how to adapt to grad school

5 Common Grad School Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Graduate school is intensive, career-focused, and can at times seem like a more difficult version of college. It presents new challenges that students did not experience in undergraduate studies, as well as some familiar hurdles that get reintroduced.

Grad school can be equally fulfilling and challenging for students. Thus, we want to discuss five common grad school challenges and how to overcome them (or avoid them altogether).

1. Time Management

One of the biggest challenges faced by grad students lies in their ability to effectively and efficiently manage their time. Many graduate students are already doing a million things at once: raising a family, working a job, managing a household, self-care, and maintaining a social life. Add in school on top of those responsibilities, and your busy schedule just became even busier.

Hence why students and graduate programs alike should be intentional about fostering and cultivating time management skills and programs. A student’s ability to effectively manage their time is often the determining factor as to if they will graduate on time.

Consider how much time you can dedicate to your studies before you sign up for a graduate degree program. Or, if you are working full-time and have other responsibilities like supporting a family, consider an online master’s or doctorate degree. This will allow you to study when it’s most convenient for you and help you avoid compromising any other aspect of your life.

Graduate programs also have free resources to help them balance all their tasks. At UB, for example, students can tap into resources like the Academic Advising Center, mentors and tutors, as well as counseling when needed. Learn more about student success resources here.

If you struggle with time management or would like additional tools, consider implementing the following:

  • Set goals and prioritize
  • Create a realistic schedule and stick to it
  • Don’t sign up for more classes than you can handle
  • Stop procrastination in its tracks by identifying why you are procrastinating in the first place
  • Break down the work into chunks
  • Set a time limit for each task
  • Remove non-essential tasks or activities from your schedule
  • Use technology to make time management easier

2. Writing Papers

Graduate degrees are inherently known for the amount of writing required in the classes and for a lengthy thesis. If you struggled with writing papers in undergrad, you will likely face the same challenges in graduate school.

That being said, there are several ways to overcome the seemingly insurmountable task of writing a thesis or dissertation, such as:

  • Ask for writing help from your advisor
  • Enroll in a writing skills class or workshop
  • Choose your thesis topic early
  • Engage your professors and peers in discussions
  • Read your professors’ and colleagues’ work to gain more insight

Again, do not hesitate to tap into your university’s tutoring resources. Most institutions will have dedicated tutors across subject areas, who can help you determine your approach for your paper, as well as help you structure it in a logically and grammatically correct way. You may also consider using, a free online spelling and grammar checking app, to proofread your work.

3. Imposter Syndrome

Many students transitioning from undergrad to grad school experience imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome, or imposter phenomenon, is when you experience self-doubt facing new challenges, an all-encompassing fear of being found out to not have what it takes to succeed, and trouble believing you are worthy. Additionally, even if success is achieved, people with imposter syndrome believe their achievements are a result of luck and not skill.

Students can combat imposter syndrome by creating or enrolling in a wellness program that discusses mental health stigma and provides mental health resources inside and outside the institution. Students may also receive counseling services at their college or university.

4. Sense of Belonging

Similar to imposter syndrome, graduate students can struggle with their sense of belonging. Research suggests that graduate students’ sense of belonging stems from their desire for professional relationships.

In order to foster a sense of belonging and community, consider programs that have faculty-student mentoring, peer mentoring, and network events that connect students with the faculty, the administration, and their peers.

Keep in mind that while you may aspire to a perfect relationship with your supervisor, there may also be challenges along the way. For example, your supervisor may be too busy to meet as often as you like, or when you do meet, they are interrupted by phone calls or unexpected guests. So, what can you do as a graduate student?

  1. Don’t take it personally. Your supervisor has many responsibilities and these interruptions are not about you.
  2. Plan your meeting schedule together and consider the best time of day, day of the week, and even the meeting location.
  3. Can your questions be answered via e-mail or would a phone call or virtual meeting be more effective?

The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone and you, your supervisor, and your fellow graduate students are a team.

5. Financial Problems

Graduate students are often responsible for finding and funding their own financial support. And the cost of higher education alone can be a huge hurdle to one’s studies.

That being said, there are various options for awards and financial aid available to graduate students. Contact your preferred school’s graduate admission and financial aid office to learn about the cost and resources available to you as a graduate student.

While using the money you don’t have to pay back is ideal (such as grants and scholarships), students might consider federal student loans or a low-interest graduate student loan from a private lender.

There are also other steps you can take to help support you financially, such as exploring tuition reimbursement options with your employer, or looking into paid graduate assistantships. Learn more about some possible ways to help pay for graduate school here.

You Can Overcome the Challenges of Graduate School

Graduate school is not easy, but by knowing some of the common struggles students face and the ways to conquer them, you can start preparing now and make a plan to overcome them in the future.

The University of Bridgeport is here to help you every step of the way. We have a variety of in-person and online graduate programs as well as an eager and comprehensive support services team committed to getting students through their studies and into a great career.

Request more information today. We can’t wait to help you succeed with our comprehensive and supportive network of faculty and staff!