Counseling Psychology Phd Program and Commuting

DyedinWhite

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Jan 3, 2016
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    Hi,
    I'm new to SDN so please bare with me, but I have a few questions regarding the intensity of Phd programs in Counseling Psychology and a seemingly unrelated, but related, question about commuting to grad school for that program.

    I'll be graduating with a BS in Psychology fall of 2016 and I intend to go to graduate school for Counseling Psychology. There are only a couple of those particular grad programs in the city and unfortunately I live about 25 miles from the school I would like to go to (a 35 minute commute by car). Now this is normal for me as my current undergrad school is 21 miles away (1 hour 1 way via bus and 30 min via car) so the long commute doesn't necessarily bother me, but what I worry is that the intensity of a Phd program will require me to live closer. The uni I currently attend is in fact a "commuter college" so it's normal all across campus to live far from it, but with the graduate school I figured it's more intense and encouraged to live nearby.

    The blessing is that a relative lives nearby the graduate school I want to attend (10 minutes away), but they live in a very very bad neighborhood (read: gunshots, robberies, auto theft etc) and being a very small girl I don't exactly feel comfortable living there- not to mention the fact that it's quite far from everything aside from the school. I'm talking 15 minutes from the grocery store and local post office.
    ___________________

    Tl;dr: I love where I live now, but is a 35-40 min commute to grad school feasible? Moreover, is it feasible with the intensity of a Phd program in Counseling Psychology?

    Around where I live there are also plenty of offices to intern at.
     

    G Costanza

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      I posted this response to a similar question about a year ago and some of the info might be helpful...

      "I commuted an hour each way 4-5 days a week for four years of grad school and now commute about 30 min-hour on internship. This is what I've learned over the years...

      1) You have to make a stronger effort to feel part of community which was important to me. When your cohort wants to go out for drinks at 10pm, I would often stay knowing I would be in bed much later than everyone else.

      2) You need to leave early. A lot can happen on 60 miles of road and I never wanted to be late for anything. The drive would take me an hour but I often left 30 min early in case of traffic or accidents. I also lived in a cold weather state where snow was a regular variable. Drive a reliable car that won't depreciate by the $1000's when you put on 20,000 miles a year. My 99 civic is still going strong.

      3) Plan ahead. Push meetings back to back. Be assertive in trying to create a schedule that fits. If you can set it up to commute 4 days instead of 5, your life will be literally 1/5 easier.

      4) Carpool. This is huge.

      5) Use the time in the car efficiently. I always had a carpool buddy and would talk about upcoming lectures, process the interesting new concepts for the day, or explore anything from the meaning of life to my FOO. Honestly, I got so much more from my classes and pracs because I spent everyday processing the experience on the way home. If you're riding alone, books on tape or learning a new language might be a productive way to spend your time.

      6) You will probably get road rage after the first year or two. That's okay. Grist for the mill in discovering the real source for your anger. See point number 5.

      7) Invest in creature comforts for your car. I bought a nice back support, usb stereo for my iPhone, and always kept it clean and tidy. I spent 8-10 hours in my car each week and wanted it to feel inviting.

      8) Don't complain about your drive to anyone. No one cares that you might have to be in the car for an hour, attend a 30 min meeting, and turn around and drive an hour back home. You chose to live where you do and shouldn't expect others to have empathy for those choices. Advocate for your own schedule but never use your commute as a excuse.

      9) If you have a late class and a 7 or 8am the next day, see if one of your cohort members might be willing to take you in one night a week. It can turn an exhausting two days into a fun night with friends.

      10) Grad school is tough on partners and a long commute can make it worse. She never saw me during the day and couldn't spend much time with my grad friends. It felt like I was living two different lives. It would have been so much nicer if she could have integrated into that community with me.

      My experience commuting was challenging but not without its benefits. I was not in a position to move to attend grad school so the commute was just part of the deal. That was key for me because acceptance was critical. The commute became a way of life rather than something I was trying to fight or even regretted. I would do it all over again but I also had a phenomenal grad school experience. It changed my life. Had I been in a program where I felt out of place, I imagine the commute could quickly become a source of tension."
       
