Finding the Motivation to Complete a Graduate Degree

Many people choose to pursue a graduate degree, however, the journey can be challenging for some of us. We may struggle with burnout and even consider quitting. We all need to recognize when we need to take a break from school for a time or do a simple reset. Here are some ideas to help you recharge and stay motivated as you navigate grad school as a part of your life:

  1. Communicate with your professors: Many professors are willing to work with students to ensure they are able to succeed, and many graduate programs are designed to be more flexible than undergraduate programs because often grad students hold full-time jobs while working on their degree. If your coursework becomes overwhelming or unmanageable, talk with your professors to make them aware of your situation and to work out a solution. You should not suffer in silence. If you are struggling, talk to your professors so that they can provide or direct you to the support you need.  Just knowing that they are in your corner and ready with the tools you need to succeed will help keep you going when things become challenging.
  2. Develop a support system with your classmates: Your classmates understand the challenges you’re facing, because they are often experiencing the same thing.  It can be helpful to remember that you are not in this alone. Kelli McKee is a student in Geneva College’s Master of Arts in Higher Education program. She admits, “Honestly, [grad school is] really hard. I have wanted to quit almost every day. However, having a solid support system is key to success in a graduate studies program.” It is extremely valuable to develop a support system with your classmates so that you can keep each other accountable and lift each other up.  
  3. Maintain a school—life balance, and stay socially connected: Grad school can be difficult enough on its own, but students often also have to balance work, family, and a social life. Remember that grad school is not a race, and you should take it at a pace that is feasible for you. Another key to balancing your personal life and school is choosing a flexible program that works with your schedule and that has the needs of working adults in mind.  Mark Britton is a student in Geneva College’s Master of Arts in Counseling program, and he believes, “Staying positive and remaining focused on the short-term and long-term goals is very important.” It can be difficult to maintain a balance between school, work, and life, but it can be easier when you focus on your goals and work at a manageable pace. If you try to take on too much schoolwork, other areas of your life may begin to suffer, so do your best to maintain a healthy balance.  If you are working full-time and attending school, it can seem nearly impossible to find time to get away, and your personal relationships and friendships may suffer, making you feel disconnected and reducing your motivation level. To keep your motivation high, schedule time to chat with or visit your friends outside of school and keep those connections to your support network strong.
  4. Stay Healthy: When life becomes busy and stressful, healthy habits can sometimes be forgotten. However, staying healthy is one of the best ways to combat stress and burnout. Make a conscious effort to get enough sleep, eat three meals a day, and stay active, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed. In addition to physical health, it is important to be aware of your mental health and find time to engage in activities that bring you peace, such as meditation, journaling, or taking a long, hot shower. In the midst of your many priorities, it is imperative that you take care of yourself. You may find that your schoolwork is more manageable when you are well-rested and at peace.
  5. Give Yourself Grace: No one is perfect, and you may find that at the graduate level, getting straight A’s is not as easy as it was on the undergraduate level. Remember that the goal isn’t to have the highest GPA in the class, but to learn what you need to succeed in your field.  Future employers are less likely to look at your grades and more likely to look at your experience, including projects and internships.  Give yourself grace and rest in the knowledge that you are doing your best, and that is enough.  In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul advises readers, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” If you are struggling with your grad school experience, turn to God. Pray about any doubts you may be having, because God can provide you with guidance. Prayer can be a valuable tool for anyone lacking motivation, so turn to our gracious God with any stress and worries you may be carrying.

Grad school will come with many challenges, but many people would say that it is absolutely worth it. Kelli McKee provides this encouragement, “Don’t underestimate yourself. You can do this! Don’t give up on yourself. You are capable of far more than you give yourself credit for!” It is okay to struggle, and it is also okay to decide that grad school isn’t for you, but before you give up on your dreams of an advanced degree, take the steps above to try to boost your motivation.