Home Blog

How to Balance Grad School and Kids

Starting a family during grad school can be tough.

There are lots of reasons not to go to grad school while raising a family—lack of time, money, and job security, for starters. But having a baby in grad school comes with a surprising number of benefits, too. Here are eight ways you can adeptly balance grad school with kids.

1. Take advantage of your flexible schedule

In grad school, it can feel as though everyone is always working. While there are very few places you have to be at particular times, you’ll always have a lot to do. After all, funding for graduate school is often time-limited, and you’ll have significant academic requirements and teaching commitments during your graduate school years. Lots of universities have amazing libraries—many of which are open 24/7—and you may worry that any absence from your library carrel on a Tuesday night at 11 p.m. will negatively affect your productivity.

We are here to tell you that you do not need to stay up into the wee hours of the night to have a successful, productive graduate school career. You can, without apology, take advantage of the flexibility that grad school affords, and plan a schedule that works for you—and for your (growing!) family. As a graduate student, you likely have inked-in commitments for just a few hours a week: classes and talks to attend, teaching time, and office hours. The rest of your time is yours to allocate as you see fit. Perhaps with the exception of any future sabbaticals, you’ll rarely (if ever) have this much flexibility in your career again.

2. Build your time-management skills by using every minute efficiently

Even if you were able to work around the clock, you wouldn’t necessarily produce more. After a certain number of hours, you’d get diminishing returns. As a parent, you couldn’t invest unlimited time even if you wanted to, but take heart—parents quickly learn to be efficient workers.

There are many ways you can allocate your time. Some grad students keep their academic life to a 9-to-5 work day, ensuring that those hours are as productive as possible. Others plan their days around their family needs—for instance, taking time out in the middle of the day for a parent-and-child music hour, and then staying up post-bedtime to finish working. You should do what works best for you, and have faith that you’ll learn to make the most of every working (and every family) moment. In short, you might not be a better student in spite of parenthood—you might learn how to be a top-notch scholar because of it.

3. Make the most of the resources your university offers

Some universities offer child care assistance subsidies. Cornell, for instance, offers student child care grants. A number of schools have onsite child care centers, as well. You can make the most of having nearby, high-quality child care—this is not available everywhere! On-campus centers may even allow you to stop by in the middle of the day to see your child (particularly if you are a nursing mother).

4. Attend academic events when necessary

While graduate school offers more flexibility than any full-time job we’re aware of, it does come with obligations. You’ll need to make arrangements to attend major academic conferences, office hours, and the occasional workshop-led-by-a-famous-scholar-in-your-field. Not only will your attendance at these events serve their intended purpose—i.e., you’ll learn new things and network—but it will also help you feel just as much a part of scholarly enterprise as you ever were.

5. Apply newly acquired decisiveness to your craft

Being a scholar entails doing nuanced interpretive work. (The more you learn, the more you realize you have yet to understand.) That said, some graduate students find themselves in the unenviable position of getting bogged down by details—to the extent that they sometimes can’t see a broader argument. In large ways and small, parenthood is all about seeing the big picture through lots (and lots) of details. (For instance, irritability, a runny nose, and a poor night’s sleep may anticipate illness—and many parents can identify that from even one of those symptoms, all while packing lunches and changing diapers and completing the day-to-day tasks that keep a household running.)

Parenthood also entails making decisions—both large and small—all the time. (Maybe you would opt to keep your child home from school before the fever hits because you know it’s coming. More significantly, you could choose a child care facility after distilling a large number of data points—over the course of an hour-long visit.) In many cases, you’re making choices that may affect your child and family significantly—and you may be doing so with incomplete information and on very little sleep. Parents have to be decisive all the time, and that same decisiveness will benefit the articles, book reviews, syllabi, and ultimate dissertation you will write.

6. Channel your parental confidence

As a parent, you become more competent each day. Whereas at first it might seem overwhelming to take your child to the supermarket—wrangling a diaper bag, change of clothes, and bottles along with an infant and all of your groceries—that formerly mundane activity becomes routine once again. You learn new skills, become more competent, and strengthen your confidence. You may at some point contend with an ER visit, a stressful overseas flight, or any number of challenges associated with having a baby. In learning how to manage these stresses, you’ll demonstrate to yourself how much you are capable of. Your growing competence should be a source of confidence. Channel that in your work! Completing a dissertation is an immensely difficult endeavor. But, as with parenthood, others have done it before you, others will do it after you—and you can do it too.

7. Look forward to your kids being older and more self-sufficient as you build your career

If one of the drawbacks of starting a family during graduate school is that you endure the challenges of early childhood while balancing so much else—well, that’s also one of the benefits. Taking care of a baby is really hard work … no matter when you do it. If you put off starting a family, you may find it increasingly difficult to do so until you become more established in your career. After all, it’s difficult to be on the job market, with all its pressures and uncertainties, while taking care of a baby (and worrying about where you’ll end up living and whether you’ll have continuous health insurance coverage). Once you land a job as a junior-level faculty member, you’ll be very busy finishing your first book, teaching a full course load (likely for the first time), and building your CV for tenure consideration. Only once you have tenure might your schedule ease up.

This is not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t start a family at any time. On the contrary, you should do what feels right to you, whenever it feels right to you—and know that you can always make it work. That said, if you decide to start a family during graduate school, then it’s possible that by the time you go on the job market and launch your career, your child(ren) will be old enough, and self-sufficient enough, to allow you to sleep through the night and get work done in their presence. Graduate school may just be the perfect time for you to start a family.

8. Talk about your work with your kids

Since your kids are definitely going to see you working, tell them about it! They’ll pick up on how hard you work toward your goals and file that away as a model for themselves. Your kids will end up learning a lot about a really interesting topic, and they may acquire your love of learning in the process. Being in a campus environment also affords many opportunities to attend exhibition openings and other interesting events. Your kids will be surrounded by stimulating information and resources—lucky them!

7 Ways for Students to Overcome Writer’s Block

While writer’s block can affect all of us at various times, it is no longer some insurmountable menace that we can’t overcome. Whether you’re worried about what you’re writing, trying too hard to be perfect, or just lose inspiration, rest assured that you’re normal. There are also plenty of ways in which you can overcome your block quickly without getting too stressed. There’s no longer any reason to panic or miss you deadline, as you can just try out the following 7 ways to get over your writer’s block and get back to your craft.

1.     Move Around

Sometimes you get writers block because you just can’t see further. Changing your environment by heading to a coffee shop, a library, or even just another room in your house can provide a fresh perspective.

2.     Find another Outlet

Sometimes you just need to put down the pen and take a break from writing. However, you’ll recover from your block quicker by indulging in another creative outlet.

