Week 2 of the semester is just about done and I’m not hating it any less than I was last week when I shared the six struggles of graduate school students I wish my friends and family would understand. Judging from the comments, many of my fellow grad students feel my pain, but there was one comment in particular that really stuck with me. The comment was from someone who said she would be starting grad school in March and while she was already nervous, my post had made her even more nervous. Now I realize this commenter could have just been making conversation, but I felt bad that I could possibly be influencing someone’s life in a negative way. My intention for the post was to be funny, remind my fellow grad students that they aren’t suffering alone, and to give a PSA to friends/family growing irritated with the grad student in their life. I certainly didn’t mean to scare anyone away from grad school and decided a post dedicated to tips to thriving and surviving grad school was necessary for all my Royals heading to and/or thinking about grad school.

thriving and surviving grad school

1.Time Management/Organization.

I’ve mentioned before how important time management is in order to be successful in life period. Time management is even more important to be successful in grad school. I highly recommend, as soon as the syllabi are available that you put all important due dates in your planner/calendar. This way, when you are trying plan for other things, you can keep these dates in mind.

2. Maintain a life outside of school.

Grad school has a way of consuming your life. If you aren’t busy reading, you’re probably doing homework or trying to align your schedule with your classmates’ for group work. Frankly, sometimes you just have to walk away from it all and you should. Schedule time to do the things you love. For me, it’s blogging and my TV shows. Blogging is my time to get away from work and school. It is my time to connect with the world outside of public health and work. The same way you pencil in when you will work on an assignment, is how you should schedule your “me time”.

3. Never Ever Get Behind.

Grad school keeps you busy. Very seldom will there be a lull in work, but if there is, use the time to get ahead because there is NOTHING worse than getting behind in grad school. Once you fall behind it’s almost impossible to catch back up and it makes what’s already often a stressful situation worse.

4. Work Smarter, Not Harder.

I can’t speak to what pursuing other Master’s degrees is like, but if you are pursuing a Master’s in Public Health you are no stranger to having to pick a health topic and/or underserved population and complete some kind of paper/project on them. Because I have come to expect this, I save myself time by always by picking between two diseases and only changing my population in terms of age (i.e. I always focus on the same race). This saves me time because I don’t have to do as much background research and I often feel a lot more comfortable because I’m familiar with these topics.

5. Make Friends within your program.

These are the people who can always sympathize with what you are going through. They have the same teachers, probably aren’t looking forward to that 25-page paper either, and also would rather be drinking wine than listening to any professor ramble on at 8 o’clock at night. No one is going to get it how they do and you need these people to stay sane. I am so  grateful for whoever created the Facebook group for the students in my online program. I can always count on them for a good laugh, for information the school/teachers have poorly disseminated, and warnings of professors to avoid.

6. Find a Mentor.

Grad school can be a big scary place. At the end of the day there are thousands of other people pursuing the same degree as you who will ultimately be competing for the same jobs as you come graduation. It’s imperative to make connections with at least one person that has been down this road before. A mentor can help you avoid critical mistakes, help guide you in directions you never thought of, and even be a reference on those job applications.

Grad school is hard and I’m really excited to finish, but the benefits having a master’s degree will bring to my life far outweigh the struggle the past couple of years have been. For anyone starting grad school soon or thinking about grad school, know that it will be an adjustment. Don’t spend any time worrying about whether or not you will survive because you will and if ever you doubt that just remember this post and the one from last week. You’ll have that degree before you even know it!

Are you starting grad school soon? Have you already been to grad school? If so, what was your strategy for thriving and surviving grad school?

 

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36 comments on “The Royal Guide to Thriving and Surviving in Grad School”

  1. I’m starting grad school at the beginning of February (I can’t believe it is SO soon) and I am already nervous. I think your tips are super helpful though, staying on track at all times is going to be SO important!

