Whether you go to grad school through a traditional program or go to grad school online, it will be demanding. The key to keeping your motivation alive and staying on track in school is managing your stress. When you don’t take steps to manage your stress, you can easily feel overwhelmed.
As you progress through your graduate program online, remember to cultivate good study habits, focus on your strengths, prioritize your physical and emotional well-being and maintain a strong social network. With these easy tips going to grad school doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience.
Appreciate Your Strengths
It’s not unusual for grad students to feel like they’re failing to measure up. Grad school puts you into close contact with talented professors and intelligent peers. If you feel a little bewildered and dumbfounded from time to time, remember many of your classmates feel the same way — even if they don’t admit it.
Anxiety is natural when you’re moving beyond your comfort zone as you will be doing in grad school. Just remember, you’re more worried about your weaknesses than anyone else is. When you start to feel swamped by difficult tasks, take time to remember the things you do well.
Learn How to Say No
An easy way to become stressed out and overwhelmed in grad school is to take on too many responsibilities at once. If you’re going to school online, there’s a pretty good chance you already have a full plate. Know your limits. Resist the urge to take on additional responsibilities you know you can’t handle. It’s okay to politely say no.
If you don’t understand something from the course material, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You owe it to yourself to make the most of your grad school experience, and you can’t do that if you’re not making every effort to understand the material.
Make a Plan for Your Future
It’s easy to get caught up in everyone else’s plans for your future and forget what it is you wanted to do. When you start grad school, sit down and write out a plan for your future career. Where do you want to be five years after you finish school? Ten years? Twenty years? When you’re clear about your goals, they’re easier to achieve.
Remember life doesn’t always happen as planned. While it’s great to have a plan, don’t be too rigid. Stay open to unexpected opportunities that may come your way. They could take you places you’ve never imagined.
Take Care of Yourself
You can’t focus on your school work or your other responsibilities unless you’re in good health physically and mentally. That means you need to focus on taking good care of yourself. Get enough sleep every night. Eat a healthy diet. Get exercise as often as you can. If you feel short on time, the more intense your exercise regimen, the less time you’ll need to spend on it each week to remain healthy — but don’t overdo it, of course.
Manage Your Time Well
Good time management skills mean the difference between success and failure in grad school. Avoid procrastinating. If you have a large project, break it down into manageable portions and work on it throughout the term. Instead of cramming, study regularly throughout the term so you remember the lessons better over the long term. After all, the point of enrolling in an online Master’s program like American.edu is to learn skills you will use throughout your caree, not get a grade or pass a test. Use to-do lists and schedules to prioritize tasks, and set your own deadlines if you’re not given any.
Make Time for Friends and Hobbies
Take time for yourself regularly. You should make a point of setting aside personal time each day, even if only for a few minutes. Giving yourself time to wind down and do something you enjoy prevents burnout and helps you keep the stress of grad school in perspective.
By the same token, you need to make time for your friends and loved ones. These relationships don’t stop being meaningful just because you’re in grad school. Your friends and loved ones provide a connection to your life outside of school and may serve to remind you why you’re in school in the first place. Spending time with people you care about can help you manage your stress.
Don’t forget to build relationships with your classmates. The friends you make in grad school will be an important part of your professional network for the rest of your life. Plus, they can commiserate during stressful periods and provide an important source of social support while you’re completing your studies.
Grad school is stressful, but it doesn’t have to be demoralizing. With good time management skills, study habits and self-care, you can beat grad school stress and stay focused all the way through your program.