As I have previously mentioned, I love journals.
One of the many journals that I have kept over the years was entitled “Everything You’ll Need for Grad School“. I bought this journal on the day that I was accepted into a graduate program in aquatic biology at Edinburgh Napier University (Scotland). The very first thing that I did was write myself a letter about my thoughts and expectations related to the program. I stapled this shut and decided to keep it preserved.
I wrote this journal during my final semester as an undergraduate. It was a place to keep track of the main points that I would be taking away from each of my classes and make notes about concepts that I expected to see again in grad school. Summarizing important concepts provided a great opportunity for me to reflect on the most important aspects of each class and how they might relate to future studies.
I also used this journal to organize important ecological definitions into categories. This was a great studying strategy in my final semester as an undergrad because it got me making connections and defining the most important terms that popped up in my readings. Strangely enough, when I look back on the definitions that I thought were so important in my undergraduate studies, I find myself smiling inwardly because they seem so simple and engrained in my mind. One of the big differences between my undergraduate and graduate studies was the shift from a rigid, memorization-based learning environment to a more holistic, knowledge-based approach.
This was also my first journal where I started to use a lot of diagrammatic interpretations of biological concepts such as phosphorous, nitrogen, and carbon cycles related to freshwater. This marked a significant shift in the way that I studied and took notes in all classes to come.
All in all, the entires that I wrote in my “Everything You’ll Need for Grad School” journal were not as important for my graduate studies as I might have expected. However, the skills that I developed from reflecting and reinterpreting the concepts that I’d learned in my undergraduate studies were a huge part of my success as a grad student. I learned to see the big picture and how the various parts of undergraduate classes could fit together and be used in times to come. It’s a journaling exercise that I would recommend for undergraduates who are in their final year of studies.
Did you keep a journal in your final year(s) as an undergraduate student? Are you interested in a guide for starting your own? Let me know in the comments!