Lifestyle Challenges for Graduate Students

Graduate school can present a number of lifestyle challenges. If you go back to school after you have been working for a while, you usually have to adjust to living on a significantly reduced budget. If you head to graduate school immediately after getting your undergraduate degree, you might watch some of your former peers go on to high-paying careers while you are still living like a student. In addition to managing your budget, you will also face challenges regarding time and your work/life balance.

Dealing with Money

Just as you did when you were an undergraduate, you can use scholarships, grants and loans to help fund your graduate study. Many graduate programs offer funding, meaning that you could have your tuition paid and receive a stipend in exchange for working as a research or teaching assistant. However, for many people, this still might not be sufficient. If federal aid is not enough to cover the gap between what you are offered and what you need, you may want to consider private student loans as well. In
fact, if you have been working for a while and have a good credit score, a private lender may offer an excellent repayment plan. The one thing you should be careful about is making sure that you do not borrow money to cover vacations or other expenses that you will be left having to pay for after graduation.

Managing Time

While a few undergraduates might juggle a busy schedule involving school, work and family, the truth is that you probably had a lot of free time, especially compared to being a graduate student. Now that you are working toward your master’s degree or doctorate, figuring out how to manage your time can be overwhelming. One challenge is that you may have a lot to do but little structured time. You may need to learn to stick to a schedule that you create. It could help to include things throughout the day that you do with other people to help you stay on track. You might also want to think about how you can streamline such chores as cooking and laundry.

Your Work Life Balance

The precise things that you need in your work life balance will vary according to your particular situation, but whether you have a family, pets and other obligations or you are single and live alone, you need to take steps to make sure that your life is not all graduate school all the time. There will probably be stretches in which you feel as though you must spend every waking hour working and perhaps the hours in which you should be sleeping as well, but this is deceptive. You start to hit a point of
diminishing returns past a certain point, and you will actually be more productive if you make time for sleep and some sort of exercise. You should also keep in mind that as important as your program is, your family and friends are more important. They will still be there long after the ink has dried on your diploma.

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