11 Expert Tips to Help You Survive Grad School

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It’s 2020, and a Bachelor’s degree is seen as being equivalent to a high school diploma. So, you find yourself looking for ways to get a leg up on the competition and set yourself apart from the rest.

Next thing you know, you’re considering grad school. At first, it’s just an idea, then you find yourself in night school wondering, will this ever end?  

Well, it will. And I have some tips to help you through those moments when you think it’s time to throw in the towel.

1. Get Involved

When I went through grad school, I found it easier to learn and absorb the coursework when I participated in classroom discussions. I would try to relate the week’s material to my own experiences and real-world scenarios. It helped me to better understand what was being taught.

This also helped encourage more discussion amongst my classmates and made class more fun.

2. The Closer, The Better

I know this may sound silly, but sitting at the front of the class helped me stay focused and engaged (especially after a long day of work). It also helped me listen better because I wasn’t distracted by other students.

Sitting up front also kept me from distracting myself from browsing social media, checking emails, or online shopping. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy.

3. It’s All About Balance

Most professors will give you a weekly breakdown of the course work. Since I was working full-time while also going to grad school full time, I would try to stay ahead of schedule and balance out my workload.

I used extra time on weekends to get an early start on assignments and projects. Taking advantage of that time lessened my workload during the week.

4. Technology is Your Friend

I never liked electronic textbooks until I was forced to purchase them while pursuing my Master’s degree. I quickly saw how efficient looking up information using “ctrl + f” in a PDF could be. It’s way better than the “old method” of thumbing page-after-page. Or trying to highlight information I thought was relevant and might need later.

Reading the material, taking notes in word, then being able to use the search function to easily find the necessary information literally saved me hours every week. And trust me, when working and attending school full-time, an extra hour is everything.

5. Practice What You Learn

If you are working while going to school like I was, try to take what you have learned for the week and find a way to incorporate that teaching into your job. Even if it’s something small like a new excel formula, practice will help you retain information.

You might even impress your boss with your growing efficiency and hard work!

6. Be Present

Attendance is a must! Not only is attendance mandatory for most grad programs, but most programs are accelerated. That means you’ll be missing A TON of important material.

Plus, I found that I learned a lot more during lectures and in-class discussions, as opposed to reading the material on my own.

7. Make Connections

I can’t say this enough, network, network, network! It’s so important to build relationships with other students in your class. You never know where your paths may cross again or what opportunities might arise. It’s always good to have professional connections to help you along the way.

You never know when you’re going to need or want a new job. The students in your program may be the foot in the door you need to start the career of your dreams!

8. Get a Mentor

Get to know and engage your professors. Many of them have years of experience they’d love to share with you. They’re not only there to teach you the materials, but also to mentor you as well.

I’m still in contact with one of my professors and routinely check in with him in a mentor-mentee capacity. It’s very helpful to speak with someone who can offer an objective perspective to help guide me and offer career advice when I need it

9. Shop Around

Before you commit to a school, shop around. Weigh your options and compare curriculums of the different schools you’re interested in. 

This sounds obvious, but you also want to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck. Remember, you’re no longer eligible for the Pell Grant. To limit the number of loans you take out, cost should be at the top of your list.

10. Study

I know this sounds obvious, but I had to study a lot more in grad school than when I was an undergrad. Grad school programs generally have higher GPA requirements to maintain, so it’s important to make sure you study and understand the material.

If you are struggling, reach out to your classmates for group study sessions. Without my study group, I don’t how I would have made it through. On tougher days, it was also really nice to be able to talk to other students going through the same thing as me – balancing friends, family, a full-time job, and school.


There were a couple of times I wanted to give up, and I’m thankful I didn’t. I’m not going to sugar coat things – It’s hard, and it’s stressful. But, in the end, it was all worth it.  

In my first year, I was able to see the return on my education investment. It’s worth it in the long run, and it will pay off, just keep pushing. You can do it!