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      sms06h

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      Nov 1, 2015
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        It sounds like there are some advantages of commuting over living closer (e.g., safety, possibly having more social support since you've been living in that community for a while now, etc.). These advantages may be worth the commute. For example, graduate school can be very stressful and draining, so if you have a strong social support network in your current town, it may be worth being nearby to make it more easy to access. To be honest, I lived about 20-25 minutes away from my university (I'm in a PhD counseling psychology/school psychology combined program) and on most days did not feel like another 10-15 minutes of a drive would have made much of a difference for me. In fact, several of my peers lived about 30-45 minutes away and didn't have any major problems.

        One thing worth considering, though, is that days can be long in a doctoral program, especially one with a strong clinical focus. For several years, I had practicum experiences that required me to be on campus late (one year I was on campus until about 9 pm). That was after a long day of my assistantship and classes, so it was often a 12-14 hour day. For some people, driving 35 minutes home afterwards wasn't a big deal, especially since it can be a good time to decompress through jamming out to music, listening to audiobooks, or calling a friend. I remember always being very tired after those long days and 20 minutes sometimes seemed too long. However, I sucked it up and tried to schedule the following day so it started later (wasn't always possible, though). I definitely agree with the comments above about being assertive with your schedule; this can make all the difference in how good or bad a semester is.

        Currently, I am doing a capstone practicum experience about an hour away from home. I could have lived closer, but decided to live with my parents in order to save money. At first, the commute was exhausting, especially since I was dealing with Orlando rush hour traffic. However, I have adjusted to it and find ways to pass the time (audiobooks, calling a friend, listening to Adele's new album). With that being said, I don't think I would have liked doing this commute for my entire grad school career. One year of this commute is long enough. Since I am at practicum until about 6 pm, I don't end up getting home until after 7 pm, which isn't exactly my favorite thing. It often feels like I spent my entire day at practicum and didn't have time or energy to do other things. I don't even think about touching my dissertation on practicum days, as I am too tired to muster up the mental energy to write. Another thing is that I sometimes get nervous in the mornings when I have an early morning client, so I tend to leave extra early to compensate. I think there was one time that I was about 10 minutes late to a session because traffic was extra bad; however, my site was understanding and the front desk staff was able to notify my client I was running a little late (my client was very understanding). Although my site was understanding, if it was a regular thing, I am sure it would become an issue. Therefore, thinking about timing and your clinical work and other responsibilities may help your decision making process.

        In my opinion, a 30-35 minute commute seems doable, but could cause you some added stress/fatigue depending on how your schedule is structured. It is possible to make this commute as time for self-care, which is very important in a doctoral program. You could always try the commute for your first semester or two, and if you find it too difficult, you could always move closer if needed.
         
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        DyedinWhite

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        Jan 3, 2016
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          I posted this response to a similar question about a year ago and some of the info might be helpful...

          "I commuted an hour each way 4-5 days a week for four years of grad school and now commute about 30 min-hour on internship. This is what I've learned over the years...

          1) You have to make a stronger effort to feel part of community which was important to me. When your cohort wants to go out for drinks at 10pm, I would often stay knowing I would be in bed much later than everyone else.

          2) You need to leave early. A lot can happen on 60 miles of road and I never wanted to be late for anything. The drive would take me an hour but I often left 30 min early in case of traffic or accidents. I also lived in a cold weather state where snow was a regular variable. Drive a reliable car that won't depreciate by the $1000's when you put on 20,000 miles a year. My 99 civic is still going strong.

          3) Plan ahead. Push meetings back to back. Be assertive in trying to create a schedule that fits. If you can set it up to commute 4 days instead of 5, your life will be literally 1/5 easier.

          4) Carpool. This is huge.

          5) Use the time in the car efficiently. I always had a carpool buddy and would talk about upcoming lectures, process the interesting new concepts for the day, or explore anything from the meaning of life to my FOO. Honestly, I got so much more from my classes and pracs because I spent everyday processing the experience on the way home. If you're riding alone, books on tape or learning a new language might be a productive way to spend your time.

          6) You will probably get road rage after the first year or two. That's okay. Grist for the mill in discovering the real source for your anger. See point number 5.

          7) Invest in creature comforts for your car. I bought a nice back support, usb stereo for my iPhone, and always kept it clean and tidy. I spent 8-10 hours in my car each week and wanted it to feel inviting.

