By Laura Morrison, July 2014
There's no doubt about it, graduate school is hard work. Between balancing your school and work schedule, staying on top of finances and networking with professors and fellow students, it may feel like there's little time left on the clock to sleep, let alone study.
Of course, studying is one of the primary reasons you went to graduate school in the first place, and much of your success will hinge greatly on your ability to make the most of your study habits, regardless of the rest of your schedule. While the scholastic demands of each program will be different, here are some general tips to help you stay on top of your studies.
Learn to Read
The most important thing you need to do to boost your study skills in preparation for graduate school is learn to read - really! This isn't to say that you should brush up on your literacy - though that would likely help too. Rather, it's important to cultivate a specific kind of reading that will help you extract the most information in an effective way without having to read hundreds of pages every week. As Western Connecticut State University psychology professor Tara Kuther explained to Psych Central, reading for success in graduate school is very different than reading a book cover- to-cover like you may be used to.
“When reading to study, maximize your time by prioritizing based on things such as structure and organization. Pay attention to headings and subheadings to get a better sense of what information will be contained in a certain paragraph. It's also important to know when to stop reading, for example, if you realize that a given book or chapter isn't beneficial to your research goals.”
You may have grown up being told that breaks are the enemy of productivity. In reality, the opposite is true. In fact, breaks are a necessary part of maintaining focus and keeping your mind sharp. This goes double when you're managing a tight sleep schedule.
You may be tempted to shave a few extra hours off of your slumber in order to get that last page written or cram in that last chapter, but that may be a bad idea. Counseling M.S. Kate Thieda told Psych Central:
”Losing sleep is one of the single-most destructive things you can do to your graduate career."
Marathon study sessions are sometimes unavoidable, but be sure you recognize when your brain has had enough and needs rest. Taking a five- to 10-minute breather every hour is a small thing, but it may help keep you sharp and receptive for much longer.
Take charge of your notes
Note taking is a ubiquitous aspect of higher education. Anyone who has gone through undergraduate studies is familiar with the mountains of notebooks necessitated by the academic process. As with other aspects of studying, proper and effective note taking requires planning and strategy. In order to benefit from your notes, it's important to understand how and why they're helpful in the first place.
According to Test Prep Review, your notes are not meant to be single-use resources. In fact, one key strategy is to review your notes on a daily basis, as a means of reinforcing the information they contain. It's important that your notes are clear and legible. After all, if you can't read them, there's little chance they'll provide much benefit to you. One strategy the source recommended is typing your notes after handwriting them. Not only will they be more legible when you go back to read them, but the act of rewriting the information can help to further cement it into your brain.
About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.