3.     Make the Most of Online Tools and Resources for Writing and Editing

Online tools for writing and editing can make a huge difference in overcoming your writer’s block. They can spark your inspiration, or at the very least help you sift through what you already have and find something great to work with. The following tools are some of the most useful:

  • Now Novel – this is a great tool for anyone looking to write fiction. This tool keeps your work private but it’s an amazing way for your work to stay organised, and help you develop a writing process.
  • Write my essays – the forums at paper fellows are full of professional and amateurs alike who are able to provide awesome support and advice when you need it.
  • Zen Pen – this tool is awesome if you’re easily distracted. You are provided with a completely plain interface, that’s just a blank page, so you can’t see any external links or procrastinate.
  • Trello – this tool is great for anyone who is more of a visual learner, and would benefit from being able to see their progress so far in order to figure out how to proceed.
  • Dissertation Writing Services – this writing tool is a cool way to find some inspiration and generate some ideas. You’ll be over your writer’s block in no time.
  • Resume Writing Service – when you’re short of ideas, you can head to this site for inspiration and generate some great new threads of writing for ideas.
  • Essay Roo – sometimes you just have to power through your writer’s block, and monitoring your daily word count, by setting and hitting targets is one way of doing that.
  • UK Writings – when you’re writing for academia or for school, you’ll have to spend a lot of time referencing, and this can interrupt your writing flow or process. Using this tool can stop you from suffering from writer’s block if your work is disturbed.

4.     Move Your Body

If you want your brain to be full of energy, you need to work on your body too, and getting some fresh air, moving around, whether it’s yoga, dance, boxing, or hiking, can really clear your head, and help you gain a fresh perspective and point of view.

5.     Start Early

You may need to edit this writing heavily, but starting super early can leave you in a dream-like state where thoughts just spill over from your brain.

6.     Turn Off You Phone

You’ll need to get rid of all distractions, but the easiest one to eliminate is your cell phone.

7.     Always Have a Notepad

Inspiration could hit you anywhere, so make sure you can write them down and get to work when you get home.

Writer’s block can prove to be a massive struggle for anyone trying to hammer out a career, or get through a degree, but following the above tips can help you break through it quickly and effectively.

How to Motivate Yourself: 3 Steps Backed By Science

You make goals… but then you procrastinate.

You write a to-do list… but then you don’t follow through.

And this happens again and again and again. Seriously, what’s the problem?

Why are we so good at thinking of what to do but so terrible at actually doing those things?

The problem is you’re skipping an essential step. Here’s what it is…

The Mistake Every Productivity System Makes

Productivity systems rarely take emotions into account. And feelings are a fundamental and unavoidable part of why humans do what they do.

We can’t ignore our emotions. Because of the way our brains are structured, when thought and feelings compete, feelings almost always win.

And we can’t fight our feelings. Research shows this just makes them stronger.

Via The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking:

So what does the unavoidable power of feelings mean for motivation?

In their book SwitchChip and Dan Heath say that emotions are an essential part of executing any plan:

We need to think to plan but we need to feel to act.

So if you’ve got the thinking part out of the way – how do you rile up those emotions and get things done? Here are three steps:

1) Get Positive

When do we procrastinate the most? When we’re in a bad mood.

Via Temptation: Finding Self-Control in an Age of Excess:

Meanwhile, research shows happiness increases productivity and makes you more successful.

What does the military teach recruits in order to mentally toughen them up? No, it’s not hand-to-hand combat.

It’s optimism. So how do you get optimistic if you’re not feeling it?

Monitor the progress you’re making and celebrate it. Harvard’s Teresa Amabile‘s research found that nothing is more motivating than progress.

Via The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work:

(More on how to get happier here.)

Okay, so negativity isn’t making you procrastinate and holding you back. But what’s going to drive you forward?

2) Get Rewarded

Rewards feel good. Penalties feel bad. And that’s why they both can work well for motivating you.

Research shows that rewards are responsible for three-quarters of why you do things.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People:

So treat yourself whenever you complete something on your to-do list.(Yes, this is how you train a dog but it will work for you too.)

Having trouble finding a reward awesome enough to get you off your butt? Try a “commitment device” instead:

Give your friend $100. If you get a task done by 5PM, you get your $100 back. If you don’t complete it, you lose the $100.

Your to-do list just got very emotional.

(More on how to stop procrastinating here.)

So you’re feeling positive and there are rewards (or penalties) in place. What else do you need? How about nagging, compliments and guilt?

3) Get Peer Pressure

Research shows peer pressure helps kids more than it hurts them.

(And face it, you’re still a big kid, you just have to pretend to be an adult most of the time — and it’s exhausting.)

Surround yourself with people you want to be and it’s far less taxing to do what you should be doing.

Via Charles Duhigg’s excellent book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business:

The Longevity Project, which studied over 1000 people from youth to death had this to say:

And the research on friendship confirms this. From my interview with Carlin Flora, author of Friendfluence:

(More on the science of friendship here.)

So we’ve got all three methods going for us. How do we wrap this all together and get started?

Sum Up

Got today’s to-do list? Great. That means the most rational thing to do now isstop being rational. Get those emotions going:

  1. Get Positive
  2. Get Rewarded
  3. Get Peer Pressure

You can do this. In fact, believing you can do this is actually the first step.

What’s one of the main things that stops people from becoming happier? Happiness isn’t part of how they see themselves so it’s harder to change.

Think of yourself as a motivated, productive person. Research shows how people feel about themselves has a huge effect on success.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People:

Still unsure if you’ll be able to beat the procrastination demon? Then skip right to #3, peer pressure.

Forward this post to at least two friends and start holding each other accountable.

Now you’ve got something outside of yourself that’s watching and motivating you. And everything is easier — and more fun — with friends.

Saddle Up!

Getting started is often the hardest part.

How befitting a Texan author, a post entitled Saddle Up? Lone Star aside, some of my most valuable life lessons have been learned outside of the classroom and, in hindsight, are applicable to important academic, professional, and personal areas of life (which as we know often overlap).

Riding horses was a hobby that I enjoyed. In fact, over the course of my late teens and early twenties, I rode almost every day. It was my passion; it even weighted heavily in many significant life decisions I made during this time. I loved horses who were easy to ride and the ones who were tough to ride even more. I delighted in riding the horses who taught me lessons and the green ones who had so much to learn.

I loved riding … but truth be told, I didn’t always revel in the process of everything that I had to do before the ride. Some days gathering the motivation to go to the barn and saddle up was tough. I really had to remind myself of my core motivations when it was 15 degrees in the Kentucky winter and I needed to be riding a colt. Honestly, however, it wasn’t the act of riding that I wasn’t looking forward to: instead it was finding the initial motivation to saddle the horse.

Recently, while considering a writing deadline and contemplating procrastination, I had an epiphany. It wasn’t writing I was dreading; like saddling, what I was truly avoiding was the initial act of actually sitting down to write. That meant putting the comfortable, fun and easy aside. The path of least resistance is alluring: however, it’s probably not the path that will lead to timely and successful completion of a graduate degree. Just the idea of approaching some tasks can feel overwhelming and be a source of apprehension. Even if you know that once you’ve started it won’t be that bad, it’s important to remember that in confronting the uncomfortable we grow.

