5 Keys to Surviving and Thriving in Graduate School

Brian Boyle Graduate Programs, Learning

At a recent university commencement ceremony, a graduate student was overheard telling his family that his diploma should be printed in blood, sweat, tears and coffee. While I’m certain that is true to a large extent, I would be willing to bet that this recent University of Mobile master’s degree recipient would admit that some constructive habits were also a big part of achieving such an impressive accomplishment.

Here are five practices that can help any graduate student have a smoother path to earning the coveted graduate degree:

  1. Commit Fully From the Start– Like everything else that we accomplish in life, a firm commitment is essential to succeeding in graduate school. You know that you’re embarking on a two- to three-year endeavor that’s going to be tough, so the level of commitment has to be high. Chances are that your current daily responsibilities will not go away, so try to arrange your schedule in such a way that prioritizes and accommodates your school responsibilities. Like the sign in the post office says, “Be like a postage stamp, and stick to it until you arrive at your destination.”
  2. Be Positive and Upbeat– Sometimes the hardest thing to do in the face of a daunting challenge is to maintain a positive attitude. But according to research conducted by the Mayo Clinic, having a positive attitude can improve your health, reduce your overall stress, and even increase your lifespan! The study goes on to suggest that learning to laugh (even at ourselves) during stressful times can improve one’s intellectual capability… and that’s something that can definitely come in useful in graduate school.
  3. Keep the Faith– Hopefully this new academic adventure will be smooth sailing, but more than likely you’ll encounter a bump or two along the way. When our faith walk is where it needs to be, we see those bumps not as failures, but as opportunities. Reaching out to God and spending time with Him in prayer, and taking just a moment each day to read His word, is so important to maintaining one’s spiritual health. Trust that God is walking with you on this journey, and know that He is completely ok with you leaning on Him when the weariness sets in…in fact, He prefers it!
  4. Take Care of Yourself– There will be the occasional long night as you study for an exam, write research papers, or work on your thesis. During these times you are likely to gravitate toward the not-so-healthy snacks, and possibly develop a keen proficiency for drinking coffee…lots of coffee. But don’t fall into the habit of overdoing the caffeine, grabbing the junk food, or missing your much-needed sleep. Sure, you might have an occasional episode with bloodshot eyes, and cookie crumbs stuck to your clothes, but the graduate student who can maintain a relatively consistent pattern of healthy habits is the graduate student who has a greater chance at success.
  5. Reach Out to Your Faculty– At the University of Mobile, our professors are more than just figureheads lecturing in your classes. They really do want to get to know you, and to be available to you when you need a helping hand. They understand that working on your graduate degree is a challenge that takes a high level of commitment and discipline (remember, they went through this as well!), and they want to be your partner and supporter as you work toward accomplishing this goal. Take advantage of their willingness to help. Also, take advantage of the university’s other resources like our Writing Center and our Student Success Center. At the University of Mobile, we really are interested in your success, and we look forward to seeing you attain your goal of earning your graduate degree.

To learn more about the graduate programs offered at the University of Mobile, please visit our website at www.umobile.edu/graduate-and-professional-programs, or call 251.442.2222.  Or stop by our office. We’ll even pour you a hot cup of coffee.

About the Author
Brian Boyle

Brian Boyle

Brian Boyle serves as executive director of the University of Mobile Foundation and adjunct instructor for the School of Christian Studies. A University of Mobile alumnus, Brian graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 1994, and a Master of Arts in Theology and Biblical Studies in 2015. After a 10-year career in the banking industry, he returned to his alma mater in 1999. Brian enjoys hunting, fishing, watching copious amounts of football, and spending time with wife, Mandy, (also a UM alumna) and his two girls.