graduate student work-life balance

How to Balance Work, School, and Life: A Guide for Graduate Students

Managing graduate school with your professional and personal life can be challenging. However, finding balance is not impossible. Many schools offer a variety of resources and options to make earning your degree as easy as possible. Below are 6 tips for finding balance as a graduate student:

1. Streamline Your Tasks

A simple to-do list can go a long way. One way to start a to-do list is to write down all the upcoming assignments you have to do, in no particular order. Then you can organize these assignments by priority and what creates the smoothest workflow.

For example, say you’re taking online courses and have a quiz and homework assignment due this week. Task 1 might be “Read Chapter 3” followed by “Complete Chapter 3 Homework.” The homework assignment would act as a study guide to prepare you to take the quiz.

If you have a larger assignment due, such as a term paper, assign smaller deadlines for yourself. If the deadline for the paper is in two weeks, start by completing an outline. Then tell yourself the first draft is due in one week. This will give you time to make edits before submitting the final draft.

2. Optimize Your Tuition

When comparing programs, cost is an important factor. Some schools may offer scholarships for certain programs or reduced tuition rates for online programs. If there aren’t any scholarships for your program, you can research local grants and scholarships. It’s also worth dusting off your company handbook and seeing if there are any tuition remission benefits. Additionally, you can inquire with your school to see if textbooks for your program are included in the cost of tuition and fees. Some schools, like University of Bridgeport, have started doing this to help make higher education more affordable.

3. Consider Online Classes

As mentioned above, online classes are often offered at a reduced rate compared to their in-person counter parts. There are two different options for online learning: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous classes meet at a scheduled time each week, just like you would if you were meeting in-person. This gives you the benefit of live classroom discussions, while in the comfort of your own home. Asynchronous courses do not meet at a scheduled time. This allows you the flexibility to view lectures and complete assignments when it’s most convenient for you.

4. Be Passionate About Your Studies

Sometimes graduate school is necessary for licensure. For example, in Connecticut teachers need their master’s for certification. Other times, graduate school may be necessary for advancement in your field. Regardless, being passionate about what the program you’re pursuing and the outcome you hope to achieve will keep you motivated.

5. Make a Flexible Schedule (& Don’t Overbook Yourself)

In order to be eligible for the federal loan, graduate students must be enrolled in at least 6 credits. If you’re not planning on using the federal loan, you can take less credits to make the workload more manageable for you. When picking your class times, see if your graduate school offers night or weekend classes. If they offer night classes, can you take two classes in one night?

Professors usually provide a syllabus at the beginning of the semester. Take a look ahead to see when major papers and exams are. Make a note in your calendar so you don’t accept invitations or plan vacations around those dates.

Schedule time during the week for studying or completing assignments. But it’s okay if your schedule changes or an assignment takes you longer than planned. Flexibility is key.

6. Utilize Services

Many graduate schools have student success services available to both online and in-person students. Examples of services your school may offer include: tutoring, counseling, and career preparation services. Seeing a counselor can give you additional coping skills to manage the stress of returning to school. Tutoring services can provide additional academic support, whether that’s better understanding the materials or writing stronger essays. The career preparation center can help with crafting a resume and preparing for interviews. Additionally, if you have a disability, you can connect with the school’s accessibility office to discuss accommodations.

The library is also a great resource. If you have a busy home life, having a space to go and study can help improve focus. Some libraries may also have study rooms you can reserve for that exact purpose. The library can also offer access to printing, databases, and of course books. You can also meet with the school’s research librarian to discuss finding materials for a paper you’re writing.

Ready to start?

Submit your free online application to one of University of Bridgeport’s graduate programs or email to set up an appointment with admissions.