The Spirited School Counselor

8 Lessons Learned From My First Year of Graduate School

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8 Lessons Learned from my First Year of Grad School

Now that I have finished my first year of grad school and have one semester of my second year under my belt, I thought it may be helpful to blog about lessons I have learned over the past year.

1. Take advantage of your mentor (or the students who are further in the program)

My grad program pairs all the first year students with second year school counseling students. I was blessed with an AWESOME mentor. Matt helped me get acclimated to being back in school after working for several years. He answered dozens of my questions (and I ask a lot of questions) and supported me when I felt overwhelmed… which leads me to #2

2. Stay Organized

The beginning of the semester can be an overwhelming time – new school, new faces, new surroundings, new classes. After the first week of classes I looked through each syllabus and wondered how in the world I would get everything done. Matt kindly reminded me to stay organized and everything would get done.. He was absolutely right… and sometimes I even finished assignments before they were due. How? By staying organized.

3. Let others support you

Graduate school requires a lot of work and dedication. I am single and live solo as well. Letting others support me was an important lesson to learn. Sometimes my graduate program was more emotionally draining then I could have ever anticipated. Those days (and sometimes weeks) I really needed support from my classmates, friends, and family. Allowing them to do so was so helpful. It re-energized me and helped me put things back into perspective when I was freaking out (yes, freak outs will happen – I think it’s a required part of grad school).

4. Support your classmates 

Just like you may need support throughout school, your classmates will too. Sometimes reaching out with a simple “how are you doing?” and really mean it can be so helpful. At the beginning of my program I wasn’t sure if I would build lasting friendships with my cohort but I have. This is due to the support we have given each other. I am convinced that I will graduate with fantastic school counseling colleagues and even more importantly great friends in May.

5. Ask Questions – LOTS of Questions

Graduate school is filled with tons of new information and new experiences. Ask as many questions as you can. Grad school is a great opportunity to learn as much as possible. Take advantage of all of the resources, professors, and classmates that surround you.

6. Use the Resources Available

Colleges are full of amazing resources. Use Them! The writing center was extremely helpful in giving me a refresher on APA formatting and writing a lit review. I also recently visited the career center on campus. The student adviser there helped me create a plan for having a job application resume ready for the spring. There are many resources on campus – check them out and use them.

7. Attend Professional Development Workshops

This is one thing I really wish I had done more of during my first year of graduate school. Your student discount will only last for so long. My first year I had much more flexibility in my schedule since I wasn’t in internship yet; however, I was too nervous to attend a training my first semester. I worried that I didn’t know enough. Guess what? The point is to learn! Go to conferences and attend workshops.

8. Build a Professional Network

Get to know your professors and connect with other school counselors. This summer I have spent some time trying to discover ways to build a professional network. Twitter is a great way to connect with school counselors all over the world (@ElizabethVASC is my name). Pinterest is full of resources for school counselors. I have also found great blogs to follow. When I attend the Virginia Counselors Association conference in November I plan on going to the receptions to get to know other school counselors – to build my professional network.

What did you learn your first year of grad school?

Any tips for me as I head into my 2nd year?

Thanks for stopping by,



Author: thespiritedschoolcounselor

Hey there! I started blogging about my experiences through graduate school and now have continued as a working school counselor. I am currently working in an elementary school but try hard to keep up-to-date on all things school counselor, as well as topics in education. I hope to share ideas, document what I am doing, network, be inspired, inspire, and collaborate with others through this blog. My professional portfolio can be found here: Thanks for stopping by!

One thought on “8 Lessons Learned From My First Year of Graduate School

  1. Pingback: Notes on Being a Professor |

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