Here are some ways to get past the anxiety of “saddling up”:

Set goals. Succeeding in graduate school requires daily commitment and effort. That fact alone can cause anxiety. However, literally knowing that I would not be sitting at my desk for the rest of eternity helps me to get started. If I approach writing from the angle that I am trying to accomplish this section of the lit review, or set up this paper, or even organize priorities (!) you are closer to achieving that task than when you began. Setting goals is a great first step towards achieving them.

Be realistic about the amount of time that you actually have each day. Let’s be real: most of us don’t have four to five hours every day to devote to writing. Setting realistic goals will help you approach the task and keep your mind off the clock. Also, allot appropriate time to deadlines and large projects. Two hours on a Sunday afternoon is simply not enough time to write a ten page paper and give it your best. (See the point below about starting early.)

Plan breaks. Get to know yourself. When do you start to crack? Personally, I like to read in small chunks and then get up and take a walk or do a household chore. I don’t always check the clock, since I know when I’m starting to lose focus. There’s a lot of discussion and much founded in science about about how breaks, especially spent in nature, improve health and make us more creative. Giving myself permission to step away for a few moments takes away the anxiety of feeling like I’m diving into a bottomless sea.

Eat the frog. Mark Twain is credited with the quote: Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. Like saddling a horse (and ab workouts, and cleaning the bathroom), when a task isn’t my favorite, I seek opportunities to avoid it. However, by approaching what it is that you don’t want to confront, you’ll be able to accomplish the task and move forward onto things you’d rather be doing.

Start early. Over the course of my time as a student, I’ve come to learn that much of my anxiety about getting started occurs when I’ve put something too big off for too long. I pay the cost of stress physically, mentally, and emotionally. Make a dedication to working on graduate school every day. It should be a daily commitment, just like sleeping eight hours and drinking plenty of water. Make a to do list, then an action program. Doing so can reduce the anxiety of approaching your tasks.

Take time to take care of yourself, your surroundings, and your relationships. This comes back to good time management. Make sure that you take time to tidy your desk area, take care of a few key household chores, and spend some time with your loved ones. Taking care of these things will help to ease your mind about setting aside several hours to devote to your writing responsibilities, which will diminish the anxiety of getting started.

On a Saturday afternoon when it’s sunny and 72 degrees, it can be quite hard to say no to social invitations, sit at your desk closed off from the rest of the world, and settle into several hours of writing or studying. Once you’re there, however, with every keystroke you’re moving towards your goals and just maybe things aren’t as painful as they seemed. Grad school is a short term sacrifice for long term gain! I’ve learned that acknowledging a source of discomfort takes away its power. Knowing that I dread the initial “saddling up” helps me to confront the chore of it and take action steps towards my purpose.

First-year Fears

The transition to graduate school is an exciting time in the life of a first-year graduate student, but it can also be a terrifying experience.  As a first-year graduate student, I will admit that the first couple of weeks of my graduate career were extremely overwhelming.  I found myself in an unfamiliar city surrounded by students who seemed to be more comfortable in this environment than I would ever be.  Many students already held advanced degrees, while I was making the transition straight from undergraduate.  Doubts arose and I asked myself the most daunting question that a graduate student can pose: “Do I really belong here?” Amidst the panic and feelings of discouragement, I hadn’t noticed that I had fallen victim to a prevalent phenomenon known as the “Impostor Syndrome.”

The Impostor Syndrome is characterized by feelings of inferiority that may be coupled with the idea that you are a “fake” or that everything you have accomplished thus far can be attributed to luck or any external factors not related to your own abilities.  These feelings can be quite debilitating and may interfere with your school work.  However, as graduate students we need to keep one important idea in mind: These feelings are absolutely unfounded.

So how can we overcome these feelings?  Well, one of the answers is in the question.  It is important to realize that you are not alone.  Other students have undoubtedly been through a similar experience.  Graduate students belong to a unique community, and it’s important to reach out to the other members of the community.  So talk with your fellow peers about their experiences as graduate students.  You may find that they share or have shared the same concerns as you, and they can help you find ways to resolve them.

It is also important to realize that none of us are perfect.  Most of us will encounter a moment in which we may start to question our competence.  At this point, it’s important to take a step back and recognize how far you have come.  This will give you a different perspective and will help you to realize how much you already know.  Keep in mind your moments of success and the steps you took to achieve this success.  At the same time, it is beneficial to identify potential areas of improvement.  Categorizing your weaknesses is a key step in working past these barriers in order to grow as a person and as a student.

Finally, take care to remember that you do belong.  You were accepted because your professors were impressed by you and believed that you would succeed in your program.  We are all talented and bright intellectuals that have the potential to make an impact in our respective fields.  When you are struggling with negative feelings, do not quit.  Be persistent in your efforts to overcome these feelings.  Have confidence in yourself and believe that you can accomplish great things – a positive attitude will yield a world of possibilities.

10 Surprising Time Management Strategies To Help You Graduate

If I Had Known Just Half Of These Time Management Strategies I Could Have Graduated a Year Sooner

I made the same mistake as most of my peers in graduate school: I was an overachiever.

While I did not realize this at the time, being an overachiever led to poor time management and reduced productivity. 

I set very ambitious goals, and when I did not meet my deadlines, I drove myself harder. I worked longer hours, sometimes to the point of complete exhaustion.

By my third year I had experienced several episodes of burnout.

I constantly felt guilty about not living up to my supervisor’s expectations, and I started to lose motivation.

I considered quitting graduate school because I did not see a way of out the dark tunnel I was in. 

I decided to stay in my program and I got my Ph.D, but the long hours at work impacted both my mental and physical health.

In retrospect, I realize that, if I had simplified my life (instead of trying to do too much at once), it could have been a more fun, relaxed, and probably shorter journey. 

Due to scheduling conflicts in my last year, I only had 20 days between my final committee meeting and my thesis defense.

This intense time-line forced me to change how I structured my days, because my old work habits did not work anymore.

I had to put my thesis writing on fast-track, so I did just the opposite of what I had done before: I slowed down, and I stopped trying to do everything perfectly.  

The surprising result was that I felt more focused and I made tangible progress every day.

Most importantly, I finished my thesis on time. 

The following time management strategies will help you to achieve your goals without having to give up sleep, meals or your social life.


  1. Give yourself permission to make mistakes

Yep, you read that correctly.

Perfectionism will kill your creativity and productivity.

Unfortunately, as adults we are too scared to take action because we dread making mistakes.

Do you remember being a kid and just having fun in the mud without worrying about getting dirty?

In a famous team-building game called the marshmallow challenge (where the aim is to build the tallest structure with a marshmallow on top), kindergartners consistently outperform business students in building taller and more interesting structures.

The reason is that kids are not afraid of making mistakes  – they are focused on having fun and they take action.

During the time-crunch of my last semester, I had to throw out perfectionism and just write.

As expected, I had to edit my first draft several times, but I met my graduation deadline and I authored three first-author publications.

After months of struggling, I overcame writer’s block by giving myself permission to put words on the paper, even if my sentences did not come out perfectly the first time. 

