5 Tips for Grad School Application Burnout

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If you’re a senior undergraduate student applying to graduate school, you’re probably starting to feel the stress. You’ve got a lot going on! Between classes, work or interning, socializing, and navigating your grad school applications, it can be easy to burn out! Today we’re going to talk about some ways to avoid grad school application burnout so you can make the most out of this application season.

An Emerson building through tree branches

Tip 1: Organize Your Deadlines

As you already know, grad schools all have different application deadlines. Digging through program websites every day reminding yourself of deadlines is an easy way to burnout. Instead, try putting everything into a spreadsheet for easy reference. Grad Life Grind has a great article about making an application spreadsheet, complete with a free template! 

If you are applying to scholarships, I would recommend making a spreadsheet for that as well. Get Schooled has some great free templates to help you track your progress on scholarship applications. When you apply to Emerson, you are automatically considered for merit-based scholarships and fellowships. There’s no extra application!

Organizing your deadlines will take a little time upfront, but it’s a great way to avoid grad school application burnout.

Tip 2: Start Early

The application essay is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition, so make sure you start your essays early. You want enough time to write, re-write, and edit every essay. If you need guidance on the editing process, the New York Times has some great tips on how to edit your own work. Once you’ve edited your draft, have someone else edit it too. Many colleges have peer tutors that are free to students, so take advantage of your resources! Even the best of writers need an extra set of eyes on their work.

In addition to starting your essays early, you should also consider applying before priority deadlines. For many schools, priority deadlines give you a higher chance of acceptance. When you apply to Emerson’s priority deadline, you are the first to be considered for financial aid, plus you get your acceptance decision earlier!

You should also study for standardized tests ahead of time. None of Emerson’s graduate programs require the GRE, but if you need to take the test for another application, be sure to study a few months in advance. I found the Princeton Review test prep book very effective! 

Tip 3: Know Your Limits

Because graduate programs are competitive, it’s tempting to try and juggle multiple internships, jobs, and courses just to beef up your resume. Getting good experience is great, but know how much you can handle in a semester. 

Try to only commit to things you know you have time for. Of course, it isn’t always possible to limit how much you work, especially if you’re putting yourself through school. However, as much as you can, don’t put too much on your plate. Being overworked and sleep-deprived just makes it harder to craft an outstanding application.

Girl sitting on the floor of a library studying

Even if you can’t cut down on work hours, make sure you can advocate for yourself. If you’re the leader of an organization, learn to delegate instead of doing everything yourself. If you can’t pass up that internship opportunity, try to negotiate for pay. It can be scary to advocate for yourself, but these small adjustments can give you more energy to spend on grad school applications!

Tip 4: Self-Care and Breaks

I know this can be hard to accept, especially when you’re a busy student trying to prove yourself to grad schools. However, if you never take a break, you’re more likely to burn out. 

In order for breaks and self-care to be effective, you need to know what works for you. I used to think self-care wasn’t for me because I don’t like bubble baths. Then I realized that cleaning my room and watering my plants is a form of self-care for me because it energizes me. 

If you’re also skeptical about self-care, check out this list of “non-cheesy” self-care options from The Source. I especially like their suggestion to alternate whether you’re using your mind or body to take a break. Figure out what things make you feel more energized and clear-headed, and that’s your self-care routine! 

Aerial view of campus buildings and trees

Tip 5: Know Your “Why”

If your goals and tasks aren’t personally motivating to you, you’re more likely to feel burnt out. It’s much easier to work long hours if you feel your work is making a difference. If you’re doing work that feels pointless or goes against your personal values, then the hours seem to drag on forever. 

Because grad applications require a lot of time and work, it’s really important to have a “why” for applying. For example, whenever I wanted to give up on grad school applications, I reminded myself that graduate school meant I would be able to help others. The application process was still work, but it was a little easier if I kept in mind that getting into a program would allow me to give back, which is one of my personal values.

Think about your reasons for going to grad school. Does it align with your personal values? Will it help you move up the corporate ladder? Will it help you make more money? Whatever your reason, make sure it’s something that will motivate you through the tough moments of the application season. If you’re not sure what motivates you, this online quiz is a fun way to start figuring it out.

Regardless of what programs you’re applying to, the application season can be overwhelming. Especially if you are applying in your senior year of college, it can be easy to get grad school application burnout. Hopefully with these tips, your application season will be successful and less stressful.

Follow Olivia Wachtel:

Writing Assistant

Olivia is a first-year student in Emerson's Communication Disorders program. Originally from Ohio, she is loving Emerson and city life. When she's not writing for the Grad Life blog or studying, she loves to read, bake, and crochet.

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