How to Have a Positive Graduate Student Experience

By Jennifer Pinker, Student Life Coordinator, Graduate Student Life and Outreach

As a graduate student, your time at U of T will be intellectually stimulating and academically rewarding. However, life as a graduate student can also be a stressful and isolating experience.

Graduate school requires a lot of commitment but it is important to stay connected, whether this means taking daily breaks away from your studies with friends, or saying hi to your professor in the cafeteria. Connecting and building a support system will help reduce isolation.

Academic success should not come at the expense of your physical or mental health. Staying healthy and active will make you feel better both mentally and physically and improve your productivity as a student. Take advantage of the extensive athletic facilities on campus at the Athletic Centre and Hart House.

Find balance in your life. By pursuing activities outside your studies, whether it means meeting friends, pursuing hobbies or visiting a relative, your productivity and wellbeing will thank you. Your sense of balance will be different from that of your friends so find what works for you.

Get involved on campus. Whether it be through your department, student government, or Student Life, there are extensive ways to engage on campus and feel more a part of the graduate community; take a workshop or attend a Grad Escapes event.

Effectively managing your time will be a lifesaver while pursuing your degree. Graduate students often have part-time jobs and family responsibilities in addition to being students. Finding time to manage everything can be a challenge. You can learn some effective time management strategies by visiting the Academic Success Centre on campus.

Develop a career plan. Likely, you are pursuing your graduate degree with a specific career goal and not just for the sake of gaining another degree. Develop a career plan if you don’t already have one, and initiate this process by visiting a career counsellor.

Maintaining a positive supervisory relationship is important, as your supervisor is your best resource to help with your academic life. Stay in contact to ensure that you both understand each other’s goals and vision for your academic career and what you hope to achieve. If you have conflicts with your supervisor, there are counsellors at your department or the School of Graduate Studies who can advise you on steps to overcome this.

Take advantage of all the services and resources on campus. There are extensive programs and services available specifically for graduate students to connect, and to support you while on campus. Visiting the GradLife website is a good place to start.

Most of all, enjoy the ride. As Ralph Emerson once said, "Life is about the journey and not the destination." This applies to your time as a graduate student.

Posted October 1, 2015