a jog a few times a week, taking your dog to the park— keep you sane and in check. And your professors are people, too— get to know them well.
This is my last semester and some of these things I learned the hard way. Now I know why I make these specific recommendations and hope they work for you, too.