Graduate Student Spotlight: Dylan Sakamoto (Industrial/Organizational Psychology)

Why did you choose to attend graduate school at CSULB? 

I chose to attend graduate school at CSULB because out of all the I/O programs in California, the program here seemed to be the best fit for those looking to jump straight into practice following graduate school. I also attended CSULB for my undergraduate studies, so the decision to return couldn’t be easier!

What challenges did you overcome to attend CSULB?

My biggest challenge prior to attending graduate school here was learning to not overwork myself. I’ve been an overachiever in everything I’ve done academically since I was a kid and that was no different in college. My last semester of senior year was especially demanding; not only were we completely online due to the pandemic, but I also had five or six big commitments to constantly attend to at all times during the semester. Whether it was a position I held or a project I had to complete, there was always something that kept me from having any free time. While some of this was unavoidable, a majority of it was due to my nature as an overachiever to take on everything I could and it led to some very stressful times near the end of the semester. I knew I would have to do my best to overcome this tendency and not take on more than I can chew once I eventually got to graduate school.

What is your favorite aspect of being a graduate student at CSULB?

My favorite aspect of being a graduate student at CSULB hands down is the connections I’m making with the students and faculty in our department. Not only do I get to develop close bonds with the students in my cohort (who are great!) and the faculty in our program (who are also great!), but I’ve also had the chance to connect with students and faculty outside of my program and meet so many wonderful people as a result. Not to mention the incredible efforts of our graduate advisor Diane Roe(who is absolutely wonderful!) and all the staff at the CLA who help make CSULB feel like such an inclusive and supportive environment. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else for my master’s because of the amazing people here!

What advise do you have for future graduate students? 

My advice for future graduate students will always be to focus on yourself. It’s easy to doubt yourself when you’re constantly surrounded by the best of the best, even if your qualifications are just as good as theirs. However, at the end of the day, YOU are in a graduate program because of what YOU accomplished, not what your peers accomplished. It’s important to give yourself credit for everything you’ve done to this point and not fall victim to impostor syndrome. At the end of the day, you’re in grad school for a reason: Because the admissions at that program saw potential in you and believed that you have what it takes to be successful. Do your best to prove them right and all your naysayers wrong by being the best student you can be. 

For those who are currently looking to apply to graduate school, this message still stands. What gets you into graduate school will be what YOU accomplish as an undergraduate, not what your fellow students accomplish. It’s up to YOU to make the most of your undergraduate studies and show the admissions at your dream graduate program why you deserve to be there. At the same time, don’t bite off more than you can chew; take on the responsibilities that you can handle and commit to them. Join a research lab, get involved with student organizations, keep up your grades, consider an internship, take on those big writing projects (such as an undergraduate thesis or a research manuscript), and, above all, give your all on everything you do and the results will follow. 

However, focusing on yourself doesn’t just mean not comparing yourself to others, it also means that you should take time to attend to your physical and mental wellbeing. Grad school can be a very stressful experience no matter what program you eventually end up in and it is imperative that you listen to what both your body and your mind tell you so that you can take it easy when necessary. This is also important to practice as an undergraduate, as a burnt-out senior me would tell you. Try your best to fit at least one day in your schedule per week for relaxation where you can catch up on that book you’ve been putting off, play some video games, or whatever it is that makes you feel happy. Academics are important, but your personal health should always come first!