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Graduate school is not in everyone’s future. But for those of you who are considering diving into getting an advanced degree, it would serve you well to really consider what that would consist of. It can be a wonderful opportunity to expand your horizons academically and for your future career. 

However, graduate school is a whole different ball game from undergrad. Expectations, class structures, and social norms all differ drastically. One of the biggest issues that new graduate students run into is that they don’t foresee the many changes that are expected to occur in them academically and professionally between undergrad and grad school.

Preparation is key during that transitional time, and here are some key things that you can keep in mind if you are thinking about entering graduate school sometime in the near (or even distant) future. 

 

Hand-holding vs. Mentoring

In graduate school, there is an understanding that professors are closer to being colleagues of sorts to their students rather than authoritative figures. This change can feel unnatural to some, but there are many positives you can take from this. You can feel more comfortable to speak your mind in discussions and during office hours.

With this notion also comes the understanding that you, as the student, are fully in charge of your own research and academic trajectory. Gone are the days of professors hand-holding you through lectures and assignments. There is now the expectation that you are in charge of your academic life, and that professors are there to act as guides and mentors throughout your journey. 

 

Time Dedicated to Each Class

In undergrad, it’s common to take between four and six courses at one time. With the D-Plan system, the normal course enrollment is three courses per each ten-week term. That is a lot of broad material packed into a very small time frame.

Dr. Melissa Brown, a current postdoc at Pennsylvania State University, states that “each graduate class will require a lot of reading, more than you ever thought possible in college – and more than might actually be possible in a week. You’ll have to learn to prioritize the most important readings and actively skim the rest […] You’ll be expected to be prepared for seminars and to speak up and participate in the intellectual conversation [...] Higher quality is expected from your papers, presentations, and group projects”. 

Don’t let this knowledge intimidate you! In fact, think of it as an opportunity to dedicate more time to what you're truly passionate about research-wise. That is one of the main benefits of a graduate program after all! 

 

Breadth of Knowledge vs. Depth of Knowledge

In exchange for the past academic trajectory of learning a lot about a wide variety of topics, you will now be expected to take more of a deep dive into the material that you are covering. Your classes and course work are there to prepare you to compose your own individual research and thesis/dissertation.

"Be sure to “develop a clear idea of what you want to study before you start graduate school because you won’t have the same freedom to explore different disciplines as you did in college” (Brown). Flexibility decreases significantly when you enter most graduate programs. But in its place, you have more time to focus your attention on one valuable area of study. 

 

Departmental Ties vs. College/University Ties

In undergrad, students are more likely to feel a kinship for their university or college as a whole. They may feel a lot of school-centered pride (or possibly resentment depending on multiple factors). During graduate school, things change a bit.

In most graduate schools (Dartmouth graduate schools included), students are accepted to individual departments, not the school itself. Most classes and job opportunities take place in the same one or two buildings, and most interactions among students and faculty are within the department. 

Ways to get more involved with the university as a whole would be to sign up for activities that involve undergraduate interaction (ie. resident fellow programs, tutoring, mentorship programs) and/or signing up for graduate student organizations to keep you engaged with grad students from multiple departments.

Of course, this is optional, as most graduate students are more than content with keeping their social circle confined to their department! It can be easier for some as you are all working towards more similar goals with similar research endeavors. 

 

Accountability is Key

Perhaps one of the most important things to keep in mind during your transition into graduate school is the importance of taking accountability for your education. Graduate school is expensive. And whether you need to pay for your classes through being a teaching assistant, a resident fellow, and/or federal loans, it is important to keep in mind that grad school is what you make of it.

You can only get out of it what you put in. The goal is no longer to just pass and get your degree; you should be actively learning and engaging as much as possible in order to make the process worthwhile. 

Figure out an effective study system, how often you need to take breaks, and what a realistic deadline looks like to you so that you do not get overwhelmed.

Be sure that you’re ready to take on one of the most important components of graduate study, that being to “take the initiative to seek out materials to make new experimental and conceptual connections that take your research in new directions" (Stanford Biosciences).

