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Five tips for graduate school success

Five tips for graduate school success

Graduate school is a chance to pursue your passion and build the foundation for a successful, fulfilling career doing what you love. If you have applied, and been accepted into a graduate program, this blog is for you. We have compiled a few suggestions on what to do after you receive your acceptance letter, and five tips on how to be successful and get the most out of your program.

How to prepare for graduate school

Once you’ve been accepted into your program of choice, some pre-planning will help you get a running start:

Talk with advisors: Follow up with academic advisors, professors, junior faculty, and more advanced students you may have met during school visits or during the application process. Ask them any pressing questions you have about what to expect, how the program works, and advice for managing your course load. Advanced students often have a great perspective since they’ve had a few years to learn the ropes.

Explore funding options: Having a financial plan to pay for your education is important. Knowing you have the funding gives you one less thing to worry about. Options include student loans, grants, teaching assistantships, campus work-study programs and scholarships.

Set a reasonable (and flexible) timeline: Completing grad school is a personal journey, not a race or competition with other students. Some students take 2 years, while others may need 4 years. If you planned on completing it in 2 years, but taking another year would mean less stress overall, then give yourself permission to do so! Choose an academic schedule and timeline that will allow you to be successful and get the most out of your experience.

Tips for success

Here are five tips to help you succeed in graduate school:

1. Find a mentor: Having someone you can go to for advice is an important resource. That being said, mentors do more than advise students. They train you to become an independent thinker and researcher, help you obtain foundational skills, attain work-life balance and share their skills and wisdom. They are your cheerleaders when you accomplish something great and are there to help you through challenging times. Remember to always be gracious and meet their deadlines, this person will be the one to write you letters of recommendation for years to come.

2. Manage your time: There is only so much you can accomplish in a day. The ability to budget your time is “the single most important skill to develop to successfully navigate graduate school,” says Mitch Prinstein, Ph.D, on

There is no one specific way to plan your time and it’s different for everyone. Make a point to take advantage of organizational tools, like Google Calendar to create schedules, lists and more. A good ol’ paper planner works, too! When scheduling, always keep the big picture in mind. It can help you recognize what work or activities take priority.

Track how much time it takes you to complete a specific task, like grading seminar papers. The next time you creating your to-do list you’ll have an idea of approximately how long that task will take and you can plan accordingly. Just make sure any time estimates are reasonable.

3. Practice writing every day: Writing is your bread and butter. You will spend a considerable amount of time on your thesis or dissertation, drafting proposals, summarizing research for professors, and on your basic course work. Take it seriously by doing short exercises daily – practice blog posts, op-eds, research papers, historicals – and really hone your craft. Offer to edit your peers’ work, as well, and always read work out loud – the ear is an editor’s best friend. Being a good copyeditor your work is an important aspect of writing.

4. Build a community: Grad school is not the time to sit at the back of the class. It’s time to get involved, be an active participant in your academic circle, and network with as many people as possible. Many of the people you meet in grad school with become future colleagues and great friends, so support each other’s work. Turn to them for tips on maintaining work-life balance, bounce ideas off each other, blow off steam – your grad school peers know what you’re going through and supporting one another makes it a whole lot less stressful!

5. Make time for relaxation: This should be included in how you budget your time. A balanced approach to your studies is best. To avoid getting burned out, make sure you build in some time to relax and do things you enjoy. Self-care is as important as your course work and is your reward for working hard.

Are you in the process of preparing for graduate school? Don’t forget to research your scholarship options, including the Knowledge First Financial Graduate Scholarship Awards. Apply for one of ten awards for students who are continuing their academic journey at the graduate level.

Learn more and apply for the scholarships here: