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Great Expectations: How to lay a foundation for success in graduate school

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After I finished the last final of my college career, I went to have lunch with the fantastic Dr. Maribeth Ehasz. I had a tradition of bringing Dr. Ehasz, the Vice President of Student Development and Enrollment Services at the University of Central Florida, challah bread (traditional Jewish bread eaten on the Sabbath and Holidays) every Friday afternoon. However, since finals were during Passover, we had matzah ( the bread substitute Jews traditionally eat for the eight days of Passover) and cream cheese for lunch. Dr. Ehasz and I proceeded to talk about the foundations of success. I told her that I am cautiously excited to begin my new chapter of life as I took the skills I learned in undergrad and apply them to other things. Dr. Ehasz told me the importance of setting a good foundation in life as a pre-requisite for success. As I enter my second semester of graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I want to share with you my foundation.

(Dr. Ehasz and me at UCF's Homecoming Spirit Splash,2019)

Tip 1: Get to know yourself better

a. Before embarking on your graduate school odyssey, it essential to objectively assess yourself. You should understand your strengths and weakness to further yourself as a student and a person. The thing you can do is rephrase strengths and weaknesses as pros and growth areas. This vocabulary change will allow you to see an area of weakness as opportunities for growth. There are many online free tests to see your Meyer Briggs, Enneagram, and more. These tests can help you learn your innate pro and growth areas. Furthermore, it can help you become a better communicator as you know how others rationalize decisions.

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Tip 2: Be Proactive

a. To maintain a semblance of a life outside of school, it is important to strategize your week and be proactive on assignments and readings. For me, I make a to-do-list every night and print it out so I can see what you need the next day. A person can then organize this list via class subject or due date. At the beginning of the week, try to do most of your assigned readings for the week. By finishing working ahead, you will make you feel more prepared for class lectures and allow you to have some free time on the weekends.

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Tip 3: Get Blue Lenses Glasses

a. Due to COVID-19, my graduate program is currently on Zoom. Between Zoom class times, projects, and homework assignments, I always stare at my computer screen. Staring at a computer all day can lead to Digital eye strain or Computer Vision Syndrome (Sheppard & Wolffsohn, 2018). Some of the DES symptoms include headaches, dry eyes, and blurred vision (Sheppard & Wolffsohn, 2018). In addition, Computer vision syndrome can cause circadian rhythm issues as it can cause insomnia (McMillan, 2018). Blue Lenses Glasses relieve eye pain and discomfort, reduce the risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration, and helps you sleep better (For Eyes Blog, 2019)

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Tip 4: Make friends with your cohort and students in the program

My cohort consists of some of the most eloquent, intelligent, and passionate people I know. Everyone brings a new perspective on various issues ranging from environmentalism to human trafficking. The cohort understands the pressures and worries you are feeling better than anyone else. It is imperative to make sure that people in your cohort are okay. They know your perspective better than anyone else.

For more information about my graduate school cohort, go to

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I hope these tips help you as you prepare for graduate school. Graduate School is a new chapter in your life. Anything new can be scary, but I hope this can help you prepare for this time.


Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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