Tips for Surviving Your First Semester of Grad School

Congratulations! You’ve graduated with your undergraduate degree and now you’re pursuing higher education. Your first semester of grad school can seem intimidating, especially if you decided to go to a different school than your undergraduate degree. Those first-day jitters when you’re older feel much heavier, and imposter syndrome can really start to settle in. But don’t worry, surviving the first semester of grad school, is possible – students do it all the time. Here are some tips for surviving your first semester of graduate school!

Tips for Surviving Grad School

1. Get Organized 

Getting organized is easier said than done but necessary for surviving your first semester of grad school. College Raptor recommends a calendar to keep in your dorm room so you can see your monthly activities and assignments. We also recommend getting a planner that goes with you to every class so you never miss out on writing down when something is due. Have designated folders, binders, and other supplies for each class to ensure you’re always prepared before you leave your dorm or home to go to school. Seeing your semester laid out in front of you will allow you to tackle your hardest assignments and turn things in on time.

2. Go to Office Hours

Meeting your professor will not only put a face to your name but will also get you the help you need when you don’t understand a concept. Waiting until weeks after the lecture to ask about a topic can put you behind in your class. Go to office hours when you have questions about your course to get a better understanding. Academic resources like office hours are important to utilize as new students.

3. Don’t Skip Class

It can be tempting to sleep in or hang out with your friends instead of going to class. It’s just one time, it won’t hurt! Right? Unfortunately, that one time usually turns into a few, and all of a sudden you’re behind on assignments and don’t understand everything that’s going on in class. Unless there’s a real emergency, you need to attend every lecture. This is especially important when you’re in grad school because some professors will penalize you when you miss a day.

4. Book Study Rooms

Your campus library most likely has study rooms available for college students to use. Booking a study room once a week with your peers will help you dedicate time to study and work on your assignments without distractions. You can also use this time to speak with your classmates about topics that you may not understand fully. Using the study resources on your college campus will greatly help your overall grad school experience.

5. Finish Assignments Early

Finishing your assignments early from the beginning of the year is one of our biggest tips for surviving your first semester of grad school. College success banks on you getting your work done. Using a calendar system to write out your assignments and finishing them at least a few days before the due date will give you wiggle room whenever something comes up at the last minute. During the first few weeks of the semester, use your downtime to schedule everything. You won’t have to scramble to find time to complete your assignments and can focus fully on each one as they come up.

6. Put Down Your Phone

Your phone and social media are the biggest distractions while in college. Surviving your first semester of grad school is already hard enough and being on your phone can make it harder. Set a limit on how long you can scroll on your apps before getting back to work. Otherwise, you can end up scrolling for hours and not even realize how quickly the time went by. You could’ve used that time to study or work on assignments.

7. Ask for Help

Don’t let your pride get in the way of asking for help, especially when you’re in graduate school. It already seems competitive and you don’t want people to know you’re struggling but asking for help is not a bad thing. You can ask advisors, professors, and even other graduate students to help you with concepts you don’t understand. You may even learn something else along the way.

8. Call Your Loved Ones

It’s easy to feel isolated during your first semester of grad school. Call your loved ones once a week or every two weeks just to feel a sense of home. Whether it’s your parents, friends from your hometown, or others, people you knew outside of college can really bring you comfort when you’re going through a difficult grad school semester.

9. Maintain a Social Life

Maintaining a social life can feel like pulling teeth when you’re trying to survive your first semester of graduate-level physics, chemistry, or other difficult courses you’re taking. This tip is super important for your mental health. Having fun with your friends is imperative to your college life so go out a few times this semester or plan a dinner. Seeing your friends outside of your studying space will make the semester feel lighter.

10. Stay Healthy 

When you’re in college, your overall health is likely to decline if you’re not taking proper care of yourself. We’re not saying you need to train for a marathon and eat a strict diet but it’s important to have your daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Go to a workout class a few times a week at the fitness center or just take a casual stroll on campus to soak up the sun and get your legs moving

We know that surviving your first semester can feel impossible for both undergraduate and graduate students but thousands of students do it each year! With our tips, you’ll be able to navigate your first semester of grad school with ease and even make amazing grades!

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