Switching Mindsets: From Surviving to Thriving in Grad School


Picture of Solena smiling and looking at the camera. She is a person with long wavy black hair with some purple and and blonde streaks. She is wearing a black wide brimed hat and a black t-shirt with the words got brain written on it.

My name is Solena, and I am a recent PhD graduate in Cognitive Neuroscience at UC Irvine here to share with you my tips and tricks for surviving graduate school.


The transition to graduate school from undergraduate can be challenging, but once you realize that graduate school is what you make of it, you will see doors open for you.


Here are my top 3 tips for surviving graduate school:


1. Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night

This may seem like a trivial task, but I think it’s the most important - and this is coming from a Neuroscientist. If you’re going through grad school sleep-deprived, it is going to be very difficult to remember important topics and facts to discuss in research settings.


2. Practice time management

In grad school, you’re going to have to learn you have to be proficient in some things, such as grading or writing, and learn to drop being a perfectionist. This was the hardest for me. However, you’ll shortly learn that this just is not possible. Which leads me to my 3rd tip to surviving graduate school.


3. Be kind to yourself and give yourself the self-care that you need

We are still in the middle of a pandemic, within the midst of a tumultuous year. In order to put in the hard work that graduate school requires, you need to be taking care of yourself. Don’t forget that other people can help, but ultimately it is up to you to take care of yourself and your needs. It never hurts to ask what your cohort-mates, or what more senior grad students do for self-care - they really know what’s up.


What can your self-care include?

My personal self-care includes a range of different things: working out safely, calling up a friend or hosting a Zoom party, drawing up a bubble bath, or making some sleepy time tea. Maybe it’s treating yourself to your favorite take out and comfort food, but most importantly, self-care is giving yourself the kindness that you need. If you can be kind to yourself, and treat those around you with kindness, your motivation and network will grow.


As for the one thing you should do as a grad student: enjoy the experience. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to grow and learn. Once you find your community, you can truly thrive in grad school.

We thank Solena for submitting her story! Find her on Instagram (@SolenaDavine).

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