For every college graduate who finds a job immediately after they walk across the stage, there’s another who made it their plan to attend graduate school. If you’re someone who always had grad school as your plan, there’s a chance that you still aren’t quite sure what you’re walking into or what you’ll need.
While it may be difficult to plan to the extent that you’re prepared for whatever life throws your way, especially in post-graduate studies, it can help you get a head start against the things that can go wrong. So if you’re heading off to grad school in the near future, or even if you’re already there, here are a few items that you may want to ensure you have to get a jumpstart on your classes.
1. A good planner
A planner is your lifeline when it comes to everything you’re going to juggle as a grad student. Whether it’s the newest 20-something page paper or the job interview that you need to nail the same week as your final presentation, a planner is the one thing that can help you keep your life organized.
Planners are easy to come by, and there isn’t an exact science to using one, but they are absolutely vital to your organization as a student, employee, and just as a member of society. Whether you prefer to document all your tasks electronically or write everything down, there’s a large variety to choose from.
If you want a planner that allows you to get completely organized and plan your life day-by-day, the Day Designer series is a great option. It gives you meal-planning space, a daily to-do list, a top 3 priority list and a space to list gratitude, but if you’re on a budget and looking for a planner under fifteen dollars, check out Target or Walmart. Those stores usually offer awesome planners for low prices.
You can also try bullet journaling. Bullet journals and undated planners allow you the flexibility to plan as you need and not waste pages on weeks where you may not have anything going on. Bullet journals also give you the opportunity to use your planner for other things like habit tracking, keeping track of your water intake and workout planning.
2. A large, reusable water bottle (and mug, for all your coffee)
Without proper hydration, there’s no way you’re going to make it through those never-ending papers and presentations. Coffee and other caffeine options are only going to last you so long, though you can definitely still drink them. In general, you need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself and keeping an eye on your health–both mental and physical.
Ava Almaraz, a current law student at Elon Law, says she’s made it a goal to drink as much water as she can throughout the day. “I have a 32-ounce metal [water bottle] from Target,” Ava says. “I make it a goal to drink the entire thing within the two hour period of each of my classes.” She adds that both in grad school and life it can be hard to remember to drink water, but if you have a water bottle staring you down, you’re reminded to drink it.
And even if you don’t need to be reminded to drink water, a reusable water bottle helps you be a little more environmentally-friendly. Instead of buying a bottle of water wherever you go, you’re just refilling your own. It saves money, too!
3. Good office supplies (including a good laptop)
Going to grad school means you’re signing up for even more papers and presentations than you did in undergrad. And whether your writing your dissertation, or just putting together one of those presentations, having good office supplies are going to be super helpful.
Pencils, pens and paper are the staples that never go away (even in the professional working world). But with grad school (and research), sticky notes, highlighters, USB drives, paper and plenty of storage space are also going to be vital to your success.
Once you have the basics, you should look into getting a good laptop (if you don’t have one already). You don’t have to spend a fortune on a computer to be able to do work, but if you want specific capabilities, you may have to shop around. A lightweight computer with cloud storage may be more convenient to carry around, but what if you have to work offline? What if you have super sketchy service and aren’t able to do work because of the cloud service? These are things you need to think about before purchasing.
If you’re in need of extra physical storage space, you can find a list of recommended hard drives for various computers on Forbes and T3, a technology review site. Hard drives vary in price depending on the brand, quality and amount of storage space you’re being given, so keep that in mind when shopping around.
Finally, some kind of recording app for your phone. “Ask your professor if it’s okay to record them,” Brandon Foster, Founder of My School Supply Lists, says. “Recording the lectures will help you focus on the lecture and allow you to ask questions instead of having to concentrate on taking notes.”
4. An updated LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a hub for professionals trying to make connections and get their dream job. A solid LinkedIn can put you one step ahead of your classmates, so don’t neglect it. As you complete your graduate education, you’re going to have more items to add to your resume and experience. Most students and working professionals across industries now have a LinkedIn page.
It’s incredibly important that you update your Linkedin as you go, otherwise you may forget important details. “Keep it updated with skills, any research you are participating in or citations you might earn,” Tiiu Lutter, a master’s graduate from Immaculata University and writer for Effortless Insurance, says. “Grad school will be done in a very intense flash, and this way you’ll be ready.”
Connect with classmates, professors and people you make good connections with at campus events you go to. If you can help it, don’t miss a single connection. Make good use of any and all conversations you have and time you spend while at a university. People love helping students, regardless of what level you’re at.
On LinkedIn (and many other platforms), there may be groups and pages specific to your graduate school and program. Those pages and groups can be super beneficial to finding connections and jobs.
5. A business casual wardrobe
Those random guest lecturers and school events are the perfect place to meet a professional contact who can get you the job you’ve always dreamed of having, so it’s best to make sure you’re always showing your best self. But what goes into a business casual wardrobe?
Kelsey Oliver, a recent MBA grad from the Hult International Business School and current Director of Public Affairs and Community Relations at EF Education, suggests investing in a good pair of black jeans, a casual blazer, a good selection of neutral plain tops and a heeled bootie. The colors totally depend on you and your personality, but these items will help you feel confident while rocking the business casual look. Most of these clothing items are also easily transferrable to other events in your life. You even get the added bonus of being able to use these same clothing items once you graduate and have your full-time job. It allows you to save yourself from some of the growing pains of, well, growing up.
Your must-haves for graduate school are really similar to what you may have needed during your undergraduate education, they’re just amped up a bit. If you’re headed to grad school in a few months (or even if you’re already there), hopefully this is helpful in your first year.