You mastered the use of your highlighter, you came home and rewrote your class notes, and you created countless study schedules. Your steadfastness got you through your bachelor’s degree with flying colors.

Graduate school is another level. While it was occasionally possible to complete a paper in a day or two as an undergrad, there’s no way to wedge a graduate-level final paper into a few days. As a graduate student, rote memorization is less important than critical thinking and analysis.

Continue to build on your undergrad success with these graduate school study tips.

1. Time Management Matters More than Ever

The pace of a graduate school program can seem leisurely to the uninitiated – one course every six weeks as opposed to four or more at a time while pursuing a bachelor’s at a traditional university. The pace offers plenty of fodder for procrastinators.

Resist that temptation. While the number of classes will be lighter, the course content will be more intense. Create a study schedule at the beginning of each class and stick to it. You’ll thank yourself when you’re not rushing through papers and projects at the end of each course. You won’t do your best work under a time crunch, and you’ll short-change yourself educationally, too.

2. Learn to Read (No, Really)

By design, graduate level-courses are more in-depth than undergraduate classes. That means absorbing information and grasping concepts that will be more difficult to understand, especially your first few classes. Lean on text features, such as bullets and summaries, to help you comprehend the major concepts before diving into a chapter or article. Examining the author’s helpful hints can cut down on re-reading to discover what you missed the first time.

Also, don’t be afraid to bail out on an article that simply isn’t helpful. Many grad students often over-research papers by continuing to read information even after they know it isn’t going to be relevant and/or inform their work.

3. Improve Your Writing Skills

If a paper or two per class was hard as an undergrad, graduate work presents an added layer of difficulty. Many classes are all about writing, and much of what you’ll write will be of considerable depth. If writing fundamentals is an area where you still struggle, now’s the time to bear down and really apply yourself. Many colleges have resources available. Take advantage of them. Online programs often involve more writing than traditional campus programs so be sure you know where to go for help, if necessary.

4. Reach Out to Classmates

A great thing about graduate school is that virtually everyone is there because they’re deeply interested in the subject matter. Many classmates will be working professionals with years or even decades of experience.

Take advantage of that life experience and tap into your classmates’ passion and knowledge. Both parties in the exchange will emerge all the stronger for it: the questioner gains information, while the question gets an opportunity to explain something clearly and articulately. That’s a valuable skill in today’s business world, too.

Don’t let the fact that you’re in an online program hold you back from cultivating these relationships. Take advantage of discussion groups and forums. And be sure to join our Facebook groups; there are several benefits. The electronic medium has the bonus of improving writing skills and in learning to communicate online – an essential skill in virtually any workplace today.

Remember that an adjustment period is perfectly normal when beginning anything new, particularly something as demanding as a master’s degree. Keeping these tips in mind will help you acclimate more quickly.


Written by University Staff

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