The decision to go to graduate school is an exciting, rewarding and, sometimes, scary one. Graduate education can open doors to better professional opportunities – and an increased salary – and make you better at what you do. Though graduate school can seem overwhelming, with the right strategies, it will be manageable, leaving you to enjoy your educational experience. This article will help you survive, and dare I say, enjoy grad school.
Choose the right program and school
Most likely, you will be balancing a professional career with your education, and you might be juggling family commitments as well. Schools often offer a variety of programs for working professionals – including night and weekend classes, convenient fully online degrees or hybrid programs. Consider your commitments when deciding on the educational environment that is right for you and your professional goals. Connect with the school or university to answer your questions and find out if the program is a good fit.
Prepare for the time commitment in advance
Talk with the school or university to discuss the expectations of your specific program. Workload will vary by school, program and class length. It often ranges between approximately 10 – 20 hours a week. Plan ahead. It’s a good idea to create a tentative homework and class schedule in advance and do your best to stick to it. Once enrolled, review your syllabus and upcoming deadlines at the start of the class and adjust your study plan accordingly. Actively use time management techniques, and see where you can gain back some time for personal activities. Discuss any obligations with family or friends and adjust as needed.
Talk to your family and friends
Though you’ll be the one in school, the people close to you will also be affected by your decision. It’s a good idea to have a conversation with them before you begin graduate school to help them understand that a significant portion of your time will be dedicated to your studies. Explain to them why you’ve made this decision. Ask them for any support you might need and respect whatever they can – or can’t – offer. If you have children, it’s best to plan ahead with any caretakers. When you do spend time with family and friends, make sure to show both your appreciation and that you are still invested in your relationships with them.
Remember why you’re in grad school
There will be days that it feels like you can’t keep juggling your responsibilities, even when you’re using good time management, and you’ll want to give up. In those moments remember why you wanted to go in the first place. You researched the school, the program, the cost, the time needed and you still chose to go. Remind yourself of all the reasons you’re in grad school and the benefits of completing the program.
Accept that you can’t do everything
While you’re in school, you won’t be able to do everything you did before. Part of time management is prioritizing activities and knowing when it’s okay to let something wait. You might see your friends less, maybe the dishes and laundry will pile up or maybe you opt to stay in instead of going out. You might feel guilty for relying on your significant other or spouse more or saying no to friends. The best approach is to be honest with your friends and family before starting school and throughout your program, so that you can avoid hurt feelings or misunderstandings. Be appreciative of the support they offer. And remember to be kind to yourself when you can’t get to everything.
Ask for help when you need it
There will be ups and down in any program. Some classes will be harder than others. Your work or familial obligations may increase unexpectedly. Emergencies may arise. Whatever the situation, you can still be successful in grad school. Address these difficulties right away and adjust your plan to accommodate. If circumstances feel exceptionally overwhelming, contact your professors to discuss your situation. Your school most likely has support resources – talk to your advisor, counselor or success coordinator, for example, for strategies and suggestions when you feel like you’re struggling. They’re there for you, so connect with them right away if you’re experiencing any difficulties.
Some Helpful Resources