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Adjusting to Graduate School

Starting—or getting back into—graduate school can be a tremendously rewarding opportunity and can also present new or unexpected challenges. During your first few transition weeks (or even months) you may find yourself adjusting to a new institution, acclimating to a new city or country, or navigating a new academic discipline. It's not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by it all—but you don't have to go through it without support.

For example, you may find that you'll need to process large amounts of new and detailed information, witness the suffering of patients, or navigate multiple new roles in your position as student and care provider or advocate. You may notice that study and time managment strategies that have worked well for you in the past may need a tune-up to support your new academic and professional demands.The great news is that these skills can be learned and adapted to your unique needs—it's never too late to try out a new approach! Check out the tips below or schedule a Wellness Appointment to work through some tailored strategies.

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Find a support network. Seeking out a mentor and other sources of support can help you transition into graduate school, prepare for exams, navigate stress, and provide you with valuable feedback. Sources of support on campus at CUIMC include CSW, your Deans, Student Affairs Staff, Advisors, Preceptors, Mentors, Sexual Violence Response (SVR) & Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center, Disability Services, the Office of the Chaplain, and the Ombuds office. Navigating the support system for each school or program in such a large institution can seem daunting at first, but we can help you with building those connections. 

Ask a lot of questions. Try reaching out to your support network and don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially in your first few months. Everyone was new once—asking for help can save you time and open up opportunities to make new connections.

Aim for some balance. Sometimes there's so much to be done it seems impossible to take time for yourself. But keep in mind that taking a break from your studies to reconnect with life outside of school—even just a short walk around the block or a few minutes set aside to mindfully enjoy a snack—can help with managing stress and may make you more productive in the long run.

Set manageable, short-term goals. At times, your long-term goals may seem overwhelming or eevn unattainable. Break down your larger goals and use smaller, more manageable short-term goals to focus your efforts—acknowledge and celebrate your progress often! 

Develop adaptive coping strategies. We each have different ways of coping with stress, and adaptive coping strategies can contribute to greater emotional and physical health. Some adaptive coping strategies you might want to consider include creating a routine, cultivating gratitude, and setting limits and healthy boundaries.

Practice self compassion. Self-care is an integral part of boosting physical and mental health, improving relationships, caring for others, and optimizing academic performance. But there may be times it feels as if self-care is just one additional responsiblity to pile onto your ever-growing mountain—it's okay to feel that way! Give yourself some space and dial-down the self-criticism if you can—remember that you are doing valuable, tough work. There is no one-size fits all approach, so try out different strategies, techniques, and activities to find out what works best for you. Learning to treat yourself with kindness and compassion is an evolving skill that will help you far beyond just your time studying in graduate school.

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