12 Grad School Survival Tips
The truth is, when you're a grad student, nobody really gets you.
April 24, 2014
Ah, graduate school. What a completely unique experience – or so they say. Because, the truth is, when you’re a grad student, nobody really gets you, right?
Wrong! We do! Not only do we know what you’re going through, but we want to help you get through it, too.
It’s pretty scary in graduate school, too. It’s basically, like, sink or swim without a fancy swim instructor looking out for you.
Just think of us as that life preserver waiting to save you when the going gets tough or when your arms give out. No, we can’t do the work for you (sorry, we asked) but we can try to motivate you to keep sticking it out when times get tough.
No matter what year you are, utilize these tips to get through graduate school successfully – we know you can do it!
Here are some tips that can help you survive graduate school, from start to finish.
1. Stick to a budget.
This tip is likely not all that difficult to follow if you’re a regular graduate student. But, when you do score some extra cash (for whatever reason) try your best to put it towards paying your bills, savings or paying off loans and interest.
Because, chances are, you’ll want to have a splurge session and, quite honestly, we don’t blame you. It really is in your best interest to pay off your debt!
2. Remember that you’re never alone.
Deciding to take on graduate school is a scary task but, remember, you’re not alone. You’re not the only one who has decided to take on this lifestyle.
In fact, you may not be the only one questioning, “Why on earth did I decide to take on this lifestyle in the first place?” Heck, there could be support groups for students like you.
So, take solace in the fact that you, friend, are not alone!
3. Pay off interest when you can.
You’ll be in a much better spot with as little interest accumulated as possible. It’s difficult, but pay off as much interest as you’re able. Your future self will be eternally grateful.
4. Let yourself be a student.
Repeat: I am a grad student. I am learning. I will make mistakes. Seriously, don’t be so hard on yourself. What you’re doing is seriously admirable and really difficult. The world really isn’t going to come to an end if you make a mistake, we promise.
5. Utilize tax breaks.
As a graduate student, you qualify for unique tax breaks that you should utilize.
For example, the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit can allow students breaks up to $2,000 a year!
6. Make the most of your resources.
There are a lot of resources provided to students like you. You just need to: 1. Find out what they are. 2. Utilize them.
Refer to your professors, go to their office hours and ask the right questions. When in doubt, refer to number eight on this list!
7. Apply for free money!
By this, we mean grants and scholarships! There are so many financial resources available to graduate students on sites like, ahem, Fastweb, so apply, apply, apply!
Remember, applying is pretty much a numbers game and the more you apply, the better your chances of winning are. Apply for all you qualify for to maximize your odds of winning.
8. Never forget you have an advisor.
Your advisor is there to help with any questions you may have regarding programs, research, faculty issues, etc.
Don’t forget about this important person you should have on speed dial! If your advisor doesn’t have an answer for you, he or she will be able to point you in the right direction of the contact who will.
It’s even advisable to set up a regular meeting with your advisor to check in and see how things are progressing for you. So many students neglect to do this.
Think about it this way, you’re paying for their services indirectly, so why not utilize them?
9. Select work you’re passionate about.
You can’t devote hours on end to learning and working on something you can’t stand. It’s as simple as that. You’ll grow tired of it and simply won’t put forth the endless effort that it takes to get through days and nights of studying and working towards a goal.
Bottom line: pick something you absolutely live and breathe so that you can live with your decision.
10. Take time to experience life, even if it’s just for a moment.
Through your courses and your difficult curriculum, try to take time to experience life as well. You’ll see glimpses of life through meeting others, getting to know professors, chatting with baristas or petting someone’s puppy on the street.
These may seem like pretty lame experiences and, quite frankly, they are but they’re little slices of life to help you get through even the darkest of days.
11. Always remember the light at the end of the tunnel.
Never forget that through all of your pain and hard work – there is an end to a means. Grad school doesn’t last forever and, with every moment, you’re getting closer and closer to the light at the end of the tunnel!
12. Relax when you’re able.
Yes, we know – easier said than done. At the rare moments when you have a free moment, try your hardest to relax.
Take a deep breath, take a bath and do whatever you need to do to just, you heard us, relax!