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Advice for New Counseling Students: 
First, Don’t Be Discouraged!
By Christina Javete, Troy University, Tampa, FL, Graduate Student Committee Southern Region Liaison

Thinking about attending a graduate program and actually working through a graduate program are two completely different things, I’ve discovered. When you’re just thinking about being a graduate student, it’s easy to imagine how your graduate career will be: meeting new friends with interesting ideas, being around professors with a vast amount of knowledge in the counseling field, and knowing you will learn so much more than you did in your undergraduate studies. 

This is all true; however, when you are finally in a graduate program, real life sets in. And it’s not always pretty. Out goes the sweet daydream of you looking your best while confidently writing up your research paper with plenty of time to spare for the other loves of your life, such as your family and friends. This was the image I held in my mind of what graduate school was all about. 

Cold reality dissolved that rosy image. In my first graduate course, my professor didn’t hold anyone’s hand—in fact he didn’t even let any of us think we did a good job on our APA-style research papers. Only one other person and I were brand new students in that class, and we were both terrified to hear the feedback. One thing I learned in that class was that my APA-style guidelines were off—way off. I needed to relearn APA style, stat. 

It was discouraging at first, but this was the shakeup I needed to wake from my daydream that graduate school would be fun and breezy. Don’t get me wrong though, graduate school has been the most life-enriching experience and one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Despite its challenges, the other student and I both completed that first class successfully and are now in our second year in our program. 

I’m dedicating this article to the new graduate students on their journey to become clinical mental health counselors. Here’s some advice based on what I learned during my first year as a grad student:

  • Do not be discouraged by critical feedback from your professors—use it constructively; allow it to help you grow as a graduate student. It will not be the last time you are dared to improve.
  • Do not be afraid to excel in your classes and ask questions.
  • Take advantage of the plentiful resources all around, whether online journals, books, professors, fellow students, and of course, being a student member of the American Mental Health Counseling Association.
  • Surround yourself and connect with positive and knowledgeable people. Doing this will ensure your success in all your endeavors and help you grow as a student in your program.
  • Even though school and life can be demanding, don’t forget to take time every day to reflect and be in the present moment. Daydream about your goals and dreams from time to time. Write them down. These ideas will help keep you going to reach your goals and your dreams.

Finally, I wish you all luck!

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