Then I've got a few things I want to share with you.
First - congratulations! It's no small feat obtaining admission into most graduate programs.
Second - be prepared for an experience that bears little to no resemblance to your undergraduate years.
Third - there are 4 must-do's I want you to start now, this summer, so that come fall you hit the ground running.
Super tedious and possibly overwhelming, but this is the most important item to start with. If you don't have a clear picture of your income versus expenditures you're at risk for being caught in the red. And trust me, you'll be in debt enough already between student loans, car payments, and covering life's unexpected expenses.
There isn't a grad program out there paying its students the big bucks. I got by on $11,000 one year. Yup.
That meant a lot of canned tuna and bulk oats, dates with my now-husband that entailed a night in with Netflix, and walking instead of driving.
Use this summer to speak with a financial rep at your school. Chart your projected expenses, including any outstanding loans or other debt. Develop a budget that incorporates paying off said debt if possible, or at least keeping on top of your bills.
Cancel any credit cards besides the one issued by your bank. This is not the time to have sixteen cards for every major retailer.
Any please - I implore you - do NOT take out any loans you don't have to. They will have to be paid back eventually, usually with interest.
2. If you haven't already, learn Time Management Skills.
Besides money, time will be your most limited resource once you start grad school.
Time management isn't about sacrificing the people and things you love - it's about finding ways to include everything, while staying on top of your coursework.
If you have a significant other, have a frank conversation (or several) about your expectations for each other. Do you want to plan a date night for every Friday, but you want to be able to stay in and work on Saturdays? Maybe you can't be home for dinner but you can do breakfast together. Establish ways to stay connected, even when you become (very) busy.
And if you have a beloved hobby - baseball, painting, volunteering - do not feel like you have to give it up! It's essential that your life does not become all work no play, otherwise you never get that mental break that allows you to recharge. You are more than a student, and allowed to pursue your other interests even while studying. However, it's up to you to figure out how and when you can fit these activities into your schedule.
You need a planner. Whether it's a physical agenda you carry around, a Google Calendar, or an online application like DayViewer, make your life easier by writing down your schedule. And if you're not sure where all the hours in your day are disappearing to, check out "My Daily Hourly Schedule" from Study Guides and Strategies. It can help you identify where you might be wasting time.
Reach out to current students in the program, as well as to other incoming students. If anyone is local, arrange to meet up for coffee. Email, call, text. Ask questions about living arrangements, part-time job opportunities, funding, and the best professors (as well as the ones to avoid!).
Sure, you may not become best buddies with everyone, but chances are you will hit it off with at least one person and come fall have at least one person to commiserate, study, and socialize with.
And don't be shy about reaching out to professors either. They love when people ask about their current projects, so you can shoot them a note introducing yourself and asking what they are working on. If relevant, share your own interests.
They are an invaluable resource if you have questions about resources available for awards, scholarships, and fellowships. Are there deadlines you need to know about ahead of time?
Another reason to contact professors in the summer is to ask for syllabi in advance. Not only will it give you a chance to look over the reading list and obtain some books ahead of time, but if you're feeling really ambitious, you might start working now. I did this several times and let me say, just getting a week or two ahead in my coursework by starting early made for a much gentler start to the semester.
4. Keep Reading, Writing, and Researching.
If you were going to do your first marathon in September, you wouldn't finish training in May, and then not run for the next three months, would you? That might end badly.
Same goes for school. If you're going straight from an undergrad to a grad program, by all means, graduate and give yourself a break. But do not stop reading, writing, and researching altogether.
For one thing, grad programs usually expect incoming students to have research interests you've been actively working on developing.
And, on a related note, the ideal graduate student is self-motivated and inquisitive. You should feel compelled to continue learning, even outside of a structured learning environment. If you don't, you might want to reconsider why you are going to grad school.
I know you can do it. But do yourself a favor and use the summer before classes start to get ahead. By fall, you can feel good about where you are financially, socially, and academically, and be in a good place mentally to focus on school.