Academic Support Programs

Graduate student study skills

Graduate school is a time filled with new adventures and experiences. Along with these exciting times, there also are various challenges you may face as a graduate student. The UW is full of amazing resources and community members who want to support you, so you don't have to do it alone. 

School-life Balance

It is no surprise that being a graduate student can be stressful and busy at times. As a graduate student, we often wear many hats: friend, partner, colleague, classmate, TA, and more. It is essential for success to be able to balance and prioritize these various roles, while still making time for self-care. Developing skills for balancing school and other life tasks does not happen overnight, and can often lead to stress overload when aiming for perfection. Be realistic with your priorities and aim to create boundaries for the various aspects of your life. 

Tips for maintaining school-life balance as a graduate student at UW: 

  1. Beware of too much stress. Although stress can help us feel motivated and alert, there can also be a point where too much of it can have negative consequences on our health, relationships, and academics

    Reach out for help if you need it, or know someone who does. Some resources you can use include UW Counseling Center, LiveWell, Hall Health, or other wellness resources on campus. 

  2. Strive to be a high performer, not a perfectionist. It is okay to want to do your best and achieve good grades, but it is important to understand your limits to avoid feeling burnt out. Here are some behaviors to try that can shift your mindsets away from perfectionism:

    • Set reasonable goals that are high but realistic
    • Take time to enjoy your program instead of just trying to finish
    • Focus more on learning versus the grade
    • Keep track of positive and negative thoughts and their sources through self reflection
    • Understand that we grow from our mistakes and that they are part of the process. Give yourself grace to mess up.
    • Seek out constructive feedback and opportunities for improvement
  3. Practice good time management strategies. Graduate students are undoubtedly busy with various responsibilities, and it can often feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. Check out our page with tips for setting up effective schedules and other strategies for making the most of limited time.

  4. Learn when to say ‘no’. Even though graduate school is a wonderful time to have new experiences and be involved, try to understand your limits and avoid taking on too much all at once.

  5. Use your support systems. Discuss your expectations for school with your family and friends. Try to find a trusted mentor, adviser, or faculty member within your program that you can discuss your progress and goals with. The people in your program want to see you succeed!

For information on how to create a sustainable and healthy school-life balance, check out this School-Life Balance handout and reflection activity.

Information for this section was adapted from Johns Hopkins University. View their website for more helpful information.

Try this: Every Sunday, plan out what your week will look like. Start with concrete tasks, such as classes, rotations, or work. Then, add in what you hope to accomplish and give it a time block, such as studying, exercising, or spending time with family and friends. This does not have to be a concrete schedule, but it gives structure to your week and reminds you that you have time to accomplish everything. See an example of time blocking and download your own 7-day schedule sheet here.

Getting connected

Starting graduate school at a large university can feel daunting. There are so many exciting opportunities, but it can be difficult to navigate and easy to feel lost. The University of Washington is full of amazing resources and community members who are here to support you, you just need to know where to look. Reaching out to faculty, peers, and campus resources can be intimidating, but it is a necessary first step to unlocking what the UW has to offer!

Find a mentor

Mentors can be an extremely valuable resource for helping you navigate your graduate program or intended career field. They have been in your shoes and understand the hardships and stress of being a graduate student. A mentor also likely has built a large network of professionals that they can help connect you with. Graduates who report feeling “supported” during college, including by having a mentor, are nearly three times more likely to thrive. Check out the UW Mentoring Page for more information on finding a mentor, or ask your departmental advisers to help connect you with a staff or faculty member who may be a good fit.

If you already have a mentor or if you recently found one, don’t be afraid to reach out! They are there to support you and answer your questions, so utilize this amazing opportunity.

Try this: As a graduate student, you have already been through an undergraduate program and you probably have a lot of insights to share, even if you don’t realize it! Try mentoring an undergraduate or high school student. This can be a great way to reflect on your experience while also helping another student be successful!

Building community at UW

You might be surprised by how small the UW can feel. Try to find a community of people who share common hobbies, interests, classes, identities, or career interests as you. Here are some tips for finding your community: 

Check out this UW News article by Kim Eckart titled: “Stay connected — at a distance” which gives helpful tips for staying in contact with friends and family during this time of social distancing.

Imposter Syndrome

“It’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are not.” —Denis Waitley

What is imposter syndrome and why do we feel it? 

Imposter syndrome is a state of mind often felt by college students or young professionals who are unable to internalize or accept their success. It is common for people who struggle with this to attribute their accomplishments and positions to luck rather than their ability or merit. A common fear among people who are feeling imposter syndrome is that someone will unmask them as a “fraud” and discover that they do not deserve to be there. 

Imposter syndrome feelings can be heightened especially if a student feels as though they differ from their peers in some way, such as race, gender, age, sexual orientation, experience, etc. It is also common to have these feelings when embarking on a new chapter in life such as starting a new graduate program or job. Imposter syndrome may also be a product of not feeling supported in one's role. Negative effects of these feelings may lead to stress, over-thinking, fear of asking for help, and poor academic performance. 

Tips for combating imposter syndrome

In order to combat imposter syndrome, it is important to identify why you may be feeling this way or what is impacting your confidence. It might be helpful to discuss this with a trusted mentor, peer, faculty member, or friend. It may also be beneficial to remind yourself of your achievements and reflect on the hard work you have accomplished throughout the years that got you to where you are. 

Other helpful tips for easing these negative feelings: 

Feelings of being an imposter or not being good enough do not go away overnight and sometimes appear at different times throughout one’s life. The more experience you get and the more knowledgeable you feel will help ease these feelings over time. Don’t let these feelings cause you to give up or prevent you from taking risks.

Here are some other helpful sources for understanding and combating imposter syndrome: 

Keep in mind: The people who accepted you into their program are incredibly competent and they did not make a mistake. You were chosen for a reason based on your unique experience and potential.

Additional Resources for Graduate Students at UW