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9 Tips for Surviving Grad School

There is something of a culture shock that occurs when students finish college and go on to grad school. In college it is often possible for an individual to cram the night before a big test or assignment and get good grades while still having lots of time for fun. Graduate school, on the other hand, requires a student to basically begin a full-time job. They are constantly challenged and asked to undertake more than they would have ever thought was possible during their college years. Because of this, a lot of students find it difficult to make it successfully through grad school. Here are 9 tips for surviving grad school:

  1. Understand your work habits. There is simply no way around the fact that being successful in graduate school takes a lot of hard work. Everyone has times when they are generally more productive and times when it is all but impossible for them to get anything done. Understanding when these times occur for a particular individual will help them to find greater success and achieve their goals in grad school. More than likely this will mean rearranging some aspects of one's life, but it will definitely make the entire experience much more pleasant.
  2. Spend less time focusing on grades. A lot of students that make their way into grad school have spent their college years obsessing about every great that they get. While it is still important to try and get good grades in graduate school, is even more important for a person to understand what they are learning and retain that information for later. Simply studying as hard as possible so that the next exam can be aced may not necessarily help a person hold onto the information that they are learning.
  3. Learn how to read. Obviously, every person that makes it into graduate school knows how to read. Unfortunately, they may not necessarily know the best way to read. There are likely to be stacks of books, papers, and assignments that a person will have to go through during their graduate school career. Simply speed-reading through every single word is not necessarily the best way to get the most out of the information provided. It is just as important for student to understand how what they are reading fits into what they are being taught.
  4. Get perspective from someone with experience. The sheer volume of work involved in graduate school can be overwhelming in and of itself. While there may be no shortcuts when it comes to grad school, it is a good idea for a graduate student to talk to more advanced individuals or junior faculty members. They can be a wealth of information while providing some much-needed perspective on the information that is being provided.
  5. Time management is a crucial skill that every graduate student must learn. There is no one single way to effectively manage one's time, but it is crucial for a graduate student to learn how to make the most of the time they have without getting completely lost in a sea of schoolwork. A student can easily find themselves spending all of their free time working on a single paper while neglecting other tasks that may be waiting in the wings. This leads to panic and frustration as the student tries to cram the rest of their work into the time remaining. Figuring out a realistic schedule can go a long way towards a successful graduate school experience.
  6. Look at grad school as a means to an end. Finishing graduate school does not necessarily make a person an expert in the field that they have chosen to pursue a career in. In fact, many professors advise students to think of grad school at something that provides them with the minimum amount of knowledge that they will need in order to get started in the right direction when it comes to their career. It can be easy for student to lose their perspective and focus only on grad school but it is crucial for an individual to realize that this is just one step on the road to their future.
  7. Picking a thesis can be a frustrating and exhausting task, which is why it is a good idea for student start thinking about their thesis subject as early as possible. A good way to handle this is to keep track of any subject that a student finds interesting so that by the time they need to start seriously considering a thesis subject they will have plenty to choose from. Another thing for a student to keep in mind is that it is not necessary to find a revolutionary thesis subject. Focusing only on subjects that are earth shattering or cutting-edge can make finding a thesis subject an all but impossible task.
  8. Learn how to write successfully. Just as there is an abundance of reading required during graduate school, there are also mountains of papers that every grad student will have to write. Learning how to write successfully involves pacing oneself and learning tricks to overcome writers block. It may seem counterintuitive to get up and walk away from a paper in order to go for a stroll or clear one's mind, but it is a much more productive way of handling writing issues than to sit down and stare at a blank piece of paper or computer screen for hours on end.
  9. Finally, perhaps the most important thing that any graduate student can do is make sure that they have a life outside of their schoolwork. It may feel at times like it is impossible to do anything other than eat, breathe, and sleep graduate school. It is vital for a student to maintain their outside interests and connections with friends and family in order to avoid getting lost in the responsibilities and obligations of graduate school. This will also mean keeping one's family up-to-date on what has been going on and asking for help or support when it is needed.
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