  1. Write in short sprints

I used to think it was great to have long stretches of time to write, and I set aside entire afternoons to work on progress reports or powerpoint presentations.

I did not have this luxury anymore in my last semester.

I had to improve my time management strategies, because in addition to writing my thesis, I was also running experiments.

To graduate on time I knew that I had to make progress every day.

Sometimes I only had 20 minutes between experimental timepoints, and during that period. I shut off my email and cell phone and started writing.

It is amazing how much you can accomplish in a short time when you are focused and uninterrupted.

In just 20 minutes, I was able to write an entire page of my thesis or review a whole journal article – tasks that would have taken me an hour or longer before.

Even if you have the luxury of long stretches of time, I encourage you to try “writing sprints” of 10-30 minutes each.

Focus on putting your ideas on paper, and do not worry about making mistakes. 

Some students find it helpful to do their writing sprints first thing in the morning, before they get interrupted or need to start putting out fires.

Make sure your phone and email are turned off, so you can put your attention fully on writing for just 10-30 minutes.

  1. Make a small spiral notebook your closest friend

Our minds are never at rest.

You might have noticed that ideas and errands pop into your head when you try to write.

Our natural urge is to act upon these chores right away.

The problem is that if you interrupt your writing to send an email or make a call, you will lose your train of thought – sometimes for the rest of the day.

If you try to resist the urge to act upon these to-do’s, the urge will just become stronger.

Your mind will not leave you alone until you do something about it.

But that does not mean that you have to send that email right away or make that phone call.

Why not capture the idea in a small spiral notebook that is always sitting next to you?

Instead of acting on urgent to-do’s right away, tuck them away safely in your little notebook, and attend to them after you have finished writing.

Surprisingly, most of your chores will not seem so urgent by the time you finish writing.

However, they will at least be out of your head and collected in one place, so you will feel on top of everything you need to attend to.

  1. Don’t get email and social media out of the way

Do you automatically check your email as soon as you turn on your computer?

When you begin your day by reading messages, you are prioritizing other people’s requests before taking action towards your long-term goals.

Responding to emails can distract you from your priorities and interfere with your concentration for the rest of the day.

To make consistent progress, begin your day by doing the highest priority task, especially one that you have been putting off for a while.

Finish this task in the morning when your concentration is at its peak. 

I used to think that I was productive by getting email out of the way first thing in the morning, and right after lunch.

Overall I probably spent 30-60 minutes a day reading and answering everyone’s emails.

Once I had to get my thesis done in 20 days, I only checked my email once a day in the late afternoon.

It only took 15 minutes a day to answer the most important emails!

This time management strategy saved me at least 30 minutes a day, and helped me to focus better early in the morning.

  1. Stop trying to please your supervisor

There is a big difference between being productive, and bending over backwards just to please your supervisor.

Focus on the end result they desire, not on trying to please him or her.

For example, if your supervisor asks you to complete a task, it is more important that the assignment is done well, rather than quickly just to show that you are diligent (unless there is urgency).

Some supervisors have not done hands-on research for a while, or perhaps they are not an expert in your particular topic.

If this is the case, they may not have a good idea of how long an assignment will take.

Be sure to communicate clearly any unreasonable expectations or unexpected challenges, so you can get your work done.

When you focus on “looking smart”, rather than learning, you might not reach out for help when you need to and end up working longer hours or make unnecessary mistakes.

In the long run, you will end up frustrated and resentful, and perhaps not learn as much as you could have, if you had asked for help when you needed it.

  1. Guilt-trip? Don’t buy the ticket

Most of my clients reach out to me because they want to be more productive.

There simply isn’t enough time in the day for them to get everything done.

When I ask my clients to describe their days, they list several commitments (social or family obligations) that they don’t want to do.  

“Why do you do it?,” I usually ask.

They hesitate, and give an answer that is some version of “I feel obligated to bring a dish to this potluck party…” or “I really need to babysit my friend’s daughter this weekend…..”

Why would someone do something that they don’t want to do?

To summarize, they feel guilty disappointing their friends or family members.

In reality, a potluck party will survive without your special dish, and your friend can find another babysitter occasionally.

You don’t need to isolate yourself from your friends and stop volunteering, but to lessen your load during crunch time you might need to defer or completely eliminate some commitments.

If you feel guilty, think about what you would tell your best friend.

Would you understand if he or she had to turn down an invitation to a potluck or babysitting to finish their thesis?

  1. Use worrying to your advantage

Did you ever have a well-meaning friend tell you to stop worrying?

It is usually not very helpful advice.

When you worry, there is a reason for it.

Your body and mind are telling you that there is an important issue that you need to attend to.

Worrying by running catastrophic scenarios through your head is not productive, but you can turn worrying into productive energy.

The biggest worries that graduate students have is that they will never graduate, or that they will be the last one in their class to graduate. 

What is your body telling you when you have this fear?

Perhaps you have a gut feeling that your project is dead-end, or that you are falling behind on your timeline, or maybe that it is time to have the “talk” with your supervisor (i.e. what you need to do to graduate).

When you catch yourself worrying, do something about it. 

According to Edward Hallowell, author of the book “Worry” , the best medicine for worrying is to “worry with someone else.”

Start by talking with a close friend, or perhaps someone in your field who can give you technical advice if your project is stuck.

Once you identify the exact cause of your worrying, make a plan to either get your research back on track or to talk to your supervisor about next steps. 

Either way, use the “worry signal” from your body to take action towards your long-term goals.

  1. Get an accountability buddy

Few things motivate us more than hard deadlines.

The problem is that there are few deadlines in graduate school and most of them are so far in the future (6-12 months), that it is tough to get motivated today.

An accountability buddy is someone who helps you to stay on track.

It is useful if the person is an expert in your field, but they don’t have to be.

Close friends who are non-judgmental can be very supportive and give you encouragement when you get stuck.

It is also important that the person is unbiased – they should not be affected at all by your graduation date.

Their primary role is to listen, so you can “think out loud” and actually solve most of your problems on your own.

For this reason spouses or significant others are probably not the best accountability buddies.

If your supervisor is available and willing to meet with you regularly, you can use those meetings to discuss the big picture and progress on milestones, not just the nitty-gritty details of your research.

  1. Celebrate every day

We are so experienced at beating ourselves up, and feeling like failures if we don’t get through our to-do list or if we fall behind on our milestones.

How do you feel when you beat yourself up?

Do you feel depressed and unmotivated?

These feelings will certainly not make you productive – in fact they will rob you of your self-confidence and make you even less productive.

Beating yourself up leads to a vicious cycle of low productivity, followed by loss of self-esteem, which can eventually lead to complete loss of motivation and possibly even quitting graduate school.

If you find that beating yourself up leads to better performance, you can continue.

But if you are looking for an alternative solution that will help you to reach your goals sooner, listen to some advice from Oprah Winfrey who was born into poverty and is now worth nearly 3 billion dollars:

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

The next time you don’t get through your to-do list, you can either beat yourself up and feel like a failure, or you can treat yourself to a little treat (exercise, walk, dinner with friends), to celebrate what you have done.

