How to Survive Grad School

For many of us, a bachelor’s degree just isn’t enough. We did our time, put in the four years of hard work (and a little party time, let’s be honest), but we are left in an economy where sometimes that piece of paper is just not enough to cut it. Some people find their calling in other professional paths, such as medical school or law school, but what about those of us who still have a thirst for more?


The beauty of pursuing this level of education is that your peers–along with yourself–are there because you all want to be. (If you stumbled upon this article after going to grad school just to delay the job seeking process, this may not be for you *wink wink.*)

Post-graduate education is no fly-by-night process, and there is no room for error. You get what you give. Finally, you must assume responsibility for your life, your path, and your choices, but this can be difficult for many of us who are experiencing this level of responsibility for the first time. Many students find themselves struggling to maintain a healthy balance between their social and academic lives. It’s not impossible to do, so read on to find out how I managed to make it work!


I’m sure you’re all thinking “what makes you qualified to tell us how to manage this stress?”. Answer: I lived it! One year ago, I began my journey to pursue my M.S. Marketing degree, and like many students, I immediately focused all efforts into school and work. If you have Persian parents like mine, they would be cheering you on and congratulating you on your ability to be so disciplined. This behavior, however, is a recipe for failure.

My first semester ended well academically, but physically, not so much. Before school had started, I was adamant about fitting in at least five workouts a week, keeping in touch with my friends, socializing often … but by the end of the semester, after losing touch with my social life and getting hardly any physical activity (aside from lugging around a heavy backpack), my mind and body knew that this was not sustainable.


Pro Tip #1: EXERCISE!

I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Many studies have been done to prove this, but logically, it just makes sense. Get the blood flowing, increase oxygen to your brain and muscles, and release those endorphins. Your stress levels will go down, your ability to focus will go up, and your mind will thank you for this over and over again. Don’t believe me? The CDC mentions that multiple studies show that students who are physically active have better grades, better attendance, better memory, and better performance in the classroom. For those of you who use the “I don’t have time” excuse, it’s just that — an excuse. Let it go, you have time. Anything that is a priority in your life, you’ll make time for. If the gym isn’t your thing, that’s fine! Any type of physical activity will do the trick. Try and fit in at least 30 minutes a day 4-5 times a week.

Which leads me to…


Pro Tip #2: Time management

Work smarter, not harder. Get ahead of the curve and do yourself a huge favor by scheduling out your weeks. Spend just 30 minutes every Sunday (or whatever day suits you) to sit down and make a schedule. Using a whiteboard helps, because you can easily update it every week and keep it in view. This way, you are making a commitment to yourself about how you will spend your time, and it also allows you to see that you DO have time for other things, like socializing, working out, or any other hobbies. In addition to planning ahead, carry a small notebook around with you (or use your phone if that’s easier) and make a list of your tasks for the day. This helps you prioritize on a daily basis, keeps you from forgetting little things, and gives you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment each time you cross a task off the list.


Pro Tip #3: Forget about it

While this tip seems insignificant, I would argue that it’s the most important tip I have to offer. Being an adult, working, and going to school full-time leaves your mind riddled with worries, anxiety, stress–the list goes on. Since you’ve learned to manage your time and create a schedule, find a slot of 10 minutes every day to “meditate.” You don’t have to find a yoga studio or be on a beach to do this. Meditation in this sense simply means to let go of your thoughts for 10 minutes, and instead focus on your body. How are you feeling? How does your mind feel? How does your body feel? The key is to think of nothing. Naturally, your head will flood with random thoughts and images, but let them come and let them go. To help you master the art of relaxing your mind, download the Headspace app. It lets you set a time every day and guides you through ten minute sessions of meditation. You’ll feel remarkably refreshed and calm after doing this, and you’ll notice the benefits immediately.


Keep things simple: plan, organize, and relax. Remember these three words whenever you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed and you’ll easily be able to take back control over your busy life.

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