1. Non-thesis option. Plain and simple, it’s easier. Program that provide this option typically have a higher focus on application rather than research. If you love research, than definitely go with the thesis, but for those that can’t stand it – non-thesis programs do exist.
2. Friends. Make (smart) friends in the program. They’ll come in handy for stress-relief, homework reminders, and they’ll make the graduate school experience fun. Don’t lock yourself up in your house or stay so busy working to pay for school that you forget to kick back and have some fun.
3. Take breaks from the internet. Staying off and avoiding the internet can save you tons of time. It’s the only way I got through the last couple weeks of graduate school recently.
4. Get online more. Perhaps the internet is your social network. If that’s the case, stay connected and ask your friends for motivation and encouragement.
5. Significant Other. There are two schools of thought on this topic. Be single and don’t be single. I prefer the latter. It’s easier to get through something as challenging as graduate school with a partner who will help to keep you sane and steady throughout. I suppose the key is having an amazing partner. The ones who just cause headaches should be left at the curb.
6. Make time for fun. It doesn’t matter what you choose, everyone (graduate student or not) needs some rejuvenation time. Select something that re-energizes you. Depending on your personality-type, that might be going out with friends or staying in with a movie. Extroverts are typically re-energized by socializing with others while introverts are typically re-energized by quiet alone time with maybe one or two special people.
7. Time management. If you can manage your time wisely, you’ll be stress-free a majority of the time while your classmates are busy completing stuff the night before. I personally never quite mastered this one, and I survived ok. But it would have been easier with some more productive time management.
8. Up your deadlines. This relates to time management, but it’s a great way to avoid procrastination. Simply increase your deadline. If you’re the type of person who only needs one or two solid nights to complete big projects, then set an artificial deadline for yourself. And make it very soon – as in a day or two. You’ll end up spending the same amount of time on it, but you’ll be able to actually enjoy your free time without that assignment weighing you down.
9. Physical. It’s time to get physical, physical. Exercise is the first step to physical health and mental health. It will relieve stress, anxiety, tension, insomnia, and so on. Commit to at least 30 minutes each day. If setting aside 30 minutes seems impossible – try 10 minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Be mindful of the changes in your mood and body.
10. Sleep. Getting enough rest will help you stay healthy. The last thing you want to do is get sick during graduate school. On occasional cold, sore throat, or flu is expected – but getting enough rest will help you avoid illness by boosting the strength of your immune system.
11. Counseling. If you never took advantage of the free counseling available during your undergraduate program, now is the time. Even though you are obviously a high-functioning, intelligent, successful, and amazing person – there’s probably at least one thing about yourself you might like to change. And even if you are perfect, counseling can help you get through graduate school by providing a non-judgmental person to be there to talk to or vent as necessary.
12. Make your own list. Do you think there are some better ways for you to survive graduate school? Type up your list, print it out, and hang it by your computer. When you feel like you’re getting stressed out, check out your list.
13. Get to know your professors. Your adviser, professors, instructors, and assistants are going to be the individuals who you will rely on the most. Starting on day one, get to know them – and let them get to know you. These will be the people who will be writing your recommendation letters down the road. The better they know you, the better the letter will be. And if you encounter any hardships during your graduate school experience, they’ll be there to get you through it – and it probably won’t change their thoughts on you. If you’re shy, talk to your counselor about ways to be more outgoing and to relieve the anxiety of talking to your administrators.
14. Push yourself. You will encounter opportunities to do the bare minimum. Don’t be tempted to the dark side. You’re better than that. Push yourself to be as productive as possible. Create your best work each time. At the end of your program, you’ll be happy you did. You’re paying for this – get your money’s worth!