Becoming a graduate student is a monumental step in your life and you want to set yourself up for success. Obtaining a master’s or PhD can be both exciting and overwhelming. Understanding what lies ahead of you in grad school will help you do your best. Here are five tips that helped me achieve my goal of obtaining a doctoral degree.

Tip 1 – Know Your Schedule

Learn to plan and make to-do lists. Create a daily, weekly and monthly list. These lists will provide structure, internal deadlines, and a sense of accomplishment that will increase your confidence in getting your work done.

Tip 2 – Plan Ahead

Look at your syllabus prior to the first day of class. It will help you understand the work that needs to be done. This will allow you to plan your daily and weekly schedule. Set deadlines for yourself so you are finishing your assignments prior to the due date. These deadlines will allow you to get work done in a timely manner and not make you feel the anxiety that comes with deadlines and school work.

Tip 3 – Communicate

Get to know your professors. Communication early and often will be key to a great professor and student relationship This will prove to be a crucial connection point throughout your time in graduate school. We all have busy lives and there are things that happen out of your control. If you know your schedule and understand the syllabus you can communicate early with your professor to see if arrangements can be made to adjust an assignment deadline. This not only provides you with peace of mind but also helps you gain the respect of your professor.

Tip 4 – Take Your Time

Any graduate program is a long process. Patience is key to unlocking your potential as an adult learner. While things tend to fly by in a semester, and you may feel like there is a ton of pressure, make time for yourself and your family. The one thing you can never replace is time. You will have long nights of studying, weekends full of exams or paper writing, but you must know when to stop being a student and get back to life as you know it. You will find that this will clear your mind, make those around you happy, and you will seem less overwhelmed.

Tip 5 – Trust the Process

Understand that things are sequential for a reason. The coursework is aligned properly to scaffold your learning and make sure you’re prepared to be successful. So, when things seem tedious, understand there is a purpose for everything done in your program. With that being said, understand that the University wants you to graduate and they will do everything they can to help you move along the way as smoothly as possible.

Graduating with a master’s or doctoral degree is a big step in anyone’s profession.  Everyone’s situation is different and each Ph.D. program or master’s program is unique. These five tips will help you move through the process and personalize an experience that fits you. Be confident in yourself and understand that you are here for a reason. Be patient, set your goals, take your time, and trust the process and the light at the end of the tunnel will appear faster than you even know. Good luck with your own personal graduate school experience.

Author Brad Leshinske, current RMUoHP student in the Doctor of Philosophy in Health Sciences program