Graduate school will be difficult, there is no doubt about it. You will likely have to do more homework, read more, and pay better attention in classes than you are used to. It is like a full-time job where you will have to spend at least 7-10 hours per class every week to do well enough to get a high average grade point. In no particular order, here are the top 10 pieces of advice for succeeding in graduate school.
1. Stay focused on learning
One of the best things you can do is to keep your mind constantly focused on learning. This doesn’t mean stay focused on getting good grades. Grades are only a byproduct of learning. Keep your mind open to learning new things and always look for opportunities to apply your knowledge and learn from others. Learning isn’t just about doing well in class, it is also about being innovative and finding your own way to contribute.
2. Learn how to take good notes and be an active listener
You may be used to taking notes on a computer, but studies show that people who write notes with pen and paper are better able to process material and remember lectures. Laptops can be very distracting and students tend to take notes verbatim, i.e. transcribe, what is being said in class. However, if you take notes on paper, it forces you to be selective and interpret material in your own way, rather than just regurgitating information.
3. Read smart
Reading smart means being able to digest and understand the information you are reading easily. There are a lot of strategies for this, but one of the best is to annotate and highlight as you read. Find a system that works best for you, but in general notate or underline passages of importance, read those passages twice, and don’t get bogged down in the details that don’t matter. If you’re reading online articles or pdfs, print them off or use an online annotation tool like hypothes.is or Diigo.
4. Connect with classmates
Grad school is a great experience because nearly every one of your classmates are in the same position you are – ready to learn and wanting to succeed. Even if you are an introvert, connect with your classmates so that you can help each other with difficult assignments. Study groups are vital in grad school.
5. Get involved
Grad school offers a lot of ways to get involved. Whether it be research opportunities, teaching assistantships, or extracurriculars, find a way to apply your studies to real world experience. You’ll learn a lot more doing so and employers will find great value in the things you do outside of class to further your life goals.
6. Keep in contact with your professors
Professors are your number one contact for succeeding in school. Grad school professors will have an in-depth knowledge in many different areas, both in and outside of the classroom. For example, if you are wanting to publish a study or paper, your professors will know what it takes and can help you through the process. Likewise, seek guidance from them for internships and other academic opportunities.
You are going to have to research a lot while you are in graduate school. Utilize the tools you have available as a student to effectively use your time doing so. On and off campus libraries are crucial, as well as online resources, including academic paper databases, and yes, Google. Being an effective researcher takes practice, and don’t be afraid to reach out for others for tips and tricks.
8. Manage your time
Time management is important in any aspect of life, but even more so in graduate school, especially if you are working part or full-time. You are going to need to take time away from other activities in order to succeed in school, but trust me, those activities will be that much sweeter after you have finished your degree.
Stress is a major contributor to failure, procrastination, and laziness. Don’t let stress bring you down by taking time for yourself and destressing from time to time. Have a couple of beers with your friends, get some exercise, go watch a movie with your significant other, and enjoy yourself.
10. Pick a quality mentor
Whether it be one of your professors or advisors, or someone outside of academia, pick a mentor that will help you become who you want to be. A good mentor will help you find unique ways to be passionate about your areas of interest and keep you on the right track to obtaining your goals.