10 Things I Wish They’d Told Me Before Starting Graduate School

It. Is. Finished.

As of May 7th 2017,  I have officially obtained my Masters in Divinity degree from Andrews University – my alma mater. The past few years have been some of the most humbling, exciting, and paradigm-shifting years filled with lots of learning, love, and life.

They say hindsight is 20/20 for a reason. Here are 10 things I wish someone would have shared with me when I started 3 years ago:

  1. Invest in your community
    Education without a nurturing, supportive, community can render learning a drudgery. I’m thankful for my friends and colleagues with whom I could process insights as well as enjoy much needed down-time.

  2. Reflect on your learning
    Taking notes in class is one thing, but taking notes of your notes is another. I may have forgotten most of the notes I took, but I’m still able to recollect a considerable amount of content I’d processed through reflection. I wish I’d spent more time to reflect via journaling, recording, and blogging earlier on in my grad school experience.

  3. Look for mentors
    I eventually felt the need to seek out mentors beyond those who were assigned to me in the form of teachers and required texts. Mentorship, I later realized, is a veritable hack and shortcut to excellence, and the more mentors I surrounded myself with, the more I was able to lead, learn, and love better. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that you truly become the company you keep. Seek out meaningful relationships which are mutually valuable.
  4. Find ways to implement learning
    This is a step above reflection. Learning is further concretized when one finds creative ways to actualize it. In other words, the best learning has happened when I intentionally contextualized and personalized ideas for personal or public benefit in the form of sermons, ministry models, write-ups, or even just plain status updates.
  5. Develop a filing system
    Oh how I wish someone would have taken me aside my first year and shared the importance of this! If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have paid someone to teach me the ins and outs of organizing any piece of information, digital or analog.
  6. Take care of yourself
    Exercise, diet, you-time, family time. All inestimable in importance. When the person is prioritized, the life is positioned for maximum benefit and impact. Taking a day off every semester for a personal retreat, for instance, has been a game-changer for me in so many ways.
  7. Choose your experience
    This deserves an entire post of its own. In other words, you will do well to exercise the God-given gift of your will to choose how you wish to respond to the vicissitudes of life. If you’re not intentional, your experience will be chosen for you by various people, projects, and pressures.
    An apathetic, laissez-faire approach to dealing with conflicts is directly proportional to an atrophied, disproportionate, life experience. Choose wisely, and choose daily for success.
  8. Schedule your values
    This is a practical way of being proactive about your experience. Scheduling values – in contrast to tasks – involves a two-fold process of identifying your values and then etching it on your daily and monthly calendar.
    For instance, if one of your values is to to take care of your health, then consider calendaring a regular workout regiment in your monthly planner. Your tasks should be an outflow of your values. Not the reverse.
  9. Construct your “why?”
    A recommended personal exercise during this time is to continually engage in the process of crafting your “why” – your one-sentence mission statement which articulates your passion and contribution to the world. The sooner you are able to do this, the better you’ll be able to distinguish between what drains you and what strengthens you.
  10. Have fun!
    Like, seriously. Take time to enjoy your friendships, create new ones, make new memories, and laugh! As one of my good friends from grad school used to say, make sure to get some “chill vibes” regardless of what you do or don’t do.

For my colleagues and friends who graduated: What else would you add to this list? Leave a comment below!

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2 thoughts on “10 Things I Wish They’d Told Me Before Starting Graduate School

  1. Deborah Davis May 13, 2017 / 6:30 am

    thank you for this. I too wish I had known to follow those things before engaging in life right after high school ….. Good advice – I shared it on my church’s page. I have been following you for years and highly recommend others do also. deb davis https://www.facebook.com/BayCitySDA

    • Kevin Wilson May 13, 2017 / 7:16 am

      Deborah! Thanks for stopping by! Appreciate you and the support!

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