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9 New Year's Resolutions to Kickstart Your Graduate School Journey

By Lana Whitehead on January 9, 2020

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A new year can bring a lot of expectations, especially when it comes to your professional and educational success. To tackle these expectations, you might be considering pursuing a graduate degree this year. Before you dive headfirst into a graduate program, it is important to recognize that this endeavor, although undoubtedly enriching, will require effort, dedication and resilience to see it through. Whether you’re contemplating a career shift or simply want to get ahead in your field by choosing graduate school, there can be a lot to navigate, leaving you feeling overwhelmed. 

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That said, making some simple resolutions – and sticking to them – will help you become a more successful student, get into your dream program and pursue your career goals. Make this your year to grow, thrive and kickstart your graduate school journey. 

Here are nine practical resolutions you can make this year to help turn your goals into reality:

1. Be honest with yourself and assess your strengths.

The first step of your graduate school journey should be determining where your strengths lie. Your strengths can help you determine the program you should pursue and what school would be the best fit. By being honest with yourself and considering the type of environment you prefer, you are setting yourself up for the greatest level of success. If you’re unsure of your strengths, or in what type of environment you would thrive, ask someone you trust to list your top three skills and use those as your starting point.

2. Master the art of tidying.

Believe it or not, decluttering your environment is crucial to staying focused, motivated and productive. Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant, asserts the notion that mental clutter is a direct result of physical clutter, which can cause frustration and inhibit progress. So, start by tidying up your living and work-spaces, establish a mindfulness routine and make time for meaningful experiences.

3. Maintain a healthy lifestyle and don’t overcommit yourself.

It’s no secret that we’re at our best when we practice self-care – both mentally and physically. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet and keep your body moving to combat lethargy and brain fog. Stress is also a major contributor to procrastination, laziness and poor performance. Look for areas in your life where you might be overcommitted and consider dialing back. Most importantly, don’t let stress bring you down – take time for yourself, focus on what you love and make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

4. Make an appointment with your faculty advisor.

Who better to walk with you on this journey than someone who has done it before? An advisor can help you find unique reasons to remain passionate about your areas of interest and keep you on track to reach your goals. So, make an appointment, share your passion and let your advisor guide you through some practical next steps to turn that passion into reality.  

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5. Establish a plan for financing graduate school.

Making a plan for financing graduate school can seem daunting, but you may be surprised by how affordable it can be with proper planning. If you plan to continue working while pursuing your degree, speak with your supervisor or the human resources department at your company. It is not uncommon for companies to subsidize part or all of your graduate education tuition if the degree can be applied to your career.

If you aren’t able to receive a company subsidy, consider outside options for financial aid. Set aside some time to explore scholarships, loans, grants, fellowships and assistantships that would be a good fit for you.

6. Try a new organizational strategy.

Staying on top of your responsibilities as a graduate student is essential, but what is the best strategy for you? Are you a list maker? Do you carry a planner everywhere you go? Do you prefer to keep a digital calendar? Maybe you don’t have a consistent strategy in place, or perhaps your current system isn’t cutting it. The good news is there are many different organizational techniques you can try. Pick one (or two) that will compliment your strengths and test it out for a month, then, reassess and adapt your strategy as needed.

7. Stay focused on learning.

As a graduate student, your primary focus should be on learning, but keep in mind that learning isn’t limited to the classroom. There are many ways to stay committed to learning – before, during and after graduate school. Look for ways to get involved at your school or in the community. Find a mentor, someone whose success you admire and set up a time to meet. Look at everyday situations as opportunities to grow and develop skills that will guide you as you pursue your graduate degree.

8. Write down your goals–and keep them with you.

There might be times when you question the path you’ve chosen. It’s important in these moments to remember why you started this journey in the first place. Are you hoping for a salary increase? Do you have your sights set on a promotion? Have you decided to make the switch to a completely new career? 

Think about where you want to be when you graduate. Take a moment to reflect on your goals – write them down and keep them close to you. When you start to lose sight of your progress, remember all that you’re working to achieve. 

9. Be proactive.

The best way to take advantage of learning opportunities is to stay ahead of change. Instead of falling into the habit of responding to things as they happen, be proactive and take control over the events in your life. In addition to greater control and autonomy, proactivity allows you to focus more time and energy on the things that matter most to you, leaving you feeling more fulfilled.

The best way to be proactive? Make some resolutions (like the ones listed above) and stick to them!

Are you ready to kickstart your journey to a graduate degree in 2020? Be sure to sign up for our upcoming webinar, Crafting a Remarkable Grad School Application, for help navigating the process of applying to a graduate program.

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Lana Whitehead
Written by Lana Whitehead

Lana Whitehead is the Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies and the Director of Graduate Admission at Kent State University. Lana attended Northwestern University and enjoyed a consulting career in Chicago before becoming a stay-at-home mom of six children. After earning her master’s degree from Youngstown State University, Lana embarked on a career in higher education. Lana has held positions in academic support, advising, student services and enrollment management. In her free time, Lana enjoys landscaping, gardening and spending time with family.

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Lana Whitehead on January 9, 2020

A new year can bring a lot of expectations, especially when it comes to your professional and educational success. To tackle these expectations, you might be considering pursuing a graduate degree...

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