5 Study Tips for Graduate Students

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Updated March 15, 2021

Study Tips for Graduate Students

  • Manage Your Time Wisely
  • Take Ownership of Your Assignments
  • Remember What You Read
  • Remember What You Hear
  • Organize Your Life

Graduate school is very different from undergraduate life. Maybe it's because you're a little older and a little wiser, or maybe it's because this is the culmination of everything you've learned up to this point in your life, but in graduate school, you often have more responsibility and more accountability. You're responsible for your future, and you don't have professors monitoring your progress or parents breathing down your neck. That means it's up to you to develop the study skills necessary to succeed. Below are five study tips that will help pursue your master's degree.

1. Manage Your Time Wisely

To survive your graduate program, you may have to juggle school with the demands of work, family, and social life. It can be challenging to find the discipline you need to complete your schoolwork, and good time management skills are crucial. Schedule a non-negotiable time every day to complete your schoolwork. Think of it like brushing your teeth; this is something you don't skip or reschedule no matter what. Methods such as the Pomodoro Technique, time blocking, and mapping out exactly what you want to focus on during that time period can help you stay on track. 

2. Take Ownership of Your Assignments

In graduate school, assignments aren't given as busy work; they are part of the research you conduct for your own scholarly pursuits. When you have a vested interest in what you write about, you're more likely to devote your time to the task and do more comprehensive work. In addition, looking at your writing assignments as research will allow you to get feedback from faculty on the direction you're taking in your graduate work.

3. Remember What You Read

Graduate school typically involves quite a bit of reading. You won't remember much of what you read if you don't take notes. However, if you write down everything, you'll never get through the pages. The same goes for highlighting. Students often highlight more than necessary while reading, making it a chore to later sift through the important information. Think of taking notes as summarizing the important information. At the end of every section, stop and consider what you've read. What are the main points? Is it important for you to record them? You may also consider trying to teach what you learned as a way to better understand and communicate the work that you are currently studying. Doing this will instantly get you thinking about the material, and putting it into your own words will help you remember it.

4. Remember What You Hear

You'll listen to countless lectures when you're in graduate school. Research shows that if you take notes during a lecture, you'll retain the information better. If you're proficient at typing, use a laptop to keep notes. Instead of writing down every word, use shorthand and keywords to record only the most important information. At the end of every lecture, review your notes to ensure they make sense. If you have any questions, you can ask a colleague or the professor while it's fresh in your mind.

5. Organize Your Life

All of your other study skills will be enhanced if you are well organized. Developing a system to keep track of your coursework will help you save time, and find the information you need when you need it. Many students opt to keep a separate notebook for each course. Keeping your work area free of clutter will allow you to focus on your assignments and study more efficiently. If you're constantly interrupting your study time to look for a particular notebook or to find a pen, you'll waste precious time.

In graduate school, your study skills are pulled to the forefront. Whereas skimming a reading assignment or memorizing facts may have gotten you through your undergraduate years, graduate school involves more in-depth learning and analysis of information. If you manage your time well, organize what you learn and truly invest your time, energy and passion into your education, your time in graduate school will be a success.

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