It’s been 3 years since I received my undergraduate degree. That may not sound like a long time, but it feels like decades since I have been in a classroom. I have been so accustomed to working full time that I forgot what it’s like to be a student again.
Compared to working, being an LSE graduate student is NO JOKE! Within the first month, I already had piles of readings and formative coursework. Juggling that with a healthy social life, the student life is exhausting. At the same time, it’s actually fun to be treated like a student again. The biggest difficulty is reprogramming your brain into STUDENT MODE.
Last week, I had to submit a 1,500 word formative essay. 1,500 words isn’t a lot, but when you haven’t written an academic paper in years, it’s quite a daunting task. I spent the first 6 hours of the writing process organizing my notes or staring at my screen, immediately followed by a half hour of panicking and getting angry at myself for not being productive enough.
After feeling like I wasted a whole day, the second day of writing was definitely more efficient. I had a clear idea of what readings I needed and was able to write a full outline in half the time I spent the previous day. In hindsight the writing process was not too bad, but I wish I gave myself more time to mentally prepare and get accustomed to writing papers again.
Reflecting on what I could have done better to prepare, here are some tips on essay writing for anyone else transitioning from working to school:
- Stay Organized – Keep all your notes and readings (even if you don’t read them the week of) all in one folder/binder. Trust me, this helps so much, especially when you have to start formative coursework.
- Give Yourself Enough Time – I would suggest at least a week to start working on an essay, but you know yourself better. I think most people rely on doing papers last minute because they think the accumulated pressure from putting it off will make them think more efficiently and creatively. As much as I would like to agree with that, if you haven’t written an essay in a while, its probably best you give yourself as much time as you can. Sometimes great ideas can even come to you in your downtime.
- Be Patient With Yourself – Being patient is instrumental to your well-being. Taking notes, organizing readings, writing academic essays, preparing presentations—these all take time getting used to.
For all those individuals transitioning into the graduate student life, give yourself some time to ease back into it. Don’t beat yourself up if things are taking longer than they usually would. The same thing applies to making friends. Great things take time, we just have to be patient.
Well put together Eric. As someone who has been struggling to keep pace with the workload and social pressures, just as yourself, this post was quite helpful. Glad to know someone out there is in the same place. Cheers.