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6 Things You Need To Do The Summer Before Grad School

It might seem like one of the biggest transitions you’ve had to make in your early adult life is going from high school to college, but it’s the transition from undergrad to graduate school that’s the toughest. Whether you took a couple years in between to start working or you only have a summer separating the two, grad school can be a daunting, all-time-consuming feat.

As you anticipate the start of your first fall semester as a grad student, take advantage of the time you have now during the summer to make the transition as seamless as possible. Here are a few tips to get you started and improve both your productivity and wellbeing.

1. Travel while you still can

Summer is the ideal time for anyone to take some time off for a vacation, but it’s especially worthwhile for someone about to enter grad school, which is very demanding of a person’s time.

Treat this period as if it’s a semester abroad—whether you are going overseas or staying in the U.S. Take time for yourself to have fun, try new things in a different city or country and escape for a little while.

Sydney Post, a recent graduate of Emerson College, went straight from undergrad to grad school, so she used her summer in between to travel to the UK and try new hobbies. “I was lucky enough, financially speaking, that my parents told me that I didn’t need to get a job that summer, so that helped a lot with having the time to have some fun. But I’d definitely recommend that people try and relax as much as possible, even if they are working, because grad school sucks up your free time in ways that college definitely did not!” 

2. Make sure your finances are in check

Just like undergrad, graduate school can be an equally daunting financial undertaking, if not more so. Spend your free time this summer doing everything you can to set yourself up for financial stability.

Set up your financial aid so that you have a plan for paying off your grad school tuition. Put together a monthly budget plan if you don’t have one already, so that money staples like rent and food don’t become an issue for you. Think about ways you can make money, whether that’s during the summer or working as a research assistant for your grad school program.

Related: How To Go To Grad School For Free

3. Get organized for school

You might not be taking your annual trip to Staples with your parents like you did when you were young, but it’s still important that you start off the year on a good foot and stress-free.

Pick a workspace that allows you to focus on your assignments, whether that’s at a desk in your room, your favorite coffee shop or the library. Make your physical space clutter-free and stock up on any school supply essentials, including books, to avoid that hassle at the beginning of the year. Also, make sure that your digital devices, such as your laptop and cell phone, are organized so that you don’t have a hundred apps or files scattered across your screen.

Krysta Loftis, a Central Michigan University graduate who starts grad school in the fall, understands the importance of getting organized early. She says, “I know grad school is going to be tough, so I am preparing a space that is going to help me succeed. I think it’s really important to go in strong, so you don’t fall behind or become overwhelmed.”

Related: What to do If You Change Your Mind About Grad School

4. Enjoy your freedom and relax

Who says that you necessarily have to do anything this summer? While vacations are nice, nothing beats an extended staycation with your family and friends close by.

Take the time to do the things that you truly enjoy, but won’t have much time for once school starts. Have you always wanted to take a class related to a hobby, like cooking or surfing? Ever wanted to binge five Netflix shows in a month? What about some light summer reading? Allowing time for yourself will put you in the headspace to get ready for the commitment that is grad school.

Lauryn Higgins, a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, enjoyed her freedom during her last summer before school. “Truly take advantage of the free time you have, because as wonderful as continuing your education is, it’s a massive time commitment. I made a point to make more plans with friends, [and] visit my family who lived three hours away, because I knew I wouldn’t be seeing them as much and overall just focused on myself by treating myself.”

5. Get a head start on your career

Whether you worked a year or two prior to grad school or are starting immediately after undergrad, the summer prior is the perfect time to take charge of your career goals and start to boost your resume.

A summer internship will allow you to gain experience in your field, develop mentors in your senior coworkers and start to narrow down the aspects of your field that really make you tick. Unless it’s a requirement for your master’s degree, it’s much harder to find time to intern during the year while juggling your course load. You’ll likely have a greater chance of finding an appealing internship simply due to the fact that you’ve already graduated from college.

Additionally, there are endless opportunities during the summer to network with other professionals in your industry. Look up networking events hosted by your dream companies or Q&A’s and general events in your field. You can go even more broad and find 20-somethings networking clubs for your city, where you’ll meet people in several industries! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and broaden your circles early.

6. Secure your housing

You know where you’ll be attending school, but where are you going to live?

Use this time to nail down an apartment, whether there are options for student housing for grad students, or you need to find a place elsewhere in your new city. You can join Facebook groups for your degree program, where people are likely posting leads about finding roommates.

If you are living fairly remote from campus, make sure that you have the tools to make that work. Will you need a car or bike? Are you close enough to public transportation? Can you schedule your day so that you don’t have to make frequent trips back and forth from campus and waste time? These are all questions to consider as you decide where to live.

Before entering this new chapter in your life, there are different things you can do to prepare yourself that are both strategic and relaxing. Like with everything in life, it’s important to have balance. By setting yourself up for success and de-stressing at the same time, you will be better equipped to handle the highs and lows that come with grad school.

Mara is a Boston native who ventured west for college, graduating from the University of Southern California in 2014 with a Bachelor's degree in Communication. She is passionate about marketing, journalism and digital media. Some of her favorite things include SoulCycle, trying new restaurants, country music and debating about the Oxford comma. To learn more about Mara, follow her on Twitter @marahyman.