Struggling in my First Year of Graduate School

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Hey everyone!

I started Astronomy Ph.D at a very good (as good as any top university) university this fall but I'm struggling a lot and it's only been 3 weeks! The problem isn't the amount of stuff that I have to do (I am taking two undergrad classes, one grad class and am being a TA), it's that my motivation is at an all time low. Earlier I had this huge dread over me of not earning a 4.0 and not making it to grad school and I very much love Physics so that made me push and keep going. But after going through so much, I decided to learn to try and be a bit more relaxed as opposed to being anxious and worried all the time about exams. But I think I overshot in the other direction too much and now am very distracted and spend very little time studying. When I do get to study, I can focus for >4 hours but as soon as I go do something else (for example, Youtube), that consumes me for hours too!! I really want to do as good as I did as an undergraduate, but I think I am just scared because the amount of dedication I had earlier led me to sometimes not even notice people around me and their feelings and I sometimes came off as rude. But I want to make sure I don't do that anymore. I don't know, I just feel very lost and confused.

Any help on this would be highly appreciated.

Plus, I'm sure the whole quarantine is not helping my mental health either, I find myself going through mood swings all the time!
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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First, there was a few recent articles that indicates this is a serious issue and that you are not alone:

https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/...d-student-mental-health-academics-sound-alarm

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02439-6

My dad used to say when raising kids, you must consistent, insistent and persistent. I think that can apply here:

- You must develop some work ethic habits ie doing your studies at the same time for the same length of time 5 days a week without distraction and with frequent snack breaks. (consistent)

- Take a walk at least once a day, sit beside a water fountain. (consistent)

- Refrain from using the time wasters of Youtube, TikTok, video games, random browsing (except for PF). (insistent)

- Wrt youtube, scan the list of videos and select some to watch later. Later in your free time, you can then decide if you really want to watch them or delete them. (insistent)

- Remember you are on a mission, a mission to get a PhD, a mission to contribute something new of value to humanity. (persistent)

- Imagine you're training for some major event, plan it out and execute your plan, don't let anything distract you.(persistent)

Don't underdo it and don't overdo it, stay healthy and focused.
 
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  • #3
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First, you need to take care of your mental health.

Near term, you seem to have identified what you need to do. You just would rather not do it. Not sure we can help.

Long term, you're not going to make it through graduate school on your own. You will need the help of your peers. Do they think you are rude? Do they think you think you're better than them? Do they think you're selfish? Do they think you're ungrateful? Do you ever help them, or is it take, take, take?

If the answer to any of these questions is "yes", you better change their perception of you. Otherwise, when a sink or swim moment comes, their reaction will be "How sad. He didn't make it."
 
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  • #4
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First, you need to take care of your mental health.

Near term, you seem to have identified what you need to do. You just would rather not do it. Not sure we can help.
Yes, I need to learn to maintain a balance, not be too focused so that I ignore everything else but also not be whatever I am right now!
True, just need to get my head down and study!

Long term, you're not going to make it through graduate school on your own. You will need the help of your peers. Do they think you are rude? Do they think you think you're better than them? Do they think you're selfish? Do they think you're ungrateful? Do you ever help them, or is it take, take, take?

If the answer to any of these questions is "yes", you better change their perception of you. Otherwise, when a sink or swim moment comes, their reaction will be "How sad. He didn't make it."
Well, I've just started here (mainly online) so probably they don't have an opinion of me. But I'm doing my best to try and not do that: being very careful with my statements, making sure I'm not being pushy and wait a solid amount before following up if people don't respond etc., signing up to serve on committees. I also ask them for advice on looking for research groups, studying and life and so on and thank them for it (of course) and make sure to double check before doing something (like asking what the best route to an action is-- contacting faculty separately, or add them in a common Slack, things of that nature). Hope to keep this up in the future!
 
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  • #5
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Try not to be too hard on yourself and just do the best that you can. Usually spending time with your cohort doing homework etc. helps you adjust and feel connected to the community when you begin graduate school, but it is much harder to do this with the current restrictions. I think this year will be very challenging for the vast majority of beginning graduate students and people will understand if not as much progress is made in certain areas. The older graduate students are struggling too, except they have already adjusted to graduate school.
Many are concerned with delayed graduations and difficulty finding employment and are also feeling the effects of long term isolation on their mental health.
 
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  • #6
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Try not to be too hard on yourself and just do the best that you can. Usually spending time with your cohort doing homework etc. helps you adjust and feel connected to the community when you begin graduate school, but it is much harder to do this with the current restrictions. I think this year will be very challenging for the vast majority of beginning graduate students and people will understand if not as much progress is made in certain areas. The older graduate students are struggling too, except they have already adjusted to graduate school.
Many are concerned with delayed graduations and difficulty finding employment and are also feeling the effects of long term isolation on their mental health.
Right, that's very true. I think isolation in particular has been pretty bad, I noticed it first hand when I talked to one of the graduate students for like 20 minutes and instantly felt better. But yes, I will try and do my best, thank you! :)
 

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