You’ve graduated from college with your undergraduate degree. You’ve worked in your respective field for a number of years. And now, you’ve come to the conclusion that you’re ready to take your academic and professional career to the next level. Graduate school is the perfect way to invest in your future, get noticed in today’s job market, and advance your professional network.
Here are some tips to help you navigate through grad school.
- Research different funding options
Some of us may still being paying back student loans from our undergraduate degree, and that’s okay. There are a variety of different options to pay for graduate school. For example, Sallie Mae’s Graduate School Scholarship Search has free access to nearly 1 million graduate scholarships, worth up to $1 billion. That’s 1 million scholarships specifically for graduate students that are potentially free for the taking!
Does your company offer any tuition reimbursement programs? If you’re not sure, ask. This is a great way to earn extra $$$ toward your degree. Some schools will even let you defer your tuition payments until after you receive your grades, so your employer has time to reimbursement your expenses. That means, as long as you’re getting good grades, you potentially won’t have to pay anything or as much out of pocket.
There are also tax credits and benefits available, too. Grad students with qualified tuition reductions do not have to report the value of the reduction as taxable income. Tuition waivers may be taxable above a certain limit and not all employment types qualify, so you should still consult with your school to see if your waiver is reportable as income.
- Network, network, and network some more
When you’re completing your graduate degree, nearly all of your classmates have some of the same goals as you. They are willing to learn and eager to succeed. Find yourself a study buddy, or a small study group, to help you prepare for class assignments and exams. Use group projects or your free time before and after class to get to know your classmates. You never know, you could be in class with someone who can help connect you to your next job.
Don’t be afraid to network with your professors, too. Professors are experts in their respective fields and can be a wealth of knowledge. Visit their office hours, schedule a video chat if you’re an online student, invite them to coffee or lunch, or engage in brief conversations after class. Professors enjoy teaching — that’s why they’re in the business in the first place. They may be happy to offer their guidance on any number of different topics.
Even if you decide to pursue your graduate degree online, you can utilize your class discussion boards and virtual meetings to advance your professional network.
- Become an expert in prioritization
Procrastination in grad school won’t do you any favors. Just like undergrad, you’ll need to map out a schedule for each class, and develop a schedule for your job, too.
Find out your key dates early. When is your first exam? When are midterms? Do you have a capstone project due? How often does your professor assign homework? Keep track of work deadlines, too.
By figuring out your professional and academic workload early in your semester, you’ll be able to prioritize your time each day to devote specific time slots to your job, your schoolwork, and even to life’s other needs, like friends and family.
- Make time for yourself
For some of us that are always on “go,” this may be harder than it sounds. Balancing a job and schoolwork, among other activities and responsibilities, can be taxing on your body and cause increased amounts of stress. Stress can lead to fatigue, procrastination, or even failure.
To avoid burnout, try setting aside time each week to focus on yourself. Even if it’s just a short walk outside, or watching a few episodes of your favorite show, putting a focus on your health will pay dividends throughout your academic and professional career.
- Don’t hesitate to ask for help
If you want to become a “master” of anything, you will be challenged. At times, grad school may feel overwhelming, and that’s okay. You’re not alone and you’re certainly not the first to balance grad school with other responsibilities. If you’re feeling stuck, talk to your classmates, recent graduates, faculty, or even your coworkers that have advanced degrees. They may be able to share some tricks that helped them succeed.
Whether your graduate program is online or in-person, most schools offer study help. And, in some cases, tutoring can be free. Additionally, the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students offers a variety of different tips on their website. From study help, to resume pointers, and finding scholarships and fellowships, they showcase a number of different useful resources.
With the right resources, and a positive mindset, you’ll be able to breeze through college like a true scholar!