You are still hanging on there, working in the trenches, putting in the long hours to get your thesis done, and that’s enough reason celebrate.

It is your choice. 

I can tell you from personal experience that you will reach your goals a lot faster if you acknowledge yourself every baby step, so why not start today?

  1. Procrastinate wisely

This is my favorite time management tip.

We all procrastinate, so we might as well procrastinate wisely.

It is so easy to keep yourself busy – there are tons of emails in your inbox, infinite number of social media messages to respond to, a home that probably needs cleaning, and friends and family members asking you to do favors.

No matter how many hours you work, you will probably not be able to get through all your to-do’s. If somehow you do get through everything, most likely new to-do’s will pop-up.

To-do lists remind me of seven-headed dragons.

No matter how many heads you chop off, new ones will grow back instantly.

If you focus on getting through a to-do list and pleasing everyone, you will end up frustrated, not get everything (or anything) done, and you will certainly not please the people who are counting on you.

Give yourself a little room to breathe. 

Let go of some of the projects that have been weighing down on you.

If a goal is not supporting you, your mission, or your loved ones, you are doing yourself and the world a big disservice by sinking time into it.

Make this the year when you focus on the most important goals and people in your life.

Everything else will take care of itself and you will feel a lot better too.


The “What” and “Why” of a Graduate Business Education

Think business is just about investment banking, consulting, or sales? Think again. Business is everywhere and woven into every aspect of our lives. With every transaction we make, we’re doing business. An M.B.A. or other graduate business degree will help you develop the leadership skills, business acumen, and networking opportunities that are valuable to today’s competitive landscape and your career.

With a graduate business degree, you’ll gain an edge in the job market, command a higher salary, and enjoy new and challenging opportunities. No matter your career goal—advancing or changing your current career, starting your own business, or helping those in need—a graduate business degree can help you get there faster.

Be the CEO of your career

The true value of an M.B.A. or other graduate business degree lies in what it means to you. It will go beyond the financial rewards to offer great potential for personal and professional development, satisfaction, and achievement. In fact, the majority of full-time M.B.A. alumni from the classes of 2000–2012 agree that their degree was personally, professionally, and financially rewarding. Just take a look at the numbers below.

  • More than four in five alumni across all graduating years strongly agree that they make an impact at their company (86%), are engaged with their work (85%), and have challenging and interesting work (85%).
  • 95% of M.B.A. alumni would recommend their programs to others, and 96% are proud to have attended their graduate business program.

No undergraduate degree in business? No problem

Not having an undergraduate degree in a business-related field will not put you at a disadvantage over students who did earn their undergraduate degree in business. The M.B.A. (or any other graduate business degree, i.e., master’s degree) is a professional degree that does not require an undergraduate foundation in a business-related field for admission.

Five reasons to get a graduate business or management degree

  1. Boost your career. Career advancement, satisfaction, increased earning potential, and preparation for leadership positions are a few career boosters.
  2. Add value. Progressively challenging and interesting work, developing managerial skills, and starting your own business are just a few exciting opportunities within your reach.
  3. Land a job. A higher percentage of business school graduates secured jobs before graduation.
  4. Earn more. In 2013 graduates of full-time one-year programs expected an average (median) pre- to post-M.B.A. increase in salary of 79%.
  5. Remain competitive. Demand for talent is strong and companies are hiring and recruiting graduate management students

My Dissertation Go Bag

I am a pretty creative person. However, my creativity reaches superhuman levels when it comes to avoiding my dissertation. I’m too cold; I’m too hot. Neither of my desks in my apartment feel right today, nor does my kitchen table or couch. I need more light; I need less light. Whatever comes up, I know I can justify skipping out on writing because of it.

In order to ensure I actually get writing done on a regular basis, I carefully plan my work schedule in advance, block out time and utilize work timers, set up workspaces in my home that I want to be in—all things that make working on my dissertation easier to do. Sometimes this means leaving my apartment completely and working for a while out in the world, like at the library, a coffee shop, or outside somewhere. Nevertheless, my propensity to avoid writing follows me.

That is why I keep my Dissertation Go Bag by the door. Like its namesake, the emergency go bag, this backpack is ready to go at a moment’s notice and has everything in it (except my computer) I need to survive a writing session at the library or coffee shop. This means that I am always prepared to get to work, which minimizes any excuses I might create to avoid writing.

Here is a list of items that I keep in my Dissertation Go Bag, items that make it easier for me to write:

Scratch Paper: Although I do most of my writing on the computer, sometimes I need to map out an idea, create a checklist, or scratch some sentences out by hand. Keeping an inexpensive spiral notebook in my bag means I am ready for any sort of form my writing will take. Also, I keep a stack of blank 3×5 index cards. Sometimes, when I am stuck, jotting ideas on the cards and physically moving them around the table helps me visualize a difficult section.

Pencil Pouch and All the Pens: In a similar vein, I store a stationary store’s worth of pens, pencils, highlighters, and erasers in my bag.  A few weeks ago, I actually left the library because I didn’t have enough highlighters to, in my mind, properly color code my notes. Having a variety of options easily accessible means I have fewer excuses like this. Plus it justifies having a cute pencil pouch, which definitely helps me be more productive.

Extra Power Cords: Let’s say you’re in the library or have just settled into a coffee shop, you’ve set up your computer, stacked some books up, and gotten your favorite pen out—you’re ready to work! Until, that is, you realize your computer is about to die. There is nothing worse! After forgetting to bring my computer cord a couple of times, I bought a new one specifically to keep in my Go Bag. Also, I added a phone charger, too. This way I’ve always got power when I’m ready to write.

Sticky Notes in Every Size: Do I need to remember to pick up something at the grocery store on my way home from working? I have a sticky note for that. Do I need to mark a passage in a book? I have a sticky note for that, too. Do I need to add something to a cramped page of notes? Yup, I have a sticky note for that. Keeping a load of different style sticky notes in my bag means that I can be 3-dimensional in my writing, making life easier and minimizing work-curbing distractions.

Earplugs/Earphones: Despite your best intentions, writing in public requires, well, a public. From noisy children to weirdly humming lights, there is a whole array of distractions out there that you can use as an excuse to not get any work done. In my Go Bag, I have anticipated this! I have several sets of earplugs, my preferred method for tuning out the word, and a pair of earphones (that I use with my favorite white-noise app). Like the computer cord, these are extras, meaning they always stay in my bag so they are always there when I need them.

Snack, Preferably Something Chocolate: Hunger (or the illusion of hunger) is an easy excuse to end a writing session early. That’s why I make sure to keep a couple of nut-heavy granola bars, preferably ones dipped in chocolate (duh!), in my bag. They give me a hit of protein and sugar to keep my energy up, a dose of chocolate to up my endorphins, and are easy to eat quickly in the library stairwell.

