RU GSE Student Blog

A Student Perspective


Whether we like it or not, change is a very constant part of life. Both personally and professionally, we must transition through all types of positive and negative change. Since no two people experience transitions and respond to change in the same way, it’s important to reflect on the various transitions in your life in order to determine the best ways to cope.

Here are some common transitions for grad students:

1. Welcome to Grad School

For many, starting graduate school can be a time of significant change. Depending on whether or not you took time off to work after college, you may be re-experiencing your first year transition. Adjusting to papers, readings, quizzes and exams can be quite difficult, particularly if you’re very out-of-practice. Expectations for the quality of work coming from a grad student can further complicate this transition for recent undergrads.

2. You’re a professional, too!

Many grad programs involve internships or assistantships that require us to transition back and forth from being a student and a professional.  Often times, these two competing roles collide. School demands a lot of us as students, while our professional roles demand just as much. Navigating this delicate balance can be extremely difficult. For those entering grad school after graduating college may find it particularly challenging to transition into a professional role. Workplace transitions resulting from organizational changes, new responsibilities, and new supervisors can create additional challenges for grad students.

3. Life is just hard… 

Beyond academic and professional transitions, grad students are also not immune to the personal transitions that inevitably arise.  Changes in relationships with friends and significant others, deaths in the family, and physical problems are just some examples of personal transitions that people, including grad students, can experience.

 So, how can we deal with obstacles of change?


1. Expect Change: Don’t let change sneak up on you. It’s not enough to just respond to change. The more we can expect and prepare for change, the better able we’ll be to face it head on. When we learn to expect that personal and professional aspects of our life will continuously change, we’ll feel less of an impact by the transition.

2. Acknowledge the Change: Avoiding change through denial is never a healthy approach.  By directly facing a particular change, you can better understand your situation and move forward.

3. Communicate! Talk about the change with those around you. Coping with change can be a smoother process is you’re united with those who are experiencing a similar transition.

4. Use your resources: During times of transition, it’s important to know what resources can help you through the adjustment. Such resources can be finances, skills, time or even other people.

5. Manage stress: With change comes anxiety and stress. In order to successfully navigate life’s transitions, you must also learn how to manage the stress that inevitably comes along with change.

6. Keep moving forward: In the face of change, the worst thing you can do is stop moving. Regardless of the transition, it’s important to continue tending to both the personal and professional dimensions of your life.

7. Be flexible: Change is bumpy, so it’s vital to maintain as much flexibility as possible when adjusting.

8. Stay positive: Nothing’s more powerful than a positive attitude. Though it can sometimes be hard to stay positive in the face of disruptive change, a positive attitude is necessary to successfully navigating any transition. Staying positive can help you deal with the uncertainties associated with change.

Although transitions can be challenging, we must hold onto the hope that change only helps us grow stronger and better able to respond to challenges in the future.

Embrace change, so it doesn’t engulf you…


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