Managing Graduate Life

There are additional tips and resources available in other sections of this website. We encourage you to review them as well.

Tips for Success in Graduate School

Have you ever had a moment that you don't have enough time to complete your assignment or reach a goal? Managing time wisely is very important to succeed in graduate school. Here are some useful resources to manage your time better:

First, there is a list of reasons why time management is critical and how it can benefit your life at Columbia.

  • Complete work on time
  • More productivity and efficiency
  • Much less procrastination
  • Have more time for leisure and recreation
  • Reduce stress and anxiety

And now, let's look at tips on how to manage your time effectively and efficiently.

On-Campus Resources

External Resources and Articles

Time Management Apps

  • RescueTime RescueTime works in the background on your computer, phone, and tablet to show you exactly how you spend your time (no manual entry required).

  • Focus Booster Use focus booster to apply the pomodoro technique, overcome distractions, maintain focus, stay fresh and still finish work on time.

  • Freedom Freedom is the app and website blocker for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and Chrome, used by over 1,000,000 people to reclaim focus and productivity.

Stress is not always a bad thing, but high levels of stress can have a big impact on academic performance and our mental health. Managing your stress would lead you to success as a graduate student. Here are the five things you should know about stress according to the National Institute of Health

  • Stress affects everyone.
  • Not all stress is bad.
  • Long-term stress can harm your health.
  • There are ways to manage stress.
  • If you’re overwhelmed by stress, ask for help from a health professional.

Here are some useful resources to manage your stress better: 

On-Campus Resources

Wellness Conversation

To speak with someone at SEAS, please email: [email protected] or [email protected].

Virtual Counseling and Psychological Services

Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) offers individual counseling, support spaces and other services delivered virtually. Watch this video to learn more about how Counseling & Psychological Services supports the psychological and emotional well-being.

For students residing outside the United States interested in counseling services, click here and use "Columbia University" as your student code when logging in.  

Alice! Health Promotion

Alice! Health Promotion creates and sustain a healthy University community in which students can achieve their personal and academic goals. 

Go Ask Alice! would give you information on the basics of stress. This webpage contains tips on how to manage stress, services that you can use to deal with stress at Columbia.

Nightline Peer Listening 

Nightline is an anonymous peer listening service. The listeners are empathetic undergraduate students of Columbia University who have been professionally trained. For the updated time, please check the Nightline website.

When many students enter graduate school, they often experience a phenomenon called impostor syndrome or the feeling that they don't belong. This TED talk by Elizabeth Cox will help you understand what imposter syndrome is and its effect on the individuals.

Here are some tips that they recommend for overcoming these feelings according to the American Psychological Association:

  • Recognize your expertise
  • Remember what you do well
  • Realize no one is perfect
  • Talk to someone who can help
  • Reframe your failure as a learning opportunity 

International students face particular challenges adjusting to new culture in a new country and managing academic growth. You may find yourself losing access to primary support system and feeling lost and stressed in a new environment. This is absolutely normal and Columbia has compiled many resources to make your transition as smooth as possible. We cover culture shock, and language barriers, and tips for each challenge. If you are seeking COVID-19 related resources for international students, visit the COVID-19 Resources Guide for the Columbia Community International Students page. 

Culture Shock

Culture shock includes experiences that individuals may have when they move to a new cultural environment which is different from their own culture. 

Stages of Culture Shock 

See Edupass's guide about US social customs and cultural differences.

These Youtube videos, made by a former graduate student at Columbia, also address the topic of adjusting to life in the U.S. 

Also, review this Ted Talk.

Signs of culture shock

You’re not alone if you experience some of these feelings:

Extreme homesickness, anxiety, depression, helplessness, frequent crying, isolation, nausea, oversleeping, difficulty sleeping, constant feeling of fatigue.

Tips for overcoming culture shock

  • Learn as much about your host country as possible
  • Write down what you expect, plan, love to do when you first arrive, and look back later
  • Find a healthy distraction
  • Try to see things from local friends' perspective
  • Get involved with the local community
  • Talk to other students about how you honestly feel
  • Push yourself to make local friends
  • Stay in touch with your family and friends in your home country.
  • Make plans for traveling

On-Campus Resources

Depending on each student’s personal background, previous experience, personality, each will experience different stages and degree of culture shock. However, it is a natural part of the student’s adjustment and growth process. Talking about your experience of culture shock can help you navigate it better. This on-campus resource might be helpful:

Counseling and Psychological Services

Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) offer virtual counseling and other services delivered virtually even for students not on campus.

Language Difficulties

Challenges faced by international students from non-English speaking countries could be overwhelming upon their arrival in the U.S. One of them could be using English as a main communication tool. Using English as a non-native language could be daunting and stressful for international students.

Even if you are a highly achieving student in your country, you could feel vulnerable and lack self-confidence due to language difficulties. Also, students can even feel humiliated and anxious about using English to communicate while making mistakes. It is okay to make mistakes and there are many resources available for you to continue polishing your English ability.

On-Campus Resources

Columbia University provides lots of resources to help you overcome language difficulties.