          8) Don't complain about your drive to anyone. No one cares that you might have to be in the car for an hour, attend a 30 min meeting, and turn around and drive an hour back home. You chose to live where you do and shouldn't expect others to have empathy for those choices. Advocate for your own schedule but never use your commute as a excuse.

          9) If you have a late class and a 7 or 8am the next day, see if one of your cohort members might be willing to take you in one night a week. It can turn an exhausting two days into a fun night with friends.

          10) Grad school is tough on partners and a long commute can make it worse. She never saw me during the day and couldn't spend much time with my grad friends. It felt like I was living two different lives. It would have been so much nicer if she could have integrated into that community with me.

          My experience commuting was challenging but not without its benefits. I was not in a position to move to attend grad school so the commute was just part of the deal. That was key for me because acceptance was critical. The commute became a way of life rather than something I was trying to fight or even regretted. I would do it all over again but I also had a phenomenal grad school experience. It changed my life. Had I been in a program where I felt out of place, I imagine the commute could quickly become a source of tension."

          _______________

          Wow, sounds like you really had it rough. Thank you very much for your insight- I definitely think if I decide to commute I should use my time wisely in the car. Luckily the car I drive has the basic bells and whistles to enjoy a long drive, but it's a gas sucker and I think gas would cost around $160 a month for it. And you're right, if I decide to stay I'm not in the position to complain- especially considering the relative that lives nearby the campus.
          Again thank you for your response :) it was very helpful.
           

          PsyDr

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            I commuted about an hour each way everyday in grad school. During my mscp, I bought a kindle fire and used the text to speech feature as a sub for audio formats in my commute which would have been awesome in grad school.
             
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            DyedinWhite

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            Jan 3, 2016
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              It sounds like there are some advantages of commuting over living closer (e.g., safety, possibly having more social support since you've been living in that community for a while now, etc.). These advantages may be worth the commute. For example, graduate school can be very stressful and draining, so if you have a strong social support network in your current town, it may be worth being nearby to make it more easy to access. To be honest, I lived about 20-25 minutes away from my university (I'm in a PhD counseling psychology/school psychology combined program) and on most days did not feel like another 10-15 minutes of a drive would have made much of a difference for me. In fact, several of my peers lived about 30-45 minutes away and didn't have any major problems.

              One thing worth considering, though, is that days can be long in a doctoral program, especially one with a strong clinical focus. For several years, I had practicum experiences that required me to be on campus late (one year I was on campus until about 9 pm). That was after a long day of my assistantship and classes, so it was often a 12-14 hour day. For some people, driving 35 minutes home afterwards wasn't a big deal, especially since it can be a good time to decompress through jamming out to music, listening to audiobooks, or calling a friend. I remember always being very tired after those long days and 20 minutes sometimes seemed too long. However, I sucked it up and tried to schedule the following day so it started later (wasn't always possible, though). I definitely agree with the comments above about being assertive with your schedule; this can make all the difference in how good or bad a semester is.

              Currently, I am doing a capstone practicum experience about an hour away from home. I could have lived closer, but decided to live with my parents in order to save money. At first, the commute was exhausting, especially since I was dealing with Orlando rush hour traffic. However, I have adjusted to it and find ways to pass the time (audiobooks, calling a friend, listening to Adele's new album). With that being said, I don't think I would have liked doing this commute for my entire grad school career. One year of this commute is long enough. Since I am at practicum until about 6 pm, I don't end up getting home until after 7 pm, which isn't exactly my favorite thing. It often feels like I spent my entire day at practicum and didn't have time or energy to do other things. I don't even think about touching my dissertation on practicum days, as I am too tired to muster up the mental energy to write. Another thing is that I sometimes get nervous in the mornings when I have an early morning client, so I tend to leave extra early to compensate. I think there was one time that I was about 10 minutes late to a session because traffic was extra bad; however, my site was understanding and the front desk staff was able to notify my client I was running a little late (my client was very understanding). Although my site was understanding, if it was a regular thing, I am sure it would become an issue. Therefore, thinking about timing and your clinical work and other responsibilities may help your decision making process.

              In my opinion, a 30-35 minute commute seems doable, but could cause you some added stress/fatigue depending on how your schedule is structured. It is possible to make this commute as time for self-care, which is very important in a doctoral program. You could always try the commute for your first semester or two, and if you find it too difficult, you could always move closer if needed.