Ease the adjustment period by being prepared. That way your transition into higher education will be smoother and you’ll be equipped with the readiness to become a true scholar. 

References

It’s normal to be feeling anxious and stressed during this time. In order for us to keep our loved ones safe, it’s vital that we practice social distancing and that we stay in our homes as much as possible. Of course, in doing so, we are resisting our innate human need to be social and build/maintain relationships with others to our fullest capacity. 

The CDC notes that stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

There are a few things that you can do during this time to increase your happiness and decrease your feelings of isolation and stress. See some of these ways below. 

 

Having a healthy life-work balance

Now that a majority of us are working from home (both school wise and job/internship wise), it can be easy to begin to conflate work life and home life. Now you can wake up later, do your work from your bed, and work later to finish up work that you wouldn’t normally get to. While these conflations may seem tempting, it is important to distinguish a separation between working and relaxation. 

Some ways to do this could be setting an alarm to wake up earlier than your first class of the day, having a designated work station (if possible), and having a certain amount of hours or black of time dedicated to working each day. Take breaks the same ways and in the same duration that you would if you had in-person classes. 

 

Stay in Touch

Use this time of physical isolation to verbally and emotionally connect with people that you care about. If you are in quarantine with your family, take the time out to eat a meal with them, watch a movie, and/or play a fun game. Schedule facetime sessions or phone calls with some of your close friends. Check-in on some of those more long-distance friends that you’ve lost contact with. Stay in touch with people however you can avoid feeling isolated. 

 

Ask for Help

Feelings of stress and anxiety are very natural during this time period. Don’t feel afraid to tap into resources that are readily available to you to help you cope! Now more than ever, it’s important to pay attention to our moods and our coping mechanisms: 

  • Wellness Check-Ins 
    • The Student Wellness Center is offering virtual wellness check-ins via Zoom to help students navigate the transition to online learning, refer them to additional resources if needed, and "just be there to support students," Barthelmes says. To request a check-in, email student.wellness.center@dartmouth.edu.
  • Counseling
    • Students
      • Dartmouth College Health Service offers counseling, including 24-hour crisis counseling for students or those who are concerned about a student. Currently, counseling is being provided by phone, and will soon also be available via Zoom. The health service can also help students who live outside of the state connect with mental health professionals nearer to them, when necessary.
      • To access these services, email counseling@dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-9442 weekdays, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. After hours, call safety and security at 603-646-4000.

    • Staff and Faculty 
      • Can call the Faculty/Employee Assistance Program (FEAP) at 844-216-8308. The services are also available for family members. 
      • Can also contact FEAP counselor Sharon Morisi directly at sharon.a.morisi@dartmouth.edu. Morisi is available via Zoom and telephone.
  • Pastoral Counseling
    • Daveen Litwin, the College chaplain, and the United Campus Ministry, representing Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, and many other faith traditions offer confidential virtual counseling to students, faculty, and staff. 
    • To make an appointment, email college.chaplain@dartmouth.edu.

 

Physical Fitness

Physical Fitness is of the utmost importance during stressful times.  Exercise releases endorphins that aid in stress relief while also aiding in overall mind and body health. In fact, “Researchers believe that during vigorous aerobic exercise, the ‘anxiety-sensitive’ person is forced to tolerate many of the same symptoms (that is, rapid heart rate, sweating, and rapid breathing) that frighten him or her during periods of anxiety. Over time, the ‘anxiety-sensitive’ individual who continues to exercise vigorously can learn that these symptoms of arousal are typically not dangerous, and the fear that these symptoms trigger gradually decreases in intensity” (Salmon & Charney).

Take advantage of virtual workouts and the great outdoors while gyms are closed. A few suggestions:

  • Go for a brisk walk or run.
  • Hop on your bicycle for a tour of your neighborhood.
  • Try a new activity like yoga, Tai Chi or Zumba.
  • Create an obstacle course at your home. Include activities like jumping jacks, pushups and squats. Then challenge your loved ones to virtual competitions.
  • Check out other free virtual workshops on youtube. My favorite is Blogilates.

