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Dec 14, 2023 | Blog

‘Tis the season of New Year’s Resolutions, those pesky goals we tend to set for ourselves this time of year. You’ve probably heard that most resolutions fail: 91% of Americans fail to complete them, and a full 43% quit trying by the end of January, according to researchers who track these things. Sounds depressing, doesn’t it? 

None of us wants to be a statistic, especially one related to failure! There’s an easy solution! Don’t make resolutions! We are serious. Don’t do it. Instead, create strategies for success and be proactive with your actions. There is no magic pill to being successful in a rigorous graduate program. But there are solutions. Make a plan and work the plan. Diligently. 

Here are our recommendations for a killer semester—in a good way. It will be a semester that gets you closer to your goal of that graduate degree.

The Most Obvious Strategy: Manage Your Time

Create a schedule! Build in time for reading, research and assignments and sync it with your work and/or home calendar. And don’t forget to schedule in some renewal time. You’ll need it! Use whatever tool works for you—an old-school planner or a Google Calendar. There’s no “right” way to build your schedule; choose the way that is right for you. 

Once you have your schedule, build out your tasks and prioritize them. You can get as complex as you like, or you can keep it simple. If you love checking things off a list, make a list! You can even add items you finish each day just so you can check them off. Many people derive a great sense of accomplishment just by checking off to-dos. 

Don’t forget to build in little rewards for yourself along the way. After turning in a big project, maybe just what you need is a night of binge-watching Netflix rather than reading scholarly articles. Keep your rewards lighthearted and fun (and inexpensive). Maybe your roommate, spouse or a good friend would be willing to celebrate with you. Maybe they’d even plan a few little rewards for you as a show of solidarity.

Be Aware Of Your Work-Life-School Balance

Multiple deadlines and responsibilities is part of juggling any grad program. If you have a family and a full-time job, it can be complicated. Make sure you are taking stock regularly of how you are feeling. Eat healthy food, build in time for exercise and fun, and get as much sleep as you can. Sure, an occasional all-nighter might be necessary, but if you find yourself doing this regularly, you need to make adjustments. Being physically and emotionally healthy will enable you to function at your optimum level. If you are feeling overwhelmed, share with a trusted friend or family member or seek therapy. Your university will have support for you, too. If you are an NNU student or considering one of our programs, check out our Wellness Center to see available resources.

Maximize Your Support System

Besides the family and friends who are supporting you and cheering you on, you have peers in your grad program. Many of them will be experiencing the same things you are. Connect with them! It will feel more manageable if you are sharing the load with new friends. Whether through a formal study group, a small group project, or just hanging out before or after class, you’ll be glad for new connections and a bit of a diversion from intense study. If you are in an online class, try to connect in person with a few other students in your area. Fellow students are not only a support in the present, they can be great resources for future job opportunities and networking. 

Communicate And Collaborate

Keep in close touch with your professor(s) and academic advisors. At the beginning of the semester, review course syllabi closely to check for any potential schedule conflicts or pitfalls you might encounter during the course. Professors will generally be far more understanding if you must make a request if you have communicated well in advance. Regular and open communication, whether in person or online, is key to building a healthy student/professor relationship. Remember, they are in your corner, too. They want you to succeed!

Collaborate whenever possible. Many times you can work with classmates to share the load on projects and assignments. One difference in graduate school vs. undergraduate is that everyone is studying in an area of particular passion or interest. This generally means students are more motivated, making collaborative work a shared journey.

Learn About Resources And Use Them

The university you attend will have a large store of resources for you to tap into. This is not the time to rely on Google to point you in the right direction. Learn what is available to you in your program area and really take a deep dive. Your professor or advisor can also be a great resource in helping you discover what is available. 

Remember Your Why

In the inevitable times of stress, remember why you wanted to get a graduate degree in the first place. Reflect on the passion that led you here. Remind yourself of your long-term goals. Trust your intuition and rest in the knowledge that you are doing your very best. 

It’s easy to stay motivated at the beginning of a new semester in January. New class, new professor, new classmates. It takes grit to be motivated in April, but the rewards are worth it. Soon you will have a shiny new diploma for your wall. You’ll launch into a new chapter, and you will be proud of the journey it took to get there. 

Ditch the New Year’s Resolutions this year and follow these strategies instead. You will be glad you did! 

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By: Jace Ziegler, Class of 2021  From first visit to graduation, Jace knew NNU was home.  Sometime in the spring of my senior year of high school, my story of belonging at NNU began. I was going on a visit with some friends who had a sibling attending NNU ...