              ____________________________

              First, thank you for replying :) I was really nervous about this whole thing and it's nice to see some serious responses.
              Yes I'd say I have a very strong social support group around where I live, many of my good friends live nearby and everything I need (post office, doctors, dentist, grocery store, clothing stores, gym, etc) is within a 5-10 minute drive. Plus, traffic around here compared to the inner loop where the unis are is much much better. However the highway to commute is often incredibly busy.
              For me the decision is largely personal preference- my relative closer to the school would not require me to pay rent at all, and the parent I live with now does not require it but asks for help once in a while- which I'm cool with. When I did visit the relatives house I asked the neighbors how the crime was and one of them said "oh sure, we get car break in's once in a while..it's because of that drug house that lives on the corner of this street". Having a convertible and my relative having no room for me to park it I'd have to park it on the street. Which sounds like a big no-no for me. On the bright side, if I do decide to stay I ultimately have the choice of moving in with them, or staying where I live now and spending the night occasionally at the relative's house.
              When I come back home from my daily commute from my current uni I feel free- like I've really gotten away from everything, but I know, as you said, with grad school that may be more of a curse than blessing.
              I'm secretly happy that you know people who've had long commutes and thought it was okay. I know 35-40 minutes isn't super long, but with grad school I know it would be difficult. I just really can't decide right now. I'm nervous about it. I have a year to think it over- given the fact that I even get in- but still.
              It's really nice to hear from someone who commutes a long ways such as yourself. I'm intend to take 8 months off before actually going to grad school (that's how my grad time would work out anyways) so I suppose I can try out commuting for a while from home to the school and if I don't like it I can always move. I'm just frustrated at possible losing the green grass I've taken so long to grow here.

              Thank you very much for your post! :) it was very comforting.
               

              DyedinWhite

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              Jan 3, 2016
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                I commuted about an hour each way everyday in grad school. During my mscp, I bought a kindle fire and used the text to speech feature as a sub for audio formats in my commute which would have been awesome in grad school.

                Cool :D thanks for the idea! and wow, that's a really long commute- kudos to you for sticking it through. It gives me a little hope myself.
                 

                PsyDr

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                  Cool :D thanks for the idea! and wow, that's a really long commute- kudos to you for sticking it through. It gives me a little hope myself.

                  Initially, it is a drain. If you are not careful, you can fall into a cycle of getting home, eating, and then doing nothing. This can remove a lot of the positive reinforcement of life, and result in low mood and physical decinditioning. I would highly highly recommend forcing yourself to do something for fun and something for exercise a few times a week.

                  You should also consult with a Cpa to see if your mileage can count as a tax deduction. At like 47 cents a mile, it can add up quickly.

                  There's a few old the much maligned old guard who have revealed that they commuted 1-2 hrs for internship. You might want to do a search for that stuff too.
                   
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                  DyedinWhite

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                    Yeah, just realize DyedinWhite that PSYDR is a chronic workaholic and super-human in terms of his ability to be on top of everything. You know yourself best.

                    :') I suppose a healthy dose of realism is needed every now and then, sadly I'm already a die hard realist and thus poses my problem in determining what to do. Grass is green here, but it may not be feasible to stay here.
                     

                    DyedinWhite

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                    Jan 3, 2016
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                      Initially, it is a drain. If you are not careful, you can fall into a cycle of getting home, eating, and then doing nothing. This can remove a lot of the positive reinforcement of life, and result in low mood and physical decinditioning. I would highly highly recommend forcing yourself to do something for fun and something for exercise a few times a week.

                      You should also consult with a Cpa to see if your mileage can count as a tax deduction. At like 47 cents a mile, it can add up quickly.

                      There's a few old the much maligned old guard who have revealed that they commuted 1-2 hrs for internship. You might want to do a search for that stuff too.
                      _____
                      Wonderful wonderful point! You're very right, many days in undergrad I get home and eat and mess around on the internet. I use to exercise a lot, but after I lost the freshman 15 I didn't care about starting up again. However now that I have a year to think this all over I'm going to try and do what you recommend, that is keep myself going even after I get home. I don't have crazy amounts of energy and drive- but I do what I need to do in order to succeed.

                      And thank you for the tip :) very well appreciated.
                       

                      empathiosis

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                        Not really an answer to your question, but I couldn't help but notice that it sounds like you are only going to apply to programs near you and only 2 near you. I hope you will apply to more than 2 programs. Although counseling psych PhD programs are less competitive than clinical psych PhD programs, they are still competitive. You should definitely apply to more than 2 programs to increase your chances of gaining admission.

                        I'm in a counseling Psych PhD program and during the first two years of my program, I lived 2 miles from school. It was really helpful when I had classes at 8:15 am and then again at 7:00 pm on the same day. The workload in my program was quite heavy first year. Not saying you can't do a 25-mile commute each way, some folks in my program did and lived to tell about it. It's just easier the closer you are because sometimes you need all the time you can get. On the other hand, safety is also important, so if you do get into that school (which is an unknown at this point, right?) you may also consider compromising and spending a night or two at your relative's if you have classes that end late. Just another idea.
                         
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                        DyedinWhite

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                          Not really an answer to your question, but I couldn't help but notice that it sounds like you are only going to apply to programs near you and that there are only two of those. I hope you will apply to more than 2 programs. Although counseling psych PhD programs are less competitive than clinical PhD programs, they are still somewhat competitive so you definitely will need to apply to more than 2 to increase your chances of gaining admission.

                          I'm in a counseling Psych PhD program and in the first two years of it lived 2 miles from school. It was really helpful when I had classes at 8:15 am and then again at 7:00 pm on the same day. The workload in my program was quite heavy first year. Not saying you can't do a 25-mile commute each way, folks in my program have certainly done it and lived to tell about it. It's just easier the closer you are ... because sometimes you need all the time you can get. On the other hand, safety is also important, so if you do get into that school (which is an unknown at this point, right?) you may also consider compromising and spending a night or two at your relative's if you have classes that end late. Just another idea.
                          ________________
                          Hi :) thank you for your response, I really appreciate it.

                          Yes you're correct I really only plan to apply to a couple of programs for monetary and location reasons. There really isn't many programs I can go to that are close by , but if needed I have another relative in another city that I'm very familiar with and if needed, I can move there- but it's a small city (I live in a large city right now), and the amount of programs are even smaller there. This is all mainly based on my monetary capabilities as I'd prefer not to do work full time, get my own place, and go to grad school full time only to never come home or see my family and friends. If needed I'm willing to apply to online programs as well, but I'd prefer to do one in person for the obvious reasons.
                          Also quick question, do they offer later classes or are there only classes that early in the morning?
                          Living so far away as an undergrad I've never scheduled classes earlier than 10:00am, but I do have a friend who has 7:30am classes and lives just as far as me. He's alive, but always doped up on energy drinks and sometimes adderall.
                          Yes I was thinking the exact same thing, I replied to another person, that indeed I can still live here but if I wanted I could also spend some nights at that relatives house. Especially if I needed to stay for meetings early in the morning.

                          Thank you very much for your input :) and yes, I'd imagine the closer you are the easier it is- I actually lived for 1 semester downtown near the campus and it was great! (granted, I lived in a ritsy part of town then) but I had to move because my roommate pulled out and rent was so expensive alone I moved back in with my mom. But I do love it here- I have everything I want, I just worry it won't work out.

                          Also super important: I have a 3.5gpa (internally crying) because of 2 C's I got in the last 2 semesters and while I had a 3.75 before the 2 C's I was wondering if grad programs will hate the fact that I have such a crappy gpa...I've only ever had As and Bs until junior year when I got the 2 Cs.
                          I plan on getting it back up to a 3.6, but I only have 2 semesters and I've done the math- it'll be one hell of a stretch.
                           
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                          sms06h

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                            ________________
                            Hi :) thank you for your response, I really appreciate it.

                            Yes you're correct I really only plan to apply to a couple of programs for monetary and location reasons. There really isn't many programs I can go to that are close by , but if needed I have another relative in another city that I'm very familiar with and if needed, I can move there- but it's a small city (I live in a large city right now), and the amount of programs are even smaller there. This is all mainly based on my monetary capabilities as I'd prefer not to do work full time, get my own place, and go to grad school full time to never come home or see my family and friends. If needed I'm willing to apply to online programs as well, but I'd prefer to do one in person for the obvious reasons.
                            Also quick question, do they offer later classes or are there only classes that early in the morning?
                            Living so far away as an undergrad I've never scheduled classes earlier than 10:00am, but I do have a friend who has 7:30am classes and lives just as far as me. He's alive, but always doped up on energy drinks and sometimes adderall.
                            Yes I was thinking the exact same thing, I replied to another person, that indeed I can still live here but if I wanted I could also spend some nights at that relatives house. Especially if I needed to stay for meetings early in the morning.

