Now I must face the next important task: the transition to graduate school. How are college and graduate school different? What do I need to know now to prepare myself for classes this fall?
Don't panic! It's normal to be confused and nervous, especially if you're moving to another state, time zone, and even country! I have made a list of things every incoming student should know:
1. Understand the Weather
It's very important to understand the climate of your future university. Michigan, for example, has continental humid weather. The summers are milder than other regions, but the winters can be very cold and icy. Temperatures can easily fluctuate throughout the week. Buy clothes for all four seasons or wherever you will attend school.
2. Start Looking for Housing
Once you are officially admitted, you should start searching for housing options NOW. Do you want to live on-campus or off-campus? Do plenty of research so that you are happy with your available choices. Be ahead of the pack so that you can secure a security deposit in the best neighborhood. Visit the housing complexes and properties, if possible. Do not wait until July to find a place. Housing becomes very limited the closer to school orientation.
3. Research Transportation Options
Learn the geography of your future university. This will be your home for 2 to 6 years. Is the school location urban, suburban, or rural? Do most people take the bus/subway or bring their own cars? Make sure to inspect your vehicle for repairs. This is especially true in the Midwest and Northeast where weather can be very harsh on older cars. I would also recommend a ZipCar account in case you do not have a car. Many college campuses in major cities have membership discounts with ZipCar. I used it when I was an undergraduate, and loved the quality and convenient service.
The Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan has an excellent video about this the transition for incoming U-M graduate students. It contains a panel of current graduate students and their perspective about the process.
Transitioning to Graduate School from Rackham Graduate School on Vimeo.
Whatever you take from this post, you should be prepared for what lies ahead. I also recommend these links for more information about the transition: