Studying in graduate school means survival in graduate school!
I’m over halfway through my first semester at Claremont Graduate University. I’ve taken midterms in Statistics, Research Methods, Evaluation, and Positive Psychology. I came to graduate school straight from undergrad. This is not necessarily an advantage. Learning how to study in graduate school is COMPLETELY different from undergrad. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Disclaimer: Opinion piece: The way I study and absorbs information may be different from how you digest information. Also keep in mind that absorbing information for a job of for undergraduate is VERY different from graduate school. Graduate school is not easy.
Write down every assignment. UPDATE every due date. Check every due date every week.
In undergrad, I gave up on paper planners. I spilled coffee on every planner I have ever owned. So I opted to use an online calendar. I choose google calendar because it’s free, it can be synthesized to all of your devices. Also when you create events you can add locations, repeat events, and descriptions. In graduate school, I found that this was not enough. I still use google calendars but I also have gone back to the paper planner. I put due dates, exams, meetings, research meetings, and papers. In my paper planner, I put goals for each half of the week as well as to do lists.So far I haven’t spilled coffee on my planner, fingers crossed.
Set goals. Keep yourself accountable. Find others to keep you accountable. Keeping yourself accountable means saying your goals out loud. Keep them present in your day to day life. This means writing them down in a paper planner, to do list, online calendar. Setting goals is not enough in graduate school because half way through the semester you can lose momentum. I like to set blocks of time throughout the week for studying. Within these blocks, I write in what subjects, assignments, projects I will start and or finish. You will not know how long these blocks should be until after doing the work for a couple weeks, maybe months, maybe after your midterm grades come in. If you are not realistic about how much time it will take to study… it will hurt you. You can lose points all over the place by being careless in grad school.
Find others to keep you accountable. Talk about your goals with others, commiserate! If you say it out loud you may be more likely to do it. Also, if you are in a study group and are responsible for some part of the workload then you are more likely to do it. I feel like most of the work I do in grad school I am not graded for. The end result, the mastery of information and application is what I’m being graded on. You are not studying for anyone but yourself.
Workout. Take a break. Get someone to hold you accountable.
You have to study to stay afloat because anything below an 80% percent is failing! So take a break so you don’t lose your shit. Just like you need to keep yourself accountable to put in study time you also need to commit to your well-being.
Workout! Find a workout buddy who will keep you accountable. I don’t need to tell you the benefits of eating well, regularly, and working out. Just do it. Don’t feel guilty that you are taking time away from working on classes, research, etc. Think of self-care as a part of your grade. If you don’t take care of yourself your grades will not hold.
Don’t neglect you partner and friends. The best thing you can do is explain your situations and give them realistic expectations of the time you have to spend with them. Regardless take the time to hang out with friends, give yourself a free day, go on a date with your significant other, go to a concert, do a fun run. Do what you love with your you love.
Find a mentor. Talk to everyone! Especially the TAs.
TAs become TAs by being on the top of their class. So they know a few things about excelling in graduate school. Also, if your school has a mentor program get into it! Some people have mentors that they hangout with all the time creating a professional and personal relationship with. Then there are some, that meet with their mentors monthly, sending emails here or there. The moral of the story is to talk to others. It’s easy to feel along in graduate school. Others may seem like they have their whole life together. The may not. Graduate school is stressful so don’t forget to commiserate. If you don’t talk to others about what you are going through you are disadvantaging yourself and missing out on resources.
Don’t doubt yourself!
Talking to others will keep the imposter syndrome at bay. You are not alone in grad school despite what you may think. Imposter Syndrome Link.