    • Don’t be nervous Jordyn! I have 100% faith that you will very quickly find what works for you and what doesn’t. If you start to get overwhelmed make sure you take some time to yourself so you can recharge and refocus. If ever you need someone to vent to know that you can always come back here!! Good Luck!

      xoxo,
      Roxy

  2. You are so awesome lady! I dunno how you do grad school and blogging lol I’ve had friends in grad school and working and they have no time for anything (which is how I often feel working and blogging.
    I think these are great tips when trying anything new or outside of your norm..they really apply to blogging especially the mentor, working smarter and getting organized..
    Good luck this semester.
    -Dia

    • Dia you are far too kind! Sometimes when I step back I’m not even sure when it all gets done, but thankfully it does. I guess the saying that you make time for what you want to make time for holds true. Thanks!

      xoxo,
      Roxy

    • You’re right about that! I think people tend to forget it when they’re sole focus is perfection. While I’m not suggesting you throw accuracy to the wayside in the name of getting something done, I do think there are always ways to be more efficient! Thanks for stopping by!

      xoxo,
      Roxy

    • Absolutely! I love using my social life as a reward to for getting things done, but must admit when I’m feeling super burnt out I take a break to do something social. It’s usual just the recharging I need to push forward!

      xoxo,
      Roxy

    • My experience has been filled with highs and lows. I probably wouldn’t do this specific program again, but I don’t hate it so much that I’m abandoning my plans of medical school. How was your grad school experience?

      xoxo,
      Roxy

    • I see both sides of the coin. I liked undergrad better b/c frankly I could slack off more and it was expected that I’d be worrying about my social life as much as my academics. I like grad school b/c everything is centered on a topic of my choice. I don’t have to sit through any random classes that are totally unrelated to my field of interest.

      xoxo,
      Roxy

    • That’s a good one! Countless of times I’ve been forced to decide what absolutely needed to be done and what I could skip over. I’m so glad to have learned that b/c it’s impossible to do it all!

      xoxo,
      Roxy

    • I hadn’t even thought of these ideas outside of the context of school, but I do think with a little tweaking they are applicable to life in general. Thanks for pointing that out!

      xoxo,
      Roxy

    • Thanks Kusum. I truly wish I’d learned the value of a mentor back in undergrad. Now that I’m in grad school, I didn’t want it to be a missed opportunity again!

      xoxo,
      Roxy

  3. These are such incredible tips! I finished grad school in 2012, but all of these tips were relevant to my experience. It’s so easy to get caught up in school, and time management proves even more challenging if you’re also working full-time. Finding a balance of school, work, and “you” time is SO important.

  4. These are awesome tips! Grad school is no joke and you know I understand the struggle. I love the advice about never getting behind because it’s so true! I always try to stay ahead of the game because when you get behind it’s so hard to recover.

    Xo,
    Allison

    • You sure are right about that. If/when I get behind I typically never fully recover and start cutting corners just to stay afloat. The struggle is real!

      xoxo,
      Roxy

  5. If you use a paper planner, or at least for your grad school duration, I recommend the week on 2 page vertical set up. Once you block off class time, commute (if you have it), work, etc. You’ll be able to see where you have pockets of time to either hang out with people or catch up on sleep.

    • I do have a paper planner and my biggest complaint is that it isn’t set up how you just described. This will be a requirement for next planner!

      xoxo,
      Roxy

  6. Great tips! I start my graduate program in August and although I’m a bit nervous, I’m still super excited to be starting the last part of my education. I read your post on 6 struggles of grad school students and it really didn’t make me any more nervous. I attend an amazing university (SNHU) with super supportive classmates and professors. My husband is military so I do all my schoolwork online and they’ve been AWESOME in helping me balance school along with my husband being overseas and working from home. I have no doubt that they’ll be with me every step of the way through my graduate program 🙂

    • Congratulations on starting the last part of your education soon! It makes me too happy to hear my previous post didn’t make you nervous. It sounds look you have a stellar support system and I’m glad to know you will be able to lean on them during your grad program too!

      xoxo,
      Roxy

  7. I am a year into my grad school program, and one of the biggest adjustments for me was just accepting that it was going to take up a lot of my time. But the biggest benefit is all of the great friends I have met in my program! I love this post, and think it is spot-on.

    ​​xx katie // a touch of teal

    • I’m glad to hear you’ve made a ton of friends and finally gotten adjusted to the time grad school takes up. I too thought it would be A LOT easier to handle, but was sadly mistaken!

      xo,
      Roxy

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