How to be Successful in Graduate School

Don’t just survive, thrive! Barb’s tips for a successful graduate education experience.

As an adult learner returning for my master’s degree, and now my doctorate, I had to learn how to be a student again. Here are my thoughts on how to have a successful experience in graduate school (Part One):

  1. Adjust your expectations of the work level. This program will be like nothing else you have ever experienced. The level of intensity and sheer volume of the work you will need to do at times will overwhelm you. Don’t let it. You will have to work on it every day, and for many more hours than in your undergraduate program. Just keep up with the work, take it one step at a time. Think far enough ahead to plan properly, but don’t think so far ahead as to overwhelm yourself.
  2. Do not ever allow yourself to get behind. Create a plan and a schedule for school work, and work the plan, and stay on track. Trying to catch up after being behind takes significant more mental energy than simply keeping up, or even (preferably) getting ahead. Which, by the way, is almost impossible but a worthy endeavor!
  3. Your life will change. You will need to re-prioritize. Get rid of anything that isn’t necessary, or is a time-waster. Learn to say “no” to things. Many things. Keep only what is necessary in your life and focus on that.
  4. Don’t neglect your health. You will need to create balance. Actually that term is too gentle. You will need to make your health a priority, even if it means stopping work (temporarily!) on an assignment to go work out, sleep or eat healthy. If you lose your health, you will lose your ability to focus and concentrate, and then you will have ruined your health for nothing.
  5. Seek support. Nobody is going to understand the pressures you are under like other graduate students or your advisor. It is too easy for us to become insulated and isolated in our own little worlds of online classes and research. Reach out to your co-hort. Share your struggles and successes.

…to be continued…