Challenges of Graduate School

Topics: Education


College is a stressful endeavor for all who pursue it. Graduate school offers its own unique challenges. Increased workloads, higher expectations, and trying to maintain a school-work-life balance are all part of earning a graduate degree for most students. This paper discusses three of the most common challenges inevitable in graduate school and offers helpful tips on how to handle these challenges.

Time Management

Many students in graduate level programs have families, daily obligations, and are established in their career.

Time management is essential for successful completion of a graduate degree program. Fortunately, there are several steps students can take to ensure they don’t become overwhelmed and that assignments are completed in a timely fashion. An important first step is for students to block out time in their calendar for completing assignments as soon as the syllabus is received. The syllabus for a course is typically broken down into weeks which is helpful to the student as this has already taken the first step in breaking assignments down into more manageable timeframes.

This is vital because looking at the syllabus for an entire semester can be cause stress and anxiety. By taking the syllabus in weekly intervals, now the student can focus on only the assignments due for the current week. Numerous studies have found that short-range planning behavior, surrounded by the time enclose of a week or less, established a constructive relationship to grade point average (Nasrullah & Saqib Khan, 2015). I have a weekly planner precisely for this purpose.

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When I receive the syllabus, I write all the assignments for the semester on the dates on which they are due. This includes chapter readings, discussion posts and follow-up responses, and written assignments. As each assignment is completed, it is crossed out to alleviate confusion as to what remains to be finalized.

Graduate school consists of a great deal of reading chapters and writing papers. While the numerous assignments may cause some to want to wait until the end of the week to begin completing work, procrastination will only serve to add to the student’s stress and decrease the likelihood that the work will be at a graduate level. Research has shown that “procrastination causes undesired results such as failure, anxiety, and failing from courses” (Kandemir, 2014). Large projects and written assignments must be broken down into more manageable sections. When a paper is due, I start the process by taking notes on the information I would like to include in my paper. For example, this assignment sought to discuss the challenges of graduate school and offer helpful tips on how to handle those challenges. I began the task by writing down the three things I identify as the biggest challenges for graduate school, listing two to three tips on how to manage each of those tasks, and making note of literature and article reviews to support my thoughts. In doing so, I had the three sections of this paper decided upon before writing had even begun.

Financial Concerns

The cost of college in the United States continues to rise annually, making it increasingly difficult for students to obtain a college education. One study on the subject found that states policies “underscore the need for improved state policy in promoting college affordability, as an affordable college education is out of reach for an increasing proportion of students” (Delaney, 2014). The increase is even greater when entering graduate school. The cost per credit for graduate studies was $300.00 greater than for undergraduate courses at the university where I received my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Financial concerns are one challenge all those considering graduate school must contemplate prior to entering a graduate degree program. To help employees defray the cost of college education, many companies offer tuition reimbursement. This can benefit the employer as well as employees are often required to sign a contract that they will remain with their employer for a set number of years after completing their program. Many companies have an annual limit for reimbursement of tuition costs which does not include the cost of books and other supplies, leaving employees to look for other means of financing their graduate studies.

For graduate students who do not work for companies offering tuition reimbursement, or for those who require additional support, there are other options to obtain financial assistance. Financial aid in the form of student loans, grants, and scholarships are abound for those who qualify and are willing to do the work. Student loans are repaid over time at a pre-determined interest rate. Students must simply apply for student loans by sharing financial information to determine how much aid they are eligible for. Although student loans must be paid back, one study found that it is an economically sound investment to attend college and pay for it completely with student loans (Renehan, 2015). Unlike financial aid, grants and scholarships do not require repayment. However, these types of assistance necessitate a large amount of work in the form of researching which ones you qualify for and writing a long essay. Mass General Hospital (MGH) offers tuition assistance at a limit of $2000.00 annually. This paid for a great portion of my undergraduate degree; however, with the cost for my graduate degree being greater, the annual tuition reimbursement from my employer does not cover the full cost of even one course for me. This left me needing to find additional options to help me pay for my graduate program. In my research, I found that MGH offers scholarships to nurses working on their master’s degree. While scholarships and grants involve more work, they are worth the effort for those who have financial concerns but are determined to complete graduate school.

Work-School-Life Balance

Graduate school requires a large time commitment. Reading chapters, writing papers, researching peer-reviewed articles, and studying for exams takes up many hours in a student’s week. As many graduate degree students are adults with family obligations and full-time careers, this creates a challenge to determine how to balance all the responsibilities of work, school, and personal life. While it may not be easy, there are several ways in which students can create stability to complete graduate school while maintaining a household and a busy career.

Students with children may need to enlist family and friends to assist with child care. This may be necessary to attend classes or while studying for exams. Students may need to delegate household duties to spouses and children. As DeNisco and Barker (2016) stated, “Delegation is an important skill that enables one to accomplish one’s work and goals” (DeNisco & Barker, 2016). For those who don’t have support of family at home, chores can still be accomplished by choosing one to two tasks per week to be completed. Graduate school requires a lot of time to be successful, but students must remember it is an investment in themselves and their future.

While completing assignments is of upmost importance during graduate school, students must also prioritize time for themselves and for family time. By finishing assignments early in the week, students can allow for a night at the end of each week to dedicate to personal time. This is imperative not only to keep connected to family, but also to relieve stress from all the studying. This was an important lesson I learned while completing my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I had previously obtained two associates degrees during which my personal relationships took a toll. It was a learning experience for me. I learned that while I am dedicated to my education, I need to make time for myself and my family and friends. The author of one study said it well when she stated, “At the end of my life, I would like to be recognized as a wife and mother first, rather than a physician or researcher in a particular field” (Tarquinio, 2016). While graduate students may achieve a degree on their own, they could not do it without the support of family.


  1. Delaney, J. (2014). The role of state policy in promoting college affordability. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 655(1), 56-78. doi:

  2. DeNisco, S., & Barker, A. (2016). Advanced practice nursing: essential knowledge for the profession (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning. p. 756.

  3. Kandemir, M. (2014). Reasons of academic procrastination: self-regulation, academic self-efficacy, life satisfaction and demographics variables. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 152, 188-193. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.09.179

  4. Nasrullah, S., & Saqib Khan, M. (2015). The impact of time management on the students’ academic achievements. Journal of Literature, Languages, and Linguistics, 11, 66-71. Retrieved from’_Academic_Achievements

  5. Renehan, S. (2015). Rising tuition in higher education: should we be concerned? Visions for the Liberal Arts, 1(1). Retrieved from

  6. Tarquinio, K. (2016). Work-life balance? It is not about balance, but priorities. Frontiers in pediatrics, 4(6). doi:10.3389/fped.2016.00006

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Challenges of Graduate School. (2022, Jun 15). Retrieved from

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