7 Strategies for Surviving Graduate School

You worked tirelessly for four long years to complete a bachelor’s degree. However, upon entering the working world, it has become evident that in order to remain competitive, it will be necessary to head back to the classroom to earn a master’s degree. Instead of abandoning your professional and personal life to put every ounce of energy into studying, follow these seven strategies guaranteed to help you survive the rigors of earning your graduate degree.

Throw Your Prior Academic Experiences out the Window

Your undergraduate days were filled with impromptu study sessions, pizza-fueled late-night cramming and plenty of on-campus fun. Sure it was great, but now it’s time to cast those memories aside because you’re in graduate school. The professors are tougher, assignments more daunting and chances are you’ll panic at least once a week. Graduate school is nothing like your undergraduate experience, so don’t expect to coast through classes or charm your professors into giving you an extension.

Organize Every Aspect of Your Life

Now that you’re in graduate school, it’s time to schedule and organize every aspect of your life. Begin this process by tacking a huge poster board entitled “My Life Schedule” to the wall. Now devote at least one-third of the space to attending classes and studying. You’ll also need to work and socialize, but that’s about it. Don’t be surprised when it becomes necessary to schedule eating and sleeping, as well.

Overcome Your Tendency to Procrastinate

If you’ve always considered yourself a procrastinator, it’s time for a major life change because this foible won’t help your graduate school career. For example, let’s say you’re earning a master of health administration while working full-time and supporting a family. You cannot expect to stay on top of classwork by putting it off to the last moment. Instead, complete your essays as they’re scheduled and start studying for your mid-terms at least one week in advance.

Seek Wisdom from Your Peers

During your first tumultuous days of graduate school, make it a priority to befriend a second-year student. This person has survived their first year and knows what to expect from certain professors and classes. Pick this individual’s brain about what types of concepts you can expect on exams and ask plenty of questions before writing your first essay for a notoriously exacting professor. As you progress, this individual will become more than just a mentor. He can also prove a valuable contact later in life, and his friendship might even help you secure a post-graduate job.

Find a Study Group

Study groups are an amazing resource, as long as they’re organized correctly. First off, never study with anyone you consider a close friend. Chances are that much like in high school, you’ll spend the majority of the time complaining, gossiping and laughing. Instead, study with individuals you consider to be the smartest people in your class or anyone that is well-versed in a subject you find challenging. Use this person’s intellect and skills to beef up your own grades and in return, help him if there’s a concept or course he cannot master.

Cultivate Your Independence

Many professors have an open-door policy with their undergraduate students. However, don’t expect the same level of concern from your graduate school instructors. At this level, your professors assume you have a firm grasp of the class or concepts and probably won’t offer much assistance. So instead of expecting a handout, learn how to be academically self-sufficient. Spend anytime you’d be asking for help researching the answer to a question yourself.

Know When to Put the Books Down

The pursuit of a graduate degree can often take over a student’s life. However, it’s just as important to enjoy living outside the classroom and having a good time will ultimately make you a better student. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to put the textbook down and enjoy a favorite hobby or call up your friends for a quick game of basketball.
Whether you’re earning a graduate degree in psychology or working your way through criminal justice graduate programs, obtaining an advanced degree is daunting. Just remember the experience is temporary and all of the struggle will be worth it when you can include a graduate degree on your first resume.
About the Author: Margret Harden is a recent graduate and blogger. Margaret completed a graduate degree in criminal justice and hopes to work in law enforcement.