Empty Water Bottle: Like with the snack, you can’t let thirst put you off working. So keeping a water bottle in your bag insures you stay productive and hydrated. Plus refilling my water bottle is one of my favorite study breaks, because it only takes five minutes and reminds me to stretch and move around a bit.

$10 Cash: Coffee doesn’t buy itself, so I keep a little bit of cash tucked into my Go Bag for caffeine-related emergencies.

A Scholarly Sweater and Typing Gloves: Sitting in one place for a few hours, especially one as cold as a library, can be profoundly uncomfortable. To protect myself, I keep a sweater in my Go Bag. But it isn’t just any sweater. Oh, no! It is the perfect writing sweater: cozy and loose fitting with extra-long sleeves. If you are prone to getting cold, I would also recommend keeping a pair of fingerless gloves in your bag. That way you can keep your hands warm and type at the same time.

How to Be a Successful Grad Student: Insider Advice

Young man working on his computer wearing glasses and a beanie.

You want to be a rock-star grad student: Good grades. A scholarship darling. Future employers banging down your door. And you’re totally on top of your personal life and stress levels too…

Okay, first of all, we’re pretty sure that student doesn’t exist. But what do you need to do to get close? How can you be a successful grad student in general? A grad school expert shares his top tips from the inside.

Congratulations! You are getting ready to start your graduate program of study.

And you should celebrate the achievement of getting in and allow yourself to be excited about the eventual payoff when you graduate. But make no mistake—the path between now and then is arduous.

The graduate work load will be heavy, even daunting, at times. You will have numerous reading assignments, projects, papers, and more to complete, as well as other program requirements of which to keep track. And, of course, you will need to keep up with your financial and other obligations. All in all, there will be quite a bit on your plate. But, I assure you, you can rise to the challenge with a little preparation and determination.

Here are some tips for ensuring a successful and personally fulfilling graduate student experience:

Allow yourself time to adjust—and try to relax

Graduate school represents a major life change. And major changes, even good ones, carry with them a certain level of stress.

Some graduate students move to a new city with very few, if any, friends or acquaintances. Some leave a full-time job, change their living situation, and/or dramatically alter their financial status. And, of course, there are the new responsibilities of graduate study. In the beginning it can be a bit rocky, which is why it’s important to have realistic expectations and carve out time for self care.

I remember when I started my master’s program: I had been out of college for two years, was a newlywed, and was moving away from my home/family/friends all at the same time. I took a job filling orders in a nearby warehouse while my wife worked as a secretary. We had one car, and at the beginning our work schedules overlapped to the point that I had to walk a mile to my wife’s job to pick up the car when I finished my shift. It was a lot to handle all at one time, and for several months I felt displaced and disoriented. Gradually I adjusted to my new home, graduate institution, job, and married life! But I have to confess, it probably would have gone a bit more smoothly if I had relaxed a bit more and gone with the flow.

Of course, this is easier said than done for most graduate students! But it’s important to take things one step at a time. Be thoughtful as you encounter new challenges. Time management and careful planning are essential to succeeding in grad school—but your attitude can make all the difference. Resolve to be calm, prepared, and patient with yourself, especially as you begin your graduate journey.

Fast forward to when I started my doctoral program: I had been out of graduate school for five years and for the first time in my life was taking classes on the quarter system (three academic terms per year), rather than the semester system (two academic terms per year), which was an adjustment. Also, I had left a well-paying full-time job and was back to working part time again—also quite the adjustment. However, being a bit more mature and experienced definitely helped me weather the changes. I was not as stressed as I had been years earlier. I felt more relaxed and, as a result, made the transition more smoothly and quickly.

Set priorities and stick to them

This is your graduate degree. And you need to determine what you want from this experience.

On one side of the spectrum, some graduate students will want to spend their time primarily reading, studying, and doing research, often independently. On the other end of the spectrum, some students may be doing their graduate degree for more pragmatic reasons, i.e., adding a credential to their résumé and networking. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, only you can and should set your priorities. There is no right or wrong answer; it is about what you want to get out of this experience.

However, keep in mind that graduate study offers a chance to delve into issues, ideas, authors, concepts, research, and debate in ways you may never experience again. While research is important and advancing your career is admirable, do not miss the amazing opportunities you will have to broaden your horizons by focusing solely on one or the other. Take advantage of what your institution, professors, and peers have to offer. That being said…

Don’t try to do everything at once

Very few people I know are able to do everything well all the time. As you set your grad school priorities, be careful not to set them so high that you end up being unable to maintain them, and as a result feel like you have failed in some way. Think realistically about what you can and cannot do.

As previously noted, I worked part time during my first year of master’s study; I then worked full time during my second and final year. I was newly married. And I had made friends with many of my graduate classmates and wanted to spend time socializing with them. In short, I did not expect to get straight A’s—a prescient realization. I ended up graduating with honors, but some of my classmates had a higher GPA than I did. That was okay with me.

Similarly, I worked part time during my first two years as a PhD candidate and full time thereafter. I went through a personal crisis in my second year of study and some other major life changes in the years that followed. I was not able to devote 100% of my time to my academic program, so I lowered my expectations in that area and ended up with a few B’s. However, I still graduated with honors, having made some wonderful friends along the way—and maintaining my sanity.

Know what to do when things get frustrating

There is no perfect graduate school. As you become part of your institutional community, you will likely encounter some less-than-thrilling experiences and notice some “rough spots” that could (or should) be addressed by your school. These could come from inside or outside the classroom.

In these instances, be careful not to be a doormat and just let things happen around you that you have the ability to help to change. At the same time, resist the temptation to respond in such a way that you are perceived as argumentative, unreasonable, a complainer, or a troublemaker. Work to find realistic solutions with various stakeholders.

Here are some examples of how to deal with some challenging grad school scenarios:

  • If something happens that you believe is wrong (abuse, harassment, unfair treatment), report it. Document your experiences in writing whenever possible. Refer to your student handbook for policies governing appropriate conduct, abuse, and harassment. Follow the procedures set forth in these policies, and remember that your confidentiality will be maintained.
  • You have observed poor customer service somewhere on campus, or you are personally affected by a policy or procedure that does not seem to make sense. This may be the time to share your experience with school administrators. They welcome feedback from students when it is honest, sincere, respectful, and carries with it a realistic suggestion for improvement. They want to know when things are not working and usually will take steps to correct the situation.
  • You have an idea that you believe would help make things better at your institution. Share it with appropriate individuals, perhaps with several of your fellow graduate students. If there is a consensus that this idea would help, send a letter to the president or chief academic, financial, student affairs, marketing, admissions, alumni, etc. officer. Volunteer to help put the idea into action if at all possible.
  • You receive a grade you do not believe is fair. Again, remember that faculty members are not perfect. They may make a mistake or simply overlook something. If you feel you know the faculty member well enough, speak with them directly about your concerns. If not, you can consult with an academic advisor or someone on campus who is identified as a student advocate (sometimes called the student ombudsman). They will keep your conversation completely in confidence and provide helpful input.
  • You have a class that you believe is poorly taught or managed, and/or in which the professor exhibits arrogance, weak interpersonal skills, lack of knowledge, etc. You believe the class is a poor investment of your time and money. Low-hanging fruit: if there is survey at the end of the class, be sure to respond. Your comments will be kept in strict confidence. If you know other students share your views, encourage them to complete the survey too. If you believe the issues deserve more time and attention, go to the academic or students services office and ask what options you have in reporting the matter to the chief academic officer.

