Student News

Four Grad Student Survival Tips You Should Know About

In grad school now or about to jump in, you’ll want to hear these four tips from a recent MBA graduate.

Shawna Newman

April 02, 2021

Four Grad Student Survival Tips You Should Know About
Just Remember - it is a marathon, not a sprint...
There are many reasons people choose to get their master's degree. Some junior- and senior-level college students are considering a few extra years of higher education to ride out the current Coronavirus pandemic and economic instability. There are times when working professionals would like a career change. Some promotions even require advanced degrees for employees to advance. Looking for more COVID-19 student-impact information? Find it here. Whether you’re pondering the idea of graduate school or you’re a current grad student looking for some fresh motivation, one thing is certain: graduate school is a serious endeavor. You’ll graduate with an added layer of expertise and skills that set you apart—you can’t earn the Master Title until you’ve put in the time and effort.
To get the best grad student advice we reached out to a recent MBA graduate, Sarah Alkire, to get insider grad student survival tips. Here’s the awesome advice she gave:

Do graduate students really need to actively build their network while enrolled in grad school? How can they be successful in the 2020 environment?

Absolutely, yes! This is even more vital now that most everything is virtual. Reach out to your professors and program coordinators, ask questions, follow up on additional material or just touch base. Most all academia has embraced Zoom, Google Meet or something similar – start scheduling those meetings.
Talk your way to the top. Well, maybe not the top, although that is relative, make yourself known. Equally important is to start building relationships with other students in your courses. This will be a great network to start developing for future collaboration and resources, job opportunities and more.

How much harder is grad school than undergrad?

Find a work, life and school balance. Graduate school will challenge you to meet demands and expectations in new way from what undergraduate did. The biggest advice I have is to remind yourself (more than once) that this is a phase.
Your life will not be like it is in graduate school forever. If you find yourself drinking too much coffee (is there really such a thing?) or not sleeping enough, just remember - it is a marathon, not a sprint, but this too shall pass.

In your opinion, what campus resources/tools do graduate students need to use more often?

No matter what stage of your graduate education pursuit you are in, explore options to assist you in paying for your degree. In addition to the traditional advice of visiting the Financial Services office at your institution, scholarships are often overlooked. Don’t pay more than you must. Scholarships often pop up throughout the year, even though there is an application deadline. Through all that lovely networking you are doing from tip one, you may learn about some program specific scholarships that are often hidden gems. Many, many employers are offering educational development programs, if you are currently working., Don’t go one step further if you haven’t contacted your HR department to explore that option.

How is student life in graduate school different from undergraduate?

This sounds cliché, but participation in grad school looks different than at the undergraduate level. Get involved. Many institutions offer opportunities to share research you are participating in, practice presenting academic research and thesis and some even offer monetary prizes. Many state and national conferences are still taking place virtually, and the internal opportunities to present will help you feel comfortable at state and national level. Those conferences are a great way to meet connections in your field from other institutions and organizations. Lastly, most graduate schools have Graduate Student Associations, to serve as voice for the graduate student population. Whether you join as a member or serve on the executive committee, you will have the opportunity to effect change at your institution, provide additional opportunities for other graduate students and enjoy some social gatherings – even virtually. Sarah Alkire is currently the Interim Director of the University of Central Missouri’s Graduate and International Student Services office. After a 10-year break from school, she took the leap to begin her graduate student journey. She graduated with her MBA in the Summer of 2019.

Considering Grad School?

If you’re on the fence about grad school consider this: Harvard Business Review reports that more than a quarter of U.S. employers require graduate degrees for jobs that once only required an undergraduate degree. And if you’re looking for a pay raise, employees holding a graduate degree generally earn more. HBR states “...a 25% increase in earnings is the average boost people see...” Before you enroll in grad school, try testing your commitment by enrolling in a free online learning course. Doing this, you can ensure you’ll have the drive and time you need to dedicate to your next educational phase. There are hundreds (possibly thousands) of free e-learning courses on the Web. Check out Fastweb’s Online Learning Platform to choose a course that’s right for you.

Paying for Your Master’s Degree

Yes, you still should complete your FAFSA just as you did when you were in college. However, you’re now considered an independent student! This means you will not have to use your parent(s) or guardian(s) tax information to file. Visit to find a grad student checklist. In addition to filing your FAFSA, you should be applying for scholarships to help you pay for school. Create a free profile on Fastweb to be matched to scholarships that fit you and your graduate student status. This list of Scholarships for College Students is also updated often and includes scholarships for college graduate students too.

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