 

Eat Well

It's important to minimize our excursions to the grocery store as much as possible to limit the spread of COVID-19. Consider online grocery shopping or home delivery options. Of course, fruits, vegetables, and other perishable foods are very important for overall nutritional health.

So if and when you need to go to the grocery store, maintain a safe distance between yourself and others (at least 6 feet), wipe down surfaces with disinfectant wipes, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands before and after shopping. If possible, also wear a mask or some sort of face-covering to protect other people in case you are asymptomatic. 

With grocery stores limiting the purchase of specific items and advising people shop less often, eating well can be difficult. Make it more manageable with these strategies:

  • Purchase shelf-stable and frozen foods. Staples such as frozen and canned produce, beans, and lentils will keep longer and are easy to incorporate into recipes.
  • Take inventory of the items in your kitchen and get creative with cooking. Choose a recipe site where you can plug in ingredients you have on hand and see what pops up. (You can also browse our collection of tasty, healthy recipes.)
  • Pay attention to portion sizes. When we're cooped up inside, it's easy to overindulge and/or stress eat. Try to maintain your regular eating habits as much as possible and minimize your reliance on takeout and drive-thru options. In addition, try to productively channel stress and boredom elsewhere, whether by venting to a good friend, writing down your feelings or diving into a good book.

 

Stress Well

Speaking of stress, reduced access to food and daily essentials is stressful. With gyms closed, sporting activities shut down, and bars and restaurants off-limits, we're also being cut off from our friends and loved ones. But you have more control over your stressors than you think. A few ideas:

  • Limit the news. Watching the news all day can increase anxiety levels. Tune in to the morning or evening news and turn to reliable sources of information only once or twice a day.
  • Take advantage of stress management techniques. Think meditation, deep breathing and journaling
  • Stay in touch with friends and family. Touch base through phone calls, online games, video chats and virtual happy hours. 

 

Now that we’ve covered the basics, read on for some additional wellness resources from our Ivy-plus peer institutions: 

Duke

Harvard

 

 

References: 

Here are some remote resources that Dartmouth undergraduate students can utilize in order to make themselves feel safe, supported, and engaged throughout this remote Spring term.

 

Resource #1: Student Organizations & Community Engagement

Just because classes are being held virtually, for the time being, does not mean that student enrichment efforts will be lessening at Dartmouth. On the contrary, resource groups like the Division of Student Affairs and the Council on Student Organizations are still dedicated to supporting your extracurricular and social activities this spring term. They both hope that “groups will continue to foster their strong communities and bring students together during this time of uncertainty”. They readily welcome students’ ideas and feedback about how they can best support you during this remote spring term.

For those looking for ways to keep manage your club or organization remotely or for those looking for ways to stay connected with the Dartmouth Community in general during this time of isolation, the Collis Center for Student Involvement has provided resources that are sure to help you on your journey. Click here to learn more. 

 

Resource #2: Title IX

Safety is, as always, of the utmost priority to Dartmouth. With this in mind, the Title IX Office continues to be available to all students during this remote period.  Reports can still be made directly to the office via email or phone, and meetings can be held on Zoom.  Dartmouth College remains committed to a safe and welcoming environment, even when that environment is virtual.  Informal and formal remedies, including but not limited to no-contact orders, academic adjustments, and formal investigations are still available in a prompt and fair manner.