If you need help, ask for it

Do not be too proud to ask for help when you need it. That is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Do you believe you need some academic help? Talk to your professors. Are you struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression? Reach out to advisors and campus health center staff. Are you experiencing financial difficulties? Contact the financial aid and bursar offices at the first sign of trouble. Holding things in and not addressing growing issues will only result in more difficulty down the road.

Toward the end of my doctoral program I took my very first accounting course. It was extremely challenging for me. I asked the professor if I could attend both sections of the class—mine and the one he taught on weekends. He said yes. I sat in the front row, joined a study group, and in the end got an A in the class. When I encountered some major financial struggles during the second year, I connected with a wonderful staff in the financial aid office and over time things worked out.

Emotional and/or psychological struggles can be particularly draining in grad school. While it is sometimes hard to admit you need help or act on once acknowledged, do not berate yourself. Speak with a trusted member of the faculty or administration at your institution, a loved one, and/or your physician. Get the help you need, including professional help, if warranted. If finances are an issue, there are many therapists whose fees are based on income. Many universities offer free counseling services for up to a certain number of visits. Be assured that just as with academic and medical information, any discussions about therapy and the session itself remain totally and completely confidential.

Get comfortable “adulting”

While this advice may not apply equally to all graduate students, the point here is not to look at graduate school as a re-visitation of college. Keep in mind that graduate school is not undergrad 2.0. (In fact, it just might be better…) You will be expected to behave as an independent and responsible adult.

While you may receive reminders from time to time from the registrar’s office, student financial services, or other campus administrators, faculty and staff will not be checking in with you. Do not rely on others to remind you about your academic requirements, your financial responsibilities, or other policies that govern your student experience.

So take the initiative. Read the fine print. Ask for clarification if you need it. And take ownership of your graduate school journey.

Believe in yourself

It may be clichéd, but it’s true: believe in yourself.

Joining a community of graduate students can be intimidating. Cohorts are small, and the admission process is most always more selective than at the undergraduate level. This means you are now rubbing elbows with some very capable, driven, committed, intelligent, enthusiastic, motivated, opinionated, and goal-oriented fellow students who are ready and willing to do what it takes to succeed.

But always remember: you were admitted to that stellar academic community too. The admission committee saw in you what it did in your classmates. Do not be intimidated. Be confident of your talents and abilities, as well as your ideas. Learn from those around you, but do not allow yourself to feel inferior or that you do not also have something to contribute. Stay true to your goals and to following what is important to you—and you’ll be successful in grad school by any measure.

Continue to look for financial assistance

Do not stop looking for scholarships, grants, and other funding opportunities. Check with your academic department once each quarter/semester/term to see if any additional fellowships or assistantships have been approved. Ask the financial aid office if there are any new scholarships available. Find out if any work-study positions have opened up on campus that are conducive to your schedule. Search online for outside funding opportunities. You may want to schedule a specific time every few weeks to research this.

Take advantage of the career placement office

Some graduate students may already have their future employment confirmed when they begin their studies. Most do not. That is why there is a career placement office on campus. Take advantage of its resources right from the start. Do not wait until six months before graduation to reach out. The staff is ready, willing, and able to assist you with a host of services, including résumé preparation, mock interviews, information on potential employers, “meet the recruiters” and job fair events on campus, and so much more. Take this service seriously. After all, you are paying for it.

Resist the temptation to *ahem* cut corners

With the demanding schedule of grad school, it can be tempting to be unethical in some way—plagiarizing, embellishing, lying. You do not need to do this! And it’s certainly not worth risking your future over.

Your success in life ultimately depends on conducting yourself with honesty and integrity. Early on in my career someone said to me, “Don’t do something today that you’d be uncomfortable reading as a news headline tomorrow.” This advice has served me well. It has been sad for me to watch students with great promise throw their futures away because of a momentary lapse in judgment, making a decision to cheat, embellish, or falsely cite someone else’s work as their own. The temptation is definitely there, so do not be hard on yourself if you experience a thought about being dishonest. You are human. Anyone with an ounce of integrity would readily acknowledge that they have been tempted to engage in some sort of wrongdoing. But as they say, “Just say no!”

One other piece of advice: if you do engage in wrongdoing and are found out, come clean right away. Own up to what you did and admit that you were wrong. There will be a consequence, but whoever has to decide that consequence will be far more sympathetic toward the student who comes clean than the one who refuses to acknowledge the truth about their actions.

Do not stop having fun

As previously noted, the pressures of graduate school can be great. There is endless studying, numerous deadlines, a desire to get good grades, preparation for career next steps, financial concerns, and more. But it is important—critical, even—that you take time to relax and do things that are fun and enjoyable.

Take a break. Go out for a bite to eat. Take in a movie or theater performance. Attend a sporting event. Do some volunteer work. Get away for the weekend. There were times in my graduate school journey when just taking a walk along Lake Michigan was extremely beneficial. The bottom line is, do not forget that all work and no play is not a good way to operate.

Do not forget important relationships outside the classroom

Similar to the point above, take time to maintain, strengthen, and build personal relationships. Perhaps you have a spouse, partner, significant other, children, or even a close circle of friends who are part of your graduate school experience. Remember that they too are affected by all of this. Be appreciative of their willingness to support you and make sacrifices so you can do what you are doing. Make time for these important individuals. Let them participate in your student life experience, perhaps by bringing them to a social event at the institution. And be mindful of not taking advantage of them.

Be willing to sacrifice as well. I know whereof I speak: I was a newlywed when I started my master’s degree program. There were times when my marriage needed to take precedence over my life as a student. Balancing things was not always easy, and I did not always get it right. But that did not stop me from trying to balance my academic and personal life.

Do not obsess about grades or the ranking of your institution

Success in life is not directly correlated with one’s grade point average or with the ranking/prestige of his/her institution. Employers are going to be most interested in who you are and how strong a match they believe you are to what they are looking for. Believe me, while academic performance is a consideration, it is not the final deal maker or breaker by any means.

Also, grad school rankings will definitely fluctuate; they rarely stay the same. Again, what you bring to the table and the prerogative you show in gaining relevant experience outweigh your school’s slot in the “best of midwest” rankings. Focus on doing your best work, and do so with integrity. Work hard and be confident of yourself and of your abilities.

Change things up if you need to

Do you need to take some time off from grad school? Move from full-time to part-time or visa versa? Stop your program of study entirely? Life is unpredictable and can take us down unexpected paths without warning. Attending graduate school does not prevent the vicissitudes of life from occurring.

