How to Be a Successful Graduate Student: Top Tips for Thriving in Grad School

There are many careers out there that require professionals to obtain a graduate degree in order to be fully qualified to work in the field. Graduate degrees add an additional level of education that provides you with specific skills and knowledge that can prepare you for a successful career.

That being said, graduate school is rarely an easy thing to take on. Even if you are passionate about what you are studying and the type of career that you are hoping to establish for yourself, graduate school can be a major challenge and test to your abilities and determination.

The good news is that there are a number of things that you can do in order to make this part of your professional journey easier to complete. With the right approach, you will find yourself not only surviving graduate school but thriving throughout your degree program as well.

If you are considering enrolling in graduate school in order to make yourself a better candidate for positions in your chosen field of work, here are a few tips that can help you to thrive throughout your program so that you can be as successful as possible in your future endeavors.

Choose the Right School

It might go without saying, but the most important thing that you can do for yourself before entering grad school is to choose the right school for you. The fact of the matter is that no two schools are the same and will offer you different things when it comes to the quality of the education that you receive.

Before you officially enroll in a particular program, it is important to take the time to do your research. There are many factors that you should look into that will help you to make the right decision regarding your education.

For starters, you should look for degree programs that are in a format that best suits your learning style. These days, it is no longer necessary to complete most forms of a graduate degree in person on a college campus. Rather, most, if not all, major universities and even smaller institutions offer online degree options for students who prefer this option best.

By earning your degree online, you can essentially build your own schedule and work at your own pace. You will still get the benefit of having professors and instructors to consult throughout the duration of your degree program, but you won’t be tied to a specific location in order to attend classes and lectures.

Bear in mind the fact that this won’t apply to all types of advanced degrees. There are certain fields, such as medicine, that certainly require more hands-on learning and are therefore not conducive to online learning in the truest sense. However, many other fields, including communication, business, and even social work, are available in online learning formats.

This means that if you, for instance, wish to become a social worker, you should base your MSW enrollment on the style of learning that works best for you. This will give you the best chances to succeed in your chosen field of study right from the start of your degree program.

Learn Time Management 

No matter what your schedule looks like for your graduate degree program, you will need to have excellent time management skills in order to succeed. In essence, this means that you become a master organizer and learn how to budget your time wisely.

When you are in graduate school, you will have a great deal of work ahead of you. You might also have a job of some sort that you need to keep up with in order to fund your education or advance your career. No matter what your personal circumstances may be, you can find success in graduate school by learning the art of time management.

Learning this skill will involve learning about how you function as a student. Figure out how long it takes you to accomplish certain tasks and get through the material that is required of your classes. With this information, you will be able to budget your time specifically and make a realistic schedule for yourself.

Other aspects of mastering time management involve your ability to focus on the task at hand and prioritize things appropriately. While it can be difficult to compromise on other areas of your life, such as hobbies, pastimes, and spending time with friends, remember that grad school will not last forever. The short-term sacrifices that you make as you are earning your degree will pay off in the long run.

Find a Support Group

When you get started with your graduate degree program, it will become immediately apparent that the process will be a challenging one. It is important to acknowledge right off the bat the fact that you will need support and assistance if you are going to truly thrive in school.

The support that you lean on as you are earning your degree can come in a variety of forms. Perhaps there is a certain instructor who is more of a mentor to you. Such an individual can provide you with professional guidance and support along the way based on their own experiences and insights.

Fellow students can also prove to be good support as you earn your degree. You will all be experiencing the same struggles and can therefore provide the kind of empathy that you need when going through a challenging process of this nature. You might wish to form a study group with some fellow students so that you can share the workload a bit and benefit from others’ perspectives on various assignments.

On the other hand, you might wish to build a support group outside of school. Close friends and family members can prove to be invaluable when you need to vent about your frustrations and struggles or when you need a helping hand in other aspects of your life. Having such support will help you to get through the day-to-day challenges that you will face as you complete your graduate degree program.

Avoid Distractions

By and large, many of the things that can really stand in the way of your success throughout your graduate degree program are distractions. Distractions can take many forms, so it is important to address this right off the bat so that you can truly thrive in graduate school.

In order to become more resilient toward distractions, take the time to identify those things that can stand in the way of you accomplishing the things that are on your to-do list. By identifying the things that distract you the most, you can put measures in place to set them to the side when you really need to buckle down and work.

As you seek to accomplish this, you might want to put some effort into the area in which you will be working once your degree program begins. Having a specific study space can make all the difference in the world when you are looking to complete a degree. This is especially true if you opt for an online degree program and won’t have the benefit of on-campus spaces for completing your work.

When designing your study space, you need to ensure that you eliminate all distractions as best as possible. If possible, choose a space that has a door that you can close in order to shut out distractions while you work. There should be no television in your study space or distracting video games.

Moreover, you should make sure that the place where you will actually be working is comfortable. Choose a supportive and comfortable chair and a desk that has enough space for all the work that you will be doing. You don’t want to work in a space that is so uncomfortable that you can only bear to sit and work for a little while.

Stay Focused

When you are completing a graduate degree, it can be tempting to attempt to get multiple things done at once. However, this is a dangerous trap to fall into that will ultimately result in you receiving lower grades than you would like and learning less than you should.

The reality is that there is only so much that your brain can focus on at once. You need to make sure that you are giving each task the correct amount of focus and concentration so that you can learn as much as possible. 

Generally speaking, even though multitasking might seem like a good idea, it is never as useful a tactic as you think it will be. Rather, budget your time properly so that you can dedicate the right amount of time and energy to each task that you need to accomplish throughout your graduate degree program.

Even though grad school is going to present you with one challenge after another, it is possible to be proactive about setting yourself up for success. With the right degree in hand, you will be able to embark on a successful and fulfilling career in the field of your choice.

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