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Graduate Study Challenges and Strategies for Success

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Graduate Study Challenges and Strategies for Success

            Graduate Studies present challenges and difficulties for every student.  Statistics from studies have shown that roughly half of all incoming doctoral students will drop out, two-thirds of whom will do so during their second and third years (Smallwood, 2004).

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            To properly understand the challenges and the strategies that are necessary for an individual’s success in graduate studies, it is first important to understand what graduate studies are and what they entail.  Graduate school demands a lot of focus and determination because it is a focused occupation (Jerrard, 1998).

  It is very important for students or individuals who wish to pursue higher education in graduate studies to have a clear idea of just what it is exactly that they want to study. While an undergraduate education allows an individual to explore a variety of areas, graduate school delves into the details of a specific topic. The work load in graduate studies entails that an individual works closely a one major professor and also additional faculty members to properly design the course study (Smallwood, 2004).

  In the alternative, graduate studies, depending on the field, may also mean that an individual becomes part of a lab group or research team and must work closely with other students on that team.

            Graduate Studies also require a lot of time and commitment.  There are no scheduled breaks for graduate school unlike in undergraduate studies where there are winter, spring, summer, and fall breaks off.  Pursuing graduate studies entails that a student must be able to keep up with the academic load that is required while at the same time be able to deal with the other demands off campus (Smallwood, 2004).  That being said, it is time to examine the challenges that students face in graduate studies.

            There are numerous challenges for students who are pursuing graduate studies.  One of the major challenges involves the transition from undergraduate school to graduate school and the academic mentality that is required.  The academic mentality problem that most students and individuals who enter graduate studies without any real work experience have is that they fail to make the necessary transition from rote memorization in undergraduate education to creative research in doctoral training (Smallwood, 2004).  Often times in graduate study, a student is required to provide not merely a recitation of the facts and details but an in-depth analysis of the issue and to provide solutions or strategies that can be employed in dealing with the scenario.  This is what causes a lot of students to drop out because they are unable to adjust to the demands to graduate school.

            The strategy for success with regard to this major challenge revolves around the ability of the student or individual to make the proper adjustment in the academic mentality that is required.  While these processes certainly take a lot of time, graduate studies do not offer one the luxury of being able to transition over time and in fact often demand instantaneous transformation of the mental mind set.  This can be done however by selecting a proper mentor who can teach the individual how to adapt to the needs of Graduate Studies or by consulting the professor, if possible, to gain an idea of just exactly what it is that is required (Jerrard, 1998).  A student must therefore learn how to think differently and not just “parrot” whatever the instructor teaches.  Having a mentor to guide an individual through graduate study will allow the individual to see just exactly what is necessary and how to develop critical thinking.  This also provides motivation for the individual because the biggest cause of lack of motivation is that the individual cannot fully comprehend the subject matter (Jerrard, 1998).

            Another major challenge that students face in graduate studies is the overwhelming academic work load that is handed out.  Simply put, there are just so many demands in graduate studies that it makes it difficult for an individual to maintain the regular life style and routine that one has been accustomed to prior to pursuing graduate studies.  Students in graduate studies will be required to read voluminous notes and journals for just one session and synthesize the readings for report in class.  That task alone can take up most of a person’s time and leave very little time for rest and relaxation causing student “burn-out” in the end, leading to failure in graduate school (Smallwood, 2004).

            The key strategy here as with all aspects of an individual’s life is in proper and effective time management.  Developing an efficient and effective time management schedule is crucial in graduate school to ensure the success of an individual.  There are three (3) simple steps that can be taken in implementing an efficient and effective time management schedule: developing a “to-do” list, prioritizing and organizing the items, and implement the plan (Doolin, 2005).  These steps will allow a student to carefully examine where most of the time is spent and where time can be reduced and added to study time for graduate study.  Having a personal pocketbook calendar or organizer helps in this situation because it gives the individual a snapshot of the daily activities and when there is time saved after doing a certain task, it allows the individual to adjust the rest of the schedule and allot more time for studying.

            Graduate Studies do not only require an individual to expend a lot of time and effort on the academic workload required to compete the degree but also require a major financial investment (Doolin, 2005).  Due to the costs of obtaining a degree in and Graduate Study, most students take part time jobs or apply for scholarships to help shoulder the costs.  This in turn affects their performance in graduate study because it takes up a lot of the time and energy of an individual.

            This brings up the topic of finances which is a major factor in succeeding in Graduate Studies.  While there are individuals who may not have any difficulties with the tuition fees, a large majority of the students in graduate study do not have adequate finances to allow them to complete their graduate studies while having not having any continuous cash flow or source of income (Doolin, 2005).  The options for those who are applying for a Ph.D. are much simpler because most financial aid goes to students who are in the Ph.D. program, which takes much longer to complete as opposed to those who take masteral courses, which do not require as much time and therefore receive little financial aid (Jerrard, 1998).  Before making any decision regarding pursuing graduate studies, an individual must first plot out the financial state and determine whether or not the current funds are adequate or find a part time job that will allow the individual to meet the needs of the degree while working.

            The main challenges therefore for any individual pursuing graduate studies are academic mentality or mind set, stress and financial burdens.  These challenges however, as shown in this short discourse, do not necessarily have to act as a hindrance to completing a graduate study degree or program as there are certain strategies that can be employed to ensure one’s success.  These strategies can be summed up into three key points; learning how to think, time management and saving for a rainy day.  If these three strategies can be implemented properly, the success of an individual in Graduate Study is virtually secured.


Doolin, M. (2005) The Success Manual for Adult College Students Booklocker Books. United States

Jerrard, R. and Jerrard, M. (1998) The Grad School Handbook Berkeley Publishing Group Penguin Putnam, Inc.

Smallwood, S. (2004) “Doctor Dropout: High attrition from Ph.D. programs is sucking away time, talent, and money and breaking some hearts, too,” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 50, 2004, pp. A10.


Cite this Graduate Study Challenges and Strategies for Success

Graduate Study Challenges and Strategies for Success. (2017, Jan 25). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/graduate-study-challenges-and-strategies-for-success-3/

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