RU GSE Student Blog

A Student Perspective

An Ode to the Stressed Out, Over-Committed Grad Student

For new and returning grad students alike, the act of over committing is pretty common. The pressure to build an impressive resume, gain experience and (often) outshine one’s colleagues breeds a culture of competition, stress and tension.

Don’t get me wrong though. The competitive graduate student culture is not all bad. Sometimes competition pushes people to excel, but other times grad students find themselves committing to various projects that spreads them far too thin.

Quality Over Quantity 

You remember the old saying.  I’ve always been a big fan of this idea. It just makes sense. The more you do, the less time and effort you can devote to each thing. Whereas the less you do, the more time and effort you can devote to each project.

LISTEN: Valuing Quality over Quantity doesn’t mean that you’re being lazy! In fact, it means the opposite. When you prudently choose the few projects you’re going to commit to, you show that you can prioritize and make intentional decisions. Now, that’s a fabulous life skill that employers value as well!

Your Time is precious!

I was an English major, so here’s a quote from a poem I LOVE:

“But at my back I always hear
 Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;”

–       Andrew Marvel “To His Coy Mistress”

Time is in limited quantity. We all know there are only 24-hours in a day. By enhancing the quality of the things you choose to do within those 24-hours, you enhance the use of your time.

Guess what! I’m not the only one who feels this way. Check out Dan Rockwell’s blog post “Commit to one thing”

Time Management (as if you never heard that phrase before…)

Time management means lots of things to lots of people. For me, it means juggling:

  1.  Internships: 
    1. 20-hour per week internship in Housing & Residence Life
    2. 8-hour per week field experience in Academic Advising
  2. Classes: Higher Ed Law; Leadership; Assessment Independent Study
  3. Student Organizations:
    1. Future Leaders of Student Affairs’ Rutgers Careers in Student Affairs Conference (Logistics Committee Chair)
  4.  Presentations:
    1. Conference preparation for upcoming presentation at the National Orientation Directors Association
    2. Presentation on Recognition for Rutgers Leadership Development Day
  5. Blogging! And, last but not least, this weekly blog for the Grad School of Ed! (=


Wow. That seems like a lot when I write it down. Perhaps, I should revisit my section on Quality over Quantity…

With the help of prioritization and my detailed weekly & monthly planner, I’ve been able to keep things relatively together.

The key to time management is knowing yourselfnow, we’re getting deep.

Each person can handle a different workload. But, there are some general tips that can be help to every stressed, over-committed grad student.

1)   Keep a Planner! Have a weekly planner, monthly planner & even a yearly planner as a way to keep up on all of
your impending “to-dos”

2)   Make To-Do Lists: Whether you use the traditional post-it or your fancy schmancy smart phone, these lists are VITAL. Plus, it’s super satisfying to cross things off when you’re done. I even have a friend who puts “take a shower” on her to-do list when she has a really busy day. It’s the little things in life that we just can’t forget!

3)   Learn how to say “no”: It’s soooooo much easier said than done,but saying “no” is probably the best life skill we can all develop. Read about some helpful tips on saying no. Or, check out what Oprah has to say about it.

If you’re craving more about time management, check this out.

Calling all stressed out grad students!!! 

Burn out and stress seems to come easily for grad students. Trying to find a work/life balance is nearly impossible sometimes, but it’s sure worth an effort.

Here are just a few things you can try to combat your stressful life:

1)   According to this blog post on stress management, try a warm soothing bubble bath with essential oils. (hey, it could work for some…)

2)   Turn your phone off for 1 hour per day. Cut off from the world (as if…)

3)   Take time away from campus! Do anything; just get away!

4)   Carve in time for a workout at the gym, or try a group fitness class here at Rutgers.

5)   Take yoga on Monday nights at 7:30pm with the Rutgers Graduate Student Association in the Grad Student Lounge (Drop-ins are welcome!)

6)   Organize your life! Even if that means color-coding everything, getting your life together can release stress.

7)   Keep your living space neat and tidy (: A chaotic space can make for a chaotic mind…

I’ll now leave you with a helpful (double) haiku 

To over commit

Can make you want to just split

So take a deep breath

You will be okay

Grad school won’t last forever

Take it day by day



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