Graduate School Survival Tips Straight From Former Students

graduate school students
Successfully completing graduate school won't be easy, but that's no secret. Although the road to earning a master's degree will be challenging, it's well worth it. Plus, there are specific steps you can take to survive the experience.


Plenty of people have graduated from advanced degree programs and been kind enough to write about their experiences in academia, including what they wish they knew when they were students. Here are a few pieces of advice that could help you thrive in graduate school.

Money matters

Sure, money isn't everything, but knowing how you're going to afford graduate school expenses is essential. If you have a plan for covering everything from tuition to course materials, you're likely to have better peace of mind while studying.

In addition to researching student loan and scholarship options, you should see if your employer is willing to cover some or all of your graduate school costs. This is the advice freelance journalist Lynze Warde Lenio provided on The Muse website. If you're unsure as to whether your company will help, its human resources office should be able to provide you with answers, she wrote.

Robert Farrington, a Forbes contributor, was among the former graduate students fortunate enough to receive help from an employer.

"Grad school is expensive," wrote Farrington, who holds a Master of Business Administration. "I was in a great position that my employer paid for me to go."

Know when to relax

In graduate school, stress is inevitable. So it's important for you to know when to take a step back from your studies and relax.

Assistant professor Chuck Fidler wrote about how important this is in an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education. There may be nights when you have to work late, but it's also crucial you take the occasional night off.

"Cook a nice dinner one night, take a long bath, read for fun, paint, listen to music, go skiing, go to a free concert, work out in the campus pool, whatever," Fidler wrote. "The point is to purposely add alone downtime to maintain your mental health."

Make health a priority

Aside from mental health, you need to think about your overall well-being. In her article for The Muse, Lenio advised graduate students to get enough sleep, eat right and exercise. This is especially essential if you're going to balance your studies with a job, whether it's full-time or part-time.

In terms of how much shuteye you should get each night, the National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours for adults. Whether you're at the office or in class, you want to make sure you're alert and ready to excel.

Graduate school doesn't last forever

Remember that the one thing all graduate programs have in common is they end eventually. Fidler said it's not uncommon for students to become overwhelmed early on in their schooling. The assistant professor knows this, because he went through it.

"I often felt stressed out," Fidler wrote. "It seemed as if every class session turned into more tasks I had to do, more processes I had to learn, and more mistakes I had made. I had to constantly remind myself that I would get through it all."

That's not all

Of course, these are just a few of many survival tips for your new life as a graduate student. If you know anyone who has earned an advanced degree, ask him or her how he or she got through the experience in one piece. Also, don't hesitate to ask graduate school faculty for a few pointers.

Find out More Graduate School Survival Tips


About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.

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