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5 Tips for Succeeding in Graduate School

Updated on December 19, 2015

Tip One: Get Organized!

Getting yourself organized and staying organized is important in graduate school for two reasons: staying on top of assignments and keeping your insanity! My first semester of graduate school I went out and spent $100 on new school supplies and things to keep me organized, I was determined, but that didn't last for long. I found out very quickly that the way I stayed organized while I was an undergraduate was not going to cut it by any means in graduate school.

So how do you get and stay organized? First of all, grab your keys and head out the door, you're going to need to do some shopping if you don't already have these things. Here is your shopping list:

  • A 2" binder for each class
  • A spiral-bound notebook for each class
  • Dividers for each class
  • Colored pens
  • Pencils
  • Notebook Paper
  • Highlighters
  • Sticky Notes
  • A Planer
  • Black/Blue Pens
  • A backpack
  • A printer
  • Bag for pens and pencils

You may have to spend a little extra for these things, but it will be worth it. Graduate school requires a lot more than undergraduate and your materials will wear out faster, you don't want to have to replace them in the middle of the semester!

So now you're back from the store, great! Time to get yourself organized! I like to start by dumping all my school supplies on the floor, putting all my pens and pencils in their bag, paper in the binders, and labeling each binder and spiral bound notebook for each class. Next, you will need to set up your printer and make sure everything is working!

Next, print out your schedule and your syalbi for each class (if you have them already, if not this can be done later) and assign a color for each class. By color coding you don't have to write as much in your planning and dates and assignments stay more organized. For example, here was my schedule my first semester of graduate school:

  • Foundations of Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Pink
  • Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy - Green
  • Strategies and Techniques of Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Orange

By having each class color coded you are able to write assignments in your planner without having to write which class it is for.

Make a schedule to survive graduate school and college
Make a schedule to survive graduate school and college | Source

Two: Make a Schedule

Now that you have everything you need, it's time to get your time organized! First and foremost write everything in pencil first and go back later and write over set in stone assignments and obligations with your color coded pens.

Start by writing in your class times, work times, even family events and birthdays. Writing down everything keeps you ahead of the game and on top of your commitments and obligations. Being on top of everything not only keeps your organized, but it helps keep you stress-free.

As you head to class on your first day, write in assignments, projects, exams that are set in stone in your color coded pens. Being able to see school, work, and family events all together allows you to better schedule out your day to day time. For example, before a birthday coming up on a Saturday, get the assignments for the few days after done before the birthday arrives, leaving you stress free and able to succeed.

Why sleep is so important
Why sleep is so important | Source

Three: Get Some Shut Eye

Now you have all your supplies, your planner is filled out, what next? Start getting into a routine of getting a good night's rest! Sleep is absolutely essential for doing well in Graduate School! After all the brain power it takes to read texts, write papers, and listen to endless lectures, your brain needs some rest!

It's a known fact, most graduate students do not get the sleep that they need to succeed. Constant late nights and all nighters are not the way to get ahead and do your very best work or learning.

So how much sleep should we really be getting? National associations claim that 7-9 hours is what all adults should be getting on a nightly basis. My body tells me I need 8-10 hours as a 23 year old. Get to know your body, listen to it, and it will tell you what it needs.

What a lack of sleep is doing to your body

Part of You it Affects
What Happens
Memory Problems
Entire Body
Constant Hunger/Weight Gain
Emotionally Unstable and You Have Trouble Making Decisions
Read Your Textbook
Read Your Textbook | Source

Four: Read, Read, and Read Again

So now you are getting a good night's rest, awesome! Next on your list is to order your text books and order them early! It is absolutely essential to read your material BEFORE you attend lecture and then again AFTER. Re-write notes and read the material yet again.

After years of experience and talking with other students, professors and tutors, it takes reading the material about three times in order to really absorb what you are reading. Let's face it, text books can be dull, boring, and bit technical at some points, and the fact of the mater is you are going to drift off while reading and miss some important points! If you don't read your material three times at least aim for twice, it will not only help you ace your exams but it will help you later on down the road!

Take some time for yourself, relax a little
Take some time for yourself, relax a little | Source

Five: Relax

So you come to the end here and you are probably wondering what else is there to do? Well...RELAX. You need to take time for your self in order to succeed well in other areas of your life. You will have nothing to give if you do not make sure that you are filled. Take time to go for a long walk, get some retail therapy in, or go have coffee with a friend and have a movie night. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing, do it at least once a week! This will help you to avoid a burn out by the end of the semester when you tend to feel like you have nothing else to give.

Let's Wrap This Up

So, you must first have the supplies and be organized in order to do well in graduate school. You must also sleep, read, read, and read again, but also relax somewhere in the middle. Graduate school can be rough, but just remember that this is what you want to do with your life and all this hard work is only for a little while.


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