3 Tips for Starting Graduate School

The decision to continue your education by attending graduate school is exciting, but it can also feel very daunting. Graduate school is a very different experience than your undergraduate years, and it requires a different set of skills. Here are three tips to help you succeed as you begin graduate school: 

1. Manage your time

One of the best things you can do to ensure a smooth graduate experience is to develop an effective time management strategy. Many graduate students must also juggle employment, family, and social commitments. Learning to efficiently allot your time is imperative to your success.

Different students utilize different strategies, and it is important to determine which technique works well for you. Consider color-coding tasks based on their importance, dedicating certain hours of the day to your responsibilities (both academic and otherwise), or maintaining a calendar. With any time management strategy, it is important to be flexible; remember that emergencies arise, professors assign last-minute papers and projects, and certain tasks may take longer to complete than you originally believe. Here are some great tips on how to avoid study distractions.

Prioritize your time, and realize that as a graduate student, you may need to say no to activities that you would have previously engaged in. Remember that graduate school is a set period of time—those activities will still be available to you when you have completed your degree. 

2. Read efficiently

As a graduate student, you will be inundated with articles, books, and journals to read about your area of study. While it can be exciting to learn so much about your academic passion, it can also be overwhelming.

Learn to read with purpose. Ask yourself before you read about what you are hoping to gain. Skim the text first to ensure it aligns with your purpose, as well as your research goals. Take notes and cite sources as you read to avoid doing so later. After you finish a piece, it is sometimes helpful to briefly summarize the content on an index card so you can easily locate references in the future. These are some great tips on how to identify your study style, which you may find useful.

3. Create a support network

During your time in graduate school, it is very important to have a group of people who support you. Reach out to fellow classmates and form study groups. Research with these students, or simply discuss your classes in order to decompress. Consider working with a tutor if you need help in a particular subject area that your peers are not as comfortable with. Develop a rapport with your professors, and commit to asking frequent questions. Surround yourself with family or friends who are proud of your choice to continue your education. When you feel overwhelmed by school, these individuals can help to remind you of your end goal, or when you have been studying for hours, they can bring you food and double-check that you care for your needs (i.e. proper sleep). 

Graduate school is a time of tremendous learning and growth, but it also requires plenty of dedication and commitment. It is important for you to learn skills that will help you succeed in your studies, as well as to always remember why you chose to continue your education.