The beginning of each school year in the school psychology department at MSPP includes a department lunch and meeting. Students and faculty gather to meet each other, discuss upcoming events, plan for the coming year, and of course, enjoy tasty veggie lasagna.
It felt a bit strange at the meeting this year to no longer be the “first years.” Within the space of a month (after finishing our summer classes in July), my cohort had become “second-years.” We were the ones who knew the professors, who knew which classes were killers, who could recommend which textbooks to actually buy. While some of our second-year “know-how” was upended by the move to the new building, and the need to relearn the route to school, how to make copies, and where the heck the financial aid office is located, it was also gratifying to realize how much we had become comfortable at MSPP and in the program.
Over lunch, I heard one of the first-year students casually ask a member of my cohort for advice on tackling year one. I wondered how I would answer that question if I had been asked. My first thought was “don’t get mono in grad school.” My second was, “say good-bye to your free weekends.” Neither of these seemed particularly constructive.
Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, my advice to the first year class would be this: get to know the other members of your cohort! They are the ones you will be spending 15+ hours/week with for the next year, perhaps more than anyone else in your life. They will be your best source of support and understanding as you wade through test manuals and lifespan development vocabulary because they are there too. They will be the ones you turn to when no one else will take the 3rd assessment battery you are assigned to practice, and they are the ones who can tell you what the reading actually is for the next day.
My cohort has formed a strong bond, and it is their humor, kindness, and love of bagels that helped get me through mono, 9-hours of class on Manic Mondays, the stress of balancing five courses at once, a grueling first year exam, the daily frustrations of bureaucracy in an urban school, applications for second-year practicum, a heart-wrenching break-up, and many other challenges. I know we will continue to support each other as we take on year two. Thanks, y’all!