5 Grad School Survival Tips

If you’re a graduate student or you’re considering attending graduate school, here are my top 5 grad school survival tips. By no means do I claim to have all the answers, but these 5 things have really helped me survive the past four years. Everyone’s grad school experience is different, so these are solely based on my experiences.

5. Use your resources

I can’t stress this enough. As a new graduate student, you don’t quite know all the ins and outs of grad school. If you’re a person who shies away from making new friends, I’d suggest getting over that as quickly as possible 👀 lol. Study groups are one of the best grad school resources in my opinion. Whether it’s just you and a friend or a small group, they can help cut down the workload significantly. As they say, two minds are better than one. I’ve found that collaborative work is essential to being a successful graduate student. That’s not to say you can’t do it on your own, but it’s likely to be much more difficult. These types of groups can help you stay on top of assignments and can be clutch when you’re stuck on a particular problem.  Also, you can talk to people in your group about things like applying for residency, or what apartment complexes are the best if you’re new to the area like I was. Administrators and more senior grad students in your department are also a great resource for information about applying for fellowships and internships. Don’t forget your professor’s office hours. They can help guide you or clarify material when things just aren’t clicking. So find some people you connect with and get working! ✍🏾

4. Talk to other grad students

Life in grad school can be an emotional roller coaster (to say the least). It helps to have people you can talk to about your struggles as well as your victories. In my experience, there will be somethings that only people who are in grad school will understand. Conversing with other grad students can help relieve stress. Listening to each others’ ups and downs can be therapeutic at times. It’s comforting to know that you’re not alone in the struggle. You may need advice about what decision to make regarding classes or qualifying exams (if you have them), and it helps to talk to older graduate students about these things. They will be open, honest, and willing to tell you their experiences as well as offer advice.  As mentioned in #5, they’re one of your best resources. So don’t be shy. Strike up a conversion and learn a thing or two.

3. Don’t feel guilty about being selfish

This one is the hardest for me. My first year of grad school was a transition year in every aspect of my life. In that year, I learned that being selfish is not always a bad thing and is sometimes necessary. For me, the hardest part was being away from my family and not talking to them as often as I did before graduate school. My first year was emotionally rough because my family didn’t understand just how time consuming grad school can be. It’s totally different than undergrad which can be difficult to understand if you haven’t been through it. The workload was extremely heavy, and I had little time to do much of anything besides go to class, fulfill my TA duties, study, and do homework. When I didn’t call/text they mistook it as me not caring or not thinking about them. I understood where they were coming from, but at the same time I felt misunderstood. 😢 I felt guilty that they felt neglected, but I needed them to understand that I was joggling a lot and having a hard time balancing everything. I realized in those moments that I was being selfish, but I needed to be at that time. It’s okay to do things for yourself even if people don’t fully understand. I explained my point of view and experiences to my family and they were receptive.  It’s important to communicate your feelings and let the people important to you know what you need. When do you have to be selfish, try not to feel guilty about it.

2. Find an activity you love and do it often

This one is my favorite! 😍 Dancing is the remedy for my soul. I’m super passionate about it, and it keeps me going when I feel like everything is going wrong. I use it as a stress reliever when my research just isn’t going the way I want it to, or when life’s obstacles just get in my way. It helps to clear my mind and it refocuses my energy. For others this might be practicing yoga, painting, hiking, playing a sport, or just simply exercising. Find a healthy activity that will keep your body moving, but doesn’t feel like a chore. Do something that makes you happy, and do it as often as you can. When times get overwhelming and stressful (inevitably they will) you’ll need something to help you destress. Join a group if you can. Sometimes just being around other people (outside of the office) is enough to recharge. It’s important to take a break and enjoy life which leads me to the #1 survival tip.

1. Keep things in perspective

It’s so easy to get consumed with all the demands of being a grad student that you lose sight of what’s really important. Some sacrifices will have to be made, but it’s important to keep things in perspective. Graduate school is not forever. It is only a season in your life.  Make grad school a priority, but don’t forget to have fun! Know your limits and be honest with yourself. Your health and sanity should be top priorities. It’s imperative that you never sacrifice these things for school work. If you’re having trouble adjusting or coping with graduate school, try the 4 previous things I mentioned. Most importantly, take the time to celebrate your victories and let the tough times roll off your shoulders. With hard work and dedication you will receive your degree. Don’t let one bad grade, one bad class, one bad semester, or one bad year get you down. Stay strong my fellow graduate students. 💪🏾



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