Tips for a Graduate Student

 Continuing the series on "Tips for ______", here is Tips for a Graduate Student.  At the halfway point in my graduate studies, these are my tips so far! Feel free to add your own experiences/advice in the comment section. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

1.   Maintain a fruitful relationship with the Lord.

One of the most difficult things to do is study the Bible all day in preparation for a sermon or writing a paper, and then go home and have motivation for devotional time. Yet, my quiet times keep me sane when work/school/marriage/ministry start to overwhelm me.  Not to mention, if I’m not being transformed daily then my other responsibilities will undoubtedly suffer.

2.   Find good friends that will pour into your life.

Once you find them, develop those relationships.  We need to have brothers and sisters to encourage us, to laugh with, to study with.  If possible, take classes with your friends.  My experience has been that I get more out of the class when I can talk about the subject outside of class.  It’s also not a bad idea to befriend a few people who are ahead of you in the program and can help you determine a schedule that will not kill you.

3.   Use days off of school wisely.

If you were here last year, then you got to experience some free days during the Snowpocalypse.  It was amazing.  Once I shoveled my car out from under a mountain of snow, I soaked the snow day in, read some books, drank some coffee, and never took my slippers off. It was great.

More than that, I’ve had to learn from experience that even during holidays and spring break I need to decide if it is going to be a day focused on refreshment or on labor.  If I decide ahead of time that I’m going to take 3 days of Spring Break to relax, I am so much more refreshed on the other end.  If I decide ahead of time that I need to get ahead on class reading the week before a semester starts, I’m so much more productive.  It is that hazy middle of "I hope to get things done but let’s just wait and see what happens" that lends itself to neither rest nor productivity.

4.   Do ministry.

I’m convinced that the reason the first semester/year is often the most difficult for graduate students it is because they haven’t found a church/ministry to get involved in.  I volunteer with a youth group, and it is so life-giving as it reminds me of God’s power at work.

5.   Work ahead.

This is related to #3, just remember that as you look through your syllabi there may be weeks where you simply won’t get everything done (or will have to put your health and sanity at risk) if you haven’t worked ahead.  Reading is probably number one on the list for me.  Breaks are the ideal time to brew some coffee and start some of those books.

6.   Develop relationships with professors.

If you haven’t noticed, TEDS has assembled some amazing faculty.  It did not take me long to find out that they are much smarter than I will ever be.  Also, they happen to love the Lord and love students.  Sign up for office hours.  I waited way too long to start meeting with professors pretty regularly, but now that I have, it’s amazing.  They want you to succeed not only in the classroom but in marriage and in ministry as well.

7.   Utilize the library.

I’m not just saying this because I work here.  There are amazing resources here that we likely won’t have the same kind of access to after we leave.  Use ILL to find books that 35 of your classmates will be using at the same point during the semester.  Use our extensive journals section to hit home-run papers.  Drink our coffee for that extra energy boost. 

8.  Have a hobby.

Success in graduate school is not solely defined by your GPA.  What?! You’re crazy Justin! I know it may sound crazy, but studying 41 hours a day 365 days a year for 2-4 years might not be the best use of your time.  This is just my personal opinion, but it’s important that you are able to have social interaction with others during and after grad school.

Personally, I like to play basketball and watch the Green Bay Packers.  I like to hang out with my wife. You might like to play water polo or collect coffee mugs or play chess.  That’s great!

Do you have any keys to success that you’d like to add?


Trackback URL for this post:

This is very very true! As a

This is very very true! As a third year TEDS student, these 8 truths have made my experience a success, as well. I especially commend 2, 4 and 6 to new students as key to doing seminary well.

Under your number 4 I think

Under your number 4 I think it is also important to join a church in order to be under the authority of a pastor, to be accountable to the congregation, and to be disciplined "out of your comfort zone" when it comes to ministry. Some of the benefits to being dedicated to a church may not be immediately recognized, but in the long-term, the benefits will be priceless!

Zach and David

Thanks for your comments! I agree, Zach, that being a member of a church can be a fruitful discipline!

Also, if you are enjoying this series, get excited for a guest blogger who will be writing "Tips for an Undergraduate Student"!