8 Strategies to Succeed in Grad School
After much pondering, you’ve decided you want to attend graduate school to boost your professional career and grow in your personal life. While being a graduate student is an accomplishment, it requires a certain level of initiative, discipline and commitment to excel in a grad program. In fact, most students will have to juggle personal responsibilities along with their academic work — but once you know how to succeed in grad school, you’ll feel like a master of education.
8 Strategies to succeed in Grad School
Although graduate school may seem a bit daunting, there is advice you can follow that can ease some of your anxiety, and help you become a thriving student and professional. Read on to learn some strategies on how to be a successful graduate student:
1. Build relationships with your professor and peers
You’ve probably heard it time and time again — networking is an essential part of graduate school and your professional life. Networking can help advance your career by introducing you to current industry professionals and other amazing opportunities after graduating. Make it a priority to talk with classmates, professors, counselors, and deans whom you may come across along your grad school journey. Overall, networking is about building relationships which can help you make informed career decisions.
Here are some tips on how to network as a graduate student:
Connect in-person and online (LinkedIn etc.)
Attend career fairs, workshops and networking events
Build stronger relationships with people you already know (i.e. professors, classmates, advisors)
2. Be on the lookout for financial aid
Paying for a master’s degree program may feel overwhelming — looking into financial aid options early on may end up saving you stress in the long run. Fortunately, there are many options available for students to use to help pay for school.
There may be some financial aid options through the school that you aren’t aware of, so remember to talk with your college advisor to ask about specific scholarships and grants you could apply for. Searching online can also help you to find potential scholarship and award opportunities outside of the school itself. Filing your FAFSA is another important step — just make sure you submit it before the deadline. Finally, speak with your advisor about work study positions on campus to supplement paying for grad school.
3. Determine your ‘why’ for pursuing grad school
If you're thinking about going to graduate school, you should already have an idea of why you want to attend. Before enrolling, ask yourself questions such as ‘why do you want your master’s degree?’ and ‘what do you hope to gain from earning your master’s degree?’ It’s necessary that you have clear cut reasons and expectations for why you want to attend graduate school and what you hope to accomplish from it so that you stay committed to your goals.
4. Set SMART goals
As you prepare to enter graduate school, creating goals will help keep you focused and steer you on the path to success. Setting SMART goals is an essential component on how to be a successful student. So let’s talk about what SMART goals are:
SMART is an acronym that stands for smart, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.
Specific: target a specific area of improvement
Measurable: determine what you’ll quantify to indicate you’ve made progress
Attainable: make sure your goal is reasonable and within reach
Relevant: your goals should align with your values
Time-based: create a specified target deadline
Spending the time to create SMART goals during a master’s degree program will pay off in the long run as you're more likely to stay on track when you know the exact steps to take to achieve your goals.
SMART Goal Example:
“In two years or less, I will obtain an M.S. in Applied Mathematics from NJIT in order to seek advanced career opportunities in STEM.”
5. Find your work-life balance
Managing work-life balance can be a challenging task for any student. In fact, your work-life balance during your undergraduate career may look quite different than in grad school, which is why it's important to create a work-life balance schedule specifically tailored for those seeking an advanced degree.
One way to create an effective plan is to determine when you’ll work on your studies. If you’re a morning person, consider completing most of your academic work during the start of the day and vice versa if you’re a night owl. Graduate students who take online courses can also practice mindfulness to help reduce stress and anxiety.
Try to be intentional in setting time for yourself for self-care. Taking care of your mind and body will help combat stress and ensure you perform your best while earning your graduate degree.
6.Learn how to manage your time well
Pursuing a master’s degree online is an important investment which deserves some thought on how you’ll spend your time so you don’t feel overwhelmed once the semester begins. The best way to avoid burnout while in grad school is to track your time.
One of the best ways to track your time is by creating a calendar to make note of your appointments, classes and events. You can also create a to-do list to track your daily or weekly tasks. Using simple time management techniques will help you stay on top of what needs to be accomplished.
7.Prepare yourself mentally
While graduate school can be an enjoyable experience that leads to incredible opportunities, it can also be very stressful and filled with late nights and early mornings. It’s important to prepare yourself mentally for the challenges that may come in graduate school.
One way to mentally prepare for graduate school is to plan ahead. Know your class times and find all the syllabi to note any major assignments or exams and their due dates. You can also start assignments ahead of time so you won’t have to rush and tackle multiple things at once that are all due at the same time.
Additionally, it’s crucial to establish work-life balance to prepare yourself mentally in graduate school. Leaving time for rest and time to see your friends and family will reduce your chances of experiencing burnout from your academic work.
8.Reach out if you need help
Although making the conscious decision to ask for help may be difficult, it’s important to cultivate this skill so you can have a more successful and meaningful school experience. Being a graduate student certainly requires independence, but it also requires support from others.
You should take advantage of every opportunity in graduate school to become acquainted with your professors and peers. Building relationships with those around you can make it feel easier to ask for help since you already have a relationship with them. Remember to also reach out to family and friends who you feel close with.
Struggling with your mental health is nothing to be embarrassed by. Almost every student deals with heightened periods of stress and anxiety at some point. It can be beneficial to check out your school’s counseling center for some extra support at times when you need it the most.
Find success as a graduate student at NJIT
Graduate school is a huge accomplishment that can make all the difference in your professional career. Whether you’re thinking about pursuing a master’s in electrical engineering, or a master’s in cybersecurity, NJIT can help you accomplish your career goals. If you're eager to take the first step to attend a graduate program, choose your online master’s degree program or graduate certificate and apply now!