Thursday, 15 August 2013

Preparing Psychologically for Grad School

Lately, I have been writing a lot about things related to the start of grad school. I believe that it is important to prepare for grad school as early as possible. While you can easily Google how to prepare for grad school academically, I haven't come across any article on how to prepare for grad school psychologically. So, in this post, I am going to share 2 advices with you.

My first advice is be prepared to be an average student. Most of us who are accepted to graduate school have great academic grades. When you are put together with a bunch of smart people together, chances are you will be just another average student. You may think it is easy to accept it or perhaps you will think that you will out compete the others. Either way, it is not as easy as you think it is. My advice is let go of the past and be prepared to get average marks. Don't let it get to you. Try to focus on learning and understanding the material.

I will quickly share my experience on taking an advanced-undergrad/grad course at University of Toronto. This is a course that consisted of 4th year undergrad and tons of grad students. I did not so great in both of midterms. I got roughly 68% for the first midterm and 76% for second midterm. In fact, for the first midterm, I even did worse than the average of undergrad score. Although I thought I was psychologically prepared for it, I was still very shocked. I honestly felt that I did not know how to answer an exam anymore. After the second midterm, I kept reminded myself to let go off my undergrad past, which I can get 80% easily. I started to work harder on my course work and focus more on things that really matters like my research. When I finished my course work, I was relatively happy with the grade I have and I have also made progress with my research.

My second advice is be prepared to get stuck in research. Being stuck at a problem and you don't how to solve it is very common. So far, I have found myself stuck on two problems. The first problem took roughly 1-2 months for me to figure out a complete solution. The second problem took at least 3 months to figure out only a general idea on how to solve it (which luckily for me, the idea did work). For the second problem, I have recently (July 2013) discovered a better solution, which was right in front of me all the time.

What I really want to tell you is good idea takes time to form in a human's mind. Sometimes, talking to others will help you to speed up this process. Other times, you just have to work hard on your own. Also, when you are stuck at a problem for a long time,  it can be very stressful. When you can't handle the stress anymore, from my personal experience, I recommend talking to your supervisor about it. A great supervisor would share with you some of his/her experience to help reduce the stress level and motivate you once again to tackle the problem. (Even better, they might just help you solve your problem.)

My overall experience with grad school has been very humbling. It has help me to lower down my arrogance, made me a more hard working man, and made me realize that I have to continuously improve myself. To put it simple, grad school has made me a better man.


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  2. Hey Yao, I am Prateek from India and I am applying for Masters from University of Toronto. I had a few queries about University and I thought you could help. Could you share you email with me? Mine is

  3. Hi Yao,
    I wanted some useful insight of yours for applying to graduate program.
    Can i get your email? or you please contact me at

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