                            Thank you very much for your input :) and yes, I'd imagine the closer you are the easier it is- I actually lived for 1 semester downtown near the campus and it was great! but I had to move because my roommate pulled out and rent was so expensive alone I moved back in with my mom. But I do love it here- I have everything I want, I just worry it won't work out.

                            Also super important: I have a 3.5gpa (internally crying) because of 2 C's I got in the last 2 semesters and while I had a 3.75 before the 2 C's I was wondering if grad programs will hate the fact that I have such a crappy gpa...
                            I plan on getting it back up to a 3.6, but I only have 2 semesters and I've done the math- it'll be one hell of a stretch.
                            I had a 3.4 GPA and still got into a good doctoral program. Likely due to having other experiences that helped me to stand out as an applicant (volunteering, AmeriCorps).
                             

                            empathiosis

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                              Also quick question, do they offer later classes or are there only classes that early in the morning?

                              Class scheduling varies from program to program. Most programs have their schedules online so you may want to check class schedules for the programs you're interested in. In my program there are several patterns: twice weekly 8:15 to 9:45 classes, or 9:20-11:20, or once a week: 9-12, 1-4, 4-7 and 6-9. Those are the main patterns at my uni, with occasional variation. But again, programs are different, so I would suggest checking the class schedules of the programs you're wanting to go to. In addition to classes you also have practica, research team meetings, and assistantship placement, if your program offers assistantships. During first year in my program we are on campus about 35-45 hours.

                              Also super important: I have a 3.5gpa (internally crying) because of 2 C's I got in the last 2 semesters and while I had a 3.75 before the 2 C's I was wondering if grad programs will hate the fact that I have such a crappy gpa

                              I recommend you take a look at the WAMC thread on this board, where people list their stats and ask what for opinions about their chances. I had a 3.82 with 2 or 3 C's and was able to get into a good counseling psych program. Other factors just as important as GPA include GRE scores, research and clinical experience, fit with the program (research interests with at least one or two faculty usually) and a well-written personal statement outlining your goals and interests.
                               

                              MamaPhD

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                                You're very right, many days in undergrad I get home and eat and mess around on the internet. I use to exercise a lot, but after I lost the freshman 15 I didn't care about starting up again. However now that I have a year to think this all over I'm going to try and do what you recommend, that is keep myself going even after I get home. I don't have crazy amounts of energy and drive- but I do what I need to do in order to succeed.

                                Another strategy is to go back to your lab at the end of your "day" and continue working on papers, homework, or whatever. Then, when you have actually finished working, go home (or go have a drink with your lab or cohort and then go home). It makes for a longer day on campus but possibly a more productive one. I think this strategy can work well for people who have a longer commute, but you have to get used to spending fewer hours at home (and the people you live with will need to understand that too).

                                I agree with the advice above that you should make your commute useful or functional somehow. Though I never lived more than 5 miles from my university during graduate school, I sometimes took long commutes by biking, taking the bus, or walking. For me, commuting was sometimes my daily (and only) exercise, but for someone in a car or bus it could function as "me" time to listen to audiobooks, do a language course, etc.

                                The beauty of graduate school is that, despite the heavy workload, you get to do a lot of it on the schedule that works best for you. During one of my more productive years in graduate school I got into the habit of getting into the lab early (no later than 7:00 AM) and calling it a day at a "normal" time like 5:30 or 6:00 in the evening (I was blessed to have very few evening clinic hours before internship). I enjoyed an early start to the morning because distractions were few and parking was much easier. During your first year you should have the flexibility to try different options and get a sense of what works for you.
                                 
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                                1. Your new thread title is very short, and likely is unhelpful.
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                                3. Your reply is very long and likely does not add anything to the thread.
                                4. It is very likely that it does not need any further discussion and thus bumping it serves no purpose.
                                5. Your message is mostly quotes or spoilers.
                                6. Your reply has occurred very quickly after a previous reply and likely does not add anything to the thread.
                                7. This thread is locked.