 

Resource #3: Spiritual & Emotional Support

The Tucker Center will be conducting Virtual & Confidential Pastoral Support. Feel free to speak to any of the ordained clergies in the Center about issues regarding faith, life issues, loss of a loved one, sexual assault or gender-based harassment, etc. All secular and religious undergraduates should feel free to seek out this spiritual care if they so desire. (This support should not be confused with virtual therapeutic counseling which is currently being offered through the Counseling Center at Dartmouth. Click here for some Spiritual Care Resource that you can utilize during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Resource #4: Financial Assistance

The College recognizes that times are tough and money is tighter than ever for college students. Dartmouth has established an emergency fund to help students experiencing financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund is an opportunity for the Dartmouth community to assist students facing difficult circumstances during this ongoing health crisis. Especially if you’ve noticed that your financial aid package was cut from subsequent terms, this fund is for you. Apply for access to that fund here

In addition, the Finance Center staff are working remotely & are available to answer any questions you may have during their office hours of Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday: 10:00 am - 1:00 pm. Appointments for Campus Billing & DartCard Services can be arranged as necessary by emailing Campus.Billing@Dartmouth.edu.

 

Resource #5: ITC & General Computer Assistance

In terms of ITC and computer help, there are still campus resources that are readily available for you to use. The ITC Service Desk staff will be providing remote support for services such as technology troubleshooting and new computer setups. Please submit a support request for help with your technology. New requests will be reviewed Monday - Friday, 7:00am - 7:00pm and weekends, 8:00am - 5:00pm. Service Desk staff will schedule time with you for a phone call or remote desktop session during business hours as needed. Check the status of your requests here.

In addition, the Computer Store is open on limited business days. Check their website for more information. Please bring any equipment needing repair into the repair shop during the hours listed above. They can deliver to a Dartmouth campus address or ship to FedEx address (No PO Boxes). Orders can also be placed online or over the phone by calling 603-646-3249. 

Please be mindful of your distance to others while in-store! They are adhering to CDC procedures by switching out gloves after each customer, consistently disinfecting equipment, and by no longer asking for signatures. Students in need of hardware repair should submit an Off-Campus Hardware Repair Request or work with the device manufacturer.

If you are a student without an Internet connection, Email the ITC team at Broadband.Evaluation@dartmouth.edu

Now that we’re all gearing up to take on this new endeavor of remote learning, it’s time to buckle down and get to work. The Academic Skills Center at Dartmouth thought that it would be helpful to you all to receive some tips regarding remote learning from us and our fellow peer institutions. During this time, remember that you are not alone and that you have a whole team behind you and rooting for your success. 

Many colleges are conducting remote learning, so here are some good tips, tools, and strategies from our peer institutions regarding how you can best tackle your spring term: 

Northwestern University, Learning During COVID-19 

Harvard University, Learning Remotely 

Princeton University, Engaging and Learning Online

Yale University, Academic Continuity - Guiding Principles for Students 

Now, what are we at Dartmouth doing? The Academic Skills Center and the Tutor Clearinghouse strive to provide peer academic support to students taking online courses during Spring Term 2020.  Our priority will be on group tutoring offered through our Academic Study Groups and Resident Experts programs. 

Students can register for a study group and attend weekly virtual meetings for select courses. Resident Experts will provide remote weekly drop-in sessions for introductory/foundational courses in chemistry, economics, mathematics, and physics. Please consider enrolling in a study group or using a Resident Expert drop-in session before requesting an individual tutor.  

We will also be conducting Remote Reading Skills meetings for anyone that is interested in learning about how to enhance their study strategies and reading comprehension while taking online classes. Feel free to set up an individual Zoom meeting with Carl Thum, Ph.D., who will share strategies and techniques that can help you successfully complete your reading assignments.

We will also still be having our personal academic coaching sessions through Zoom lead by Carl Thum, PH.D.  and Karen AfreVisit our website for remote learning tips and information about our remote spring term services. And check out more posts on the Academic Skills Center’s blog for tips on how to survive this remote spring term. 

In addition, while you cannot physically visit the library during this time, the Baker-Berry library staff are still very much committed to seeing you succeed this spring term. Feel free to contact a librarian in your subject/department directly and visit their page on “Remote Teaching & Learning with Library Resources to learn more.  

Please do not hesitate to contact the Academic Skills Center & the Tutor Clearinghouse if you have any questions regarding 20S, remote academic programming, and/or tutoring services!

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