There may be times when you are forced to think about changing your grad school plans. These situations could include a financial crisis, medical emergency, academic difficulties, loss of loved one, a relationship change, new job opportunity, etc. In my case, I deferred my enrollment at both my master’s and doctoral institutions because of an unexpected employment opportunity. I changed my date of completion while enrolled at both institutions, once again, due to unexpected employment offers. My doctoral course completion plan was also affected when I went through an unexpected personal crisis.

If you need to change your plans, do so. It may result in having to take a longer period of time to complete your degree. But do not lose focus. Be patient and do what you have to do to take care of yourself and manage your responsibilities. The administrators at your institution have worked with many graduate students whose plans needed to change. They will work with you to help determine the best way to proceed.

If grad school isn’t working out…

You may be considering withdrawing permanently from your graduate program. Perhaps it’s not what you wanted or expected, despite your best attempts to make sure it was. Or your personal situation has evolved in such a way that grad school is simply not an option. Or you discovered that your course of study is just not a match.

This can be quite disappointing. You were moving in one direction, feeling confident that grad school was the right thing to do, and now you are coming to believe that it is not. You may have even made drastic changes in your personal and professional life to facilitate your goals. But please realize that this is a common occurrence and nothing to be ashamed about.

As you consider withdrawing from grad school, speak with any loved ones who will be affected. In addition, speak with the administrators at your institution and perhaps a trusted friend and/or therapist. Make sure you have covered all the bases and thought things through clearly and carefully before making your decision.

If you do withdraw permanently, you do so with the knowledge that you started graduate school believing it was the right thing. When you realized it was not, you did what you needed to do. You can also withdraw knowing that many others have done the exact same thing—and have been just fine. Finally, you will never have to wonder, “What if I’d taken the chance and gone to grad school?”

Always remember: this too shall pass.

For better or worse, nothing lasts forever and no condition is permanent. There will be days when you will have second thoughts about your decision to pursue graduate study. You will encounter difficulties along the way. People will challenge you. Your personal life will have its ups and downs. You will feel tired, overwhelmed, and discouraged at times. But know this: you are not alone. This is normal. It is part of the graduate school experience, and it too shall pass!

I know of very few who look back on their graduate school experience with regret or even with a sense that it took too long. When I sat with my fellow students on graduation day, I could not believe how fast the time had gone. All the hard work had paid off. It will for you too. Hang in there, do not lose heart, and do your best to follow that age-old suggestion to take things one day at a time. I often say, “Just today.” That is all you have. You cannot go back and you cannot fast forward. Just take each day as it comes. You will get though this without a doubt.

You can do it; I did

Upon learning of my decision to pursue graduate study, a family member expressed major concerns that I was making a big mistake. However, the complete opposite occurred. Master’s and then doctoral study literally opened my eyes and my mind. I learned to think for myself, to trust and express myself intellectually, to carry on a debate, to disagree, to speak my mind, and to step outside my comfort zone.

Starting graduate school was exciting, yet, at the same time, daunting. For the first time in my life I was interacting with students and faculty members who were challenging me to think, learn, and be comfortable with the idea that there may not be an answer for everything…or that there may be more than one answer for the same question. I felt like a sponge, asking the question “Why?” more than anything else. At times I felt empowered, confused, discouraged, angry, and exhilarated. But most of all I felt free. The world of knowledge lay at my feet, and I took hold with everything I could muster. What a ride!

Upon applying for both graduate and postgraduate study, I had to do some extra work to get admitted. In the case of my master’s degree, I was asked to complete extra undergraduate course work in math and science. In the case of my doctoral program, I was initially denied admission. However, I contacted the admission office and was given a chance to provide additional information to the committee, which resulted in my being admitted. How grateful I am for the opportunities that were given to me to pursue educational goals and prove myself.

These opportunities emerged because I sought them and worked hard. Today I have over 35 years of successful and rewarding work in higher education as part of my life experience. I did it, not without difficulty, pain, loss, disappointment, or unexpected delays. But I did it, and you can too. If I can, anybody can!

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” — Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States, 1872-1933

Orientation for New Graduate Students

Welcome to Tennessee Tech University!

For those of you who are going to be graduate students here at Tech, this post is full of resources to help guide you along the path of graduate school.

First of all, make sure to come to the New Graduate Student Orientation on August 19th in Derryberry Hall Auditorium (Second Floor) from 4pm to 6:30pm.   If you haven’t already, please RSVP for orientation HERE.

During orientation, you will not only be able to meet fellow grad students in the program, but you will also meet the faculty and staff who will help support you on your journey. The orientation is designed to help familiarize you to campus and student resources as well as Cookeville as a whole. Come and learn about the resources available to you as grad students, ask questions, pick up your parking passes, meet your classmates, and eat great food.  If you’re new to Tennessee Tech or not, you will be glad you came!

The following information covers all of the important links and reminders for new graduate students.

Checklist and Reminders for New Students

Things to Do

  1. Financial Aid: Make sure all paperwork is in order.
  2. Graduate Assistantship: Applications can be found at https://www.tntech.edu/graduatestudies/stipend.php
  3. Student Email Account: Sign in, it’s the main method of contact by the university.
  4. Advisement: Contact the person listed on your Certificate of Admission.
  5. Register: Login to Eagle online and register for courses.
  6. Parking permit: Get a permit if you will be parking on campus. (You can pick these up at orientation.)
  7. Complete Admission Requirements: If you lack any requirements for admission, it will be indicated on your Certificate of Admission. All admission requirements must be meet by the end of the first semester or a registration hold will be placed on your account.
  8. Advisory Committee: Start thinking about which faculty members you want.
  9. Forms & Calendar: Go to the Graduate Studies website and click on the Online Forms link and Graduate Student Calendar link to familiarize yourself with important forms and dates.
  10. International students: Check in with the International Education office.

Things to Be Aware of

  1. Permissible Loads: There are limits in some situations.
  2. Grades: Know what grades are required to avoid dismissal or probation.
  3. Program of Study and Admission to Candidacy forms: You’ll need to file one by the end of the semester in which you will earn 15 credit hours of graduate level courses. Failure to turn in your program of study by this time will result in a registration hold.
  4. Admission to Candidacy: Find out what the process is for your degree.
  5. Changes: Learn how to make changes and the proper forms to use.
  6. Degree Completion Time Limits: Six consecutive years to complete a master’s or specialist in education; eight consecutive years to complete a doctorate.
  7. Comprehensive Exam: Learn about your department and degree’s comprehensive exam (when, where, and how).
  8. Thesis/Dissertation: TTU has a specific format for theses and dissertations. Attend a workshop before you begin writing.
  9. Graduation: You must apply for graduation in the semester you plan to complete your degree. All applications are due by the published deadline posted on our Graduate Student Calendar by semester.

Other Academic Links:

Graduate Student Handbook

Student Affairs

Graduate Student Calendar

Graduate Studies Faculty Contact Info

Tennessee Tech News

Campus Resources

Campus Map

Tennessee Tech Library

Health Services

Dining Options

Fitness Center

Other Student Resources

Cookeville Links



Cookeville Events