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This advice comes from Bonnie Ann Cain, APR - Senior Communications Specialist, Oklahoma State University

Graduate school will take every spare moment you have available. Five hours a week, ten hours or twenty, whatever you can carve out of your life, graduate school will devour. Entering a masters or doctoral program is a multi-year commitment; to be successful and maintain your health, relationships and sanity requires some planning.

Be realistic. Expectations will be high and workloads will be hefty. You will need to make a conscience decision about how much of your life you are willing to give to this endeavor. Don't overextend yourself; it's a sure way to burn out before your program is complete. Don't compare your progress to other students. Set your own pace and stick to it. How long do you expect your degree to take? How many classes does that require each semester? Does it give you time to take a semester off?

Make time for what is important, cut out the things that aren't. Graduate school is the perfect excuse to say no to all those requests you didn't really want to do. Your program is going to demand a lot of time and you have to find that time somewhere. Many of today's graduate students are working full-time jobs, maintaining homes and caring for a family. Think long and hard about how you really spend the hours in each day. What are the important things and when do they need to be done? What can you cut out?

Make time for yourself. For many, the first impulse is to cut out the things we do for ourselves: working out, sleeping well, connecting with friends. Balancing work, home life and school is going to be emotionally, intellectually, and even physically trying. Don't neglect your support system; you’re going to need them. As your studies ramp up, you may find that you actually need to schedule time not just for class and homework, but also for exercise, relaxation and quality time with friends and family. Can you combine any of these? Can you set aside a different place or time for these activities, so they better fit with your new commitments?

Make time to be a student. To really get the most out this experience take advantage of the opportunity to be a part of academia. You may not be planning a career in education, but for the duration of the program you are an academic in training. Get to know your faculty and fellow students. They understand what you are going through in ways many of your family and friends will not. For many, this truly is your last chance to be a student. What are you going to do to make the most of it?


About the author: Bonnie completed her Master of Science degree in mass communications while working full-time. She has nine years of experience in public relations for higher education and is accredited in PR. She is currently working at OSU Libraries, and serves as the professional advisor for the OSU chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.