Ways To Bounce Back When You Fall Behind In Grad School
We don’t want you to start panicking right now, take a deep breath and leave the overwhelming feeling caused by the struggle to keep up with your graduate program. Falling behind in your coursework is easy, sometimes you don’t even realize until the heightened level of difficulty makes it harder for you to recover. Right now, you really need to overcome thoughts like ‘I have a set of assignments left’, ‘Haven’t made any writing progress’, ‘I need to finish a chapter of my dissertation’ etc. Instead read the to-do-list to quickly restore your sense of academic equilibrium.
“When there is a will, there is always a way”
This means, you need to be proactive and determined to employ these methods. Have confidence in yourself that you can overcome the situation and catch up.
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly”
You see failures are only a part of success. You can always turn your failure into success but only when you know the ways to do it. Try to implement the following methods in your academic life to witness the best results.
1. Identify the cause
Once you realize that you have fallen behind, whether in one class or in broader program, analyze what has kept you from accomplishing your academic goals. It can be your too demanding personal life that restrains you from balancing personal and academic life. Or it can be the reason that you are spending a disproportionate amount of time in less important things like attending seminars. Whichever the cause is, naming the cause will direct you to find a relevant solution.
2. Consider the solutions
Think about the solutions available to you. Once you detect the underlying reason for your falling behind, it is easier for you to choose the solution. Here are few common problems and their possible solutions.
Problem: You struggle to manage your time according to your tasks and curriculum.
Solution: Here are few effective time management tricks to overcome this problem:
(i) Take a week to keep track of exactly how you spend your time
(ii) Find out what works best for you by doing experiment with your study schedule
(iii) Use small chunks of time
(iv) Reward yourself whenever you do a job within time limit.
Problem: It is difficult to find motivation to do your coursework.
Solution: Employ the following things to remain motivated throughout your program:
(i) Be as organized as possible: set the deadlines before the true ‘deadlines’; find out what requirements must be accomplished
(ii) Work with other motivated people
(iii) Don’t doubt yourself.
Problem: You are seeking out alternative activities for studying and reading because you aren’t engaging yourself in the current program.
Solution: Only you can find the answer to this question. You need to analyze whether you are truly interested in this program. Consider how to approach the coursework or research toward the areas of your discipline that excites you.
3. Develop a strategy for efficiency
The students may choose to stay in graduate school for longer than necessary because they are forever trying to advance the quality of their dissertation, or, worse avoiding the necessity to develop the skills to handle the uncertain job market. The strategies can be:
(i) Face your fear: You may fear to speak in public. Face your fears by delivering conference talks whether you are embarking on a new chapter or posing your ideas in front of the folks.
(ii) Know what is expected from you: Yes, this is difficult, but not impossible. Students sometimes spend a long time on their comprehensive exams because they are unaware of the requirement that they are expected to accomplish.
(iii) Write a future biography of ‘yourself in 5 years’: Use your creativity as much as you can. Visualize what you will be doing in 5 years, whether defending your thesis, open a bakery or publishing a poem in literary journal. Write about the achievements and accomplishments of yours in your biography, both current and future and set goals to achieve them.
4. Take extra classes
Graduate classes are significantly more demanding than undergraduate classes. Sometimes students fail to take the load of the full-time courses. Are you in the same situation? Then, you should consider involving yourself in additional classes to make up for the loss. What can you do?
(i) List the classes you have missed, this is easy. Analyze your curriculum.
(ii) Once you know what to make, you can choose the summer vacation time to take up those ‘missed’ classes. Hence, you don’t have to struggle to keep up with a full course load during regular school years.
The best thing about taking additional classes is you can easily get through the lectures without delaying your degree.
5. Take care of yourself
People often forget to sleep and squeeze in more time for work. It is not offensive to become a night-owl, but it would be hazardous for you if you end up with insomnia. Moreover, the students studying graduate school struggle to find harmony between physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs due to lack of enough sleep, lack of nutritious food and exercise. Follow the steps described here, at least try to.
(i) Exercise: It is the first step of improving physical as well as mental health. Dedicate 30 minutes a day; running or jogging can be a good option.
(ii) 8-hours sleep: In a day, it is necessary to boost the strength of your immune system. The last thing you want to do is get sick during graduate school.
(iii) Find a ‘fun’ activity: Hold onto to it like traveling, playing guitar, listening to music. If you let your liking slip away due to the pressure of study, it can lead you to grad school blues or depression.
(iv) Make effort to be social: Go outside and get some fresh air. You need socialization to keep your sanity. Make an effort to call your friends and make plans for the weekends. Find someone who has a pool, gas grills and beers.
6. Contact the instructor
A student’s relationship with his or her instructor will probably differ. Students in grad school should have a personal connection with them. Visit them during office hours with specific questions to help you with.
(i) In case, you won’t be able to fulfill the requirements before the term ends, if possible, ask your professors to extend your deadline or give ‘incomplete’ grade. During this conversation, make sure you describe the reasons for failing behind and exactly how do you plan to complete the coursework during the following term.
(ii) In case, you have fallen behind more than one term in the degree program, you will need to consult with your academic instructors about the strategies you should adopt for completing your degree. It is advisable that you take full responsibility for the situation. It would be foolish if you expect your instructor to come up with solutions, think about possible solutions and place them before your instructor.
7. Expect your personal life to change
While there’s personal growth during grad school, there’s a personal cost involved too. If you are in a relationship, expect less to see your partner. This is the best time when your partner can engage in taking new hobbies, renew friendship, do something that takes a lot of time. Similarly, if you have children, you need to rearrange their schedule and family support system to fit with your studies. You may have to do a few adjustments in your social life like turning down invitations from friends who are not in graduate school. The reason is these unattended situations may cause the worse effect on your graduate degree program and lead you to fall behind in your curriculum. To avoid any chances you can,
(i) Prepare yourself, your family, your partner for the effects your graduate education and time constraint have on them
(ii) Discuss your thoughts with them to come up with plan or agreement to balance the demand of personal and school life.
If something is not working in your favor, that’s okay. Remember lot of famous people experimented and faced failures as well.
‘It is not important when you fell on the ground, it is important when you decide to bounce back’
We hope that our advice will inspire you to stay productive in your journey of obtaining the graduate degree.
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