PROMISE: Maryland's AGEP

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How to Minimize Stress and Balance your Life

In Grad Student Success Seminar, Graduate School Preparation, Graduate Student Professional Development, PROMISE: Maryland's AGEP, Summer Success Institute (SSI) on September 12, 2011 at 1:23 PM

Dr. Robert Delutty

On August 26, 2011, Dr. Robert Deluty, Associate Dean of the Graduate School, led a luncheon workshop for graduate students. The main goal of this workshop was to encourage graduate student to find the perfect balance between their academic responsibilities and goals and their personal lives.  Dr. Deluty shared important information during this one-hour session and PROMISE would like to share it with you.

Even though graduate school is not an easy path, UMBC will definitely help you to succeed. There are several resources on campus, such as orientations and workshops that will make your academic and personal life easier. Members of the Graduate School are here to collaborate with you and make of your graduate education a priceless and complete experience. Using the resources on campus is a great start and a key item in your career at UMBC.

On the other hand, your success as a graduate student is highly related to finding the right balance in your life. This balance implies our physical, mental, and social health, as well as your stress management.  There are usually three types of balances that a successful student must have when completing graduate school. The first balance is between course-work and research field. The second balance is between the reading, writing, and conducting of research. The third balance is between a personal and a professional life.

In order to achieve these three balances, Dr. Deluty suggests:

  • Do not forget about the larger picture for focusing on your particular field. There should be a balance of knowledge and dedication between your discipline and your field. Many students tend to forget about the broadness of their disciples when working in their particular areas of research
  • Get a sense of professors beforehand. Asking former students, interviewing them, taking courses with them can be definitely helpful to know the characteristics and interests of faculty members at your department. This would be very useful when choosing a mentor or advisor
  • Take risks. Going outside your comfort zone and pushing yourself to the next level is very rewarding and will allow you to learn new things. Risks are step stones in your path towards success
  • Find the right mentor. Mentors are not necessarily faculty members; a friend, coworkers, significant other, or classmate can be your mentor and give you guidance through your graduate career. Pay attention to your surrounding and find the right person to mentor you
  • Talk to former students in your department and rely on multiple informants. Find as much information as possible about a course and/or program
  • Be aware that your definition of balance might not be the same as your mentor’s. You might have different values than your mentor and your motivation might not be his or hers. Always be willing to express your ideas with your mentor
  • Try study groups. For some students, study groups can be a powerful and useful tool to study and discuss relevant topics in their courses
  • Be assertive. Graduate school can be an excellent arena to practice your assertiveness; later on, it might not be as easy
  • Keep the communication lines open with your mentor. Expectations and levels of reception can be easily determined with a good conversation
  • Prioritize. Establishing priorities is not going to be only helpful for graduate school, but also for your professional life
  • Never feel comfortable with confusion. Ask questions, especially in early stages of your graduate career
  • Always find time to eat and sleep well. If your health is deteriorating, you are not going to be able to focus, which will jeopardize your success as a graduate student
  • Determine the right time to move on. Do not read, research, or collect data for too long. You have to figure out when is the right moment to move forward with your research. Remember that reading is only the first step in your research
  • Do not too be focused on being perfectionist. This would only develop unnecessary  feelings of anxiety
  • Take care of any medical condition you might have. Your health is important to succeed in graduate school and do not leave it behind. Pay especially attention to this.
  • Be aware that over and under socialization can have a negative impact on your graduate career. It is always important to be in touch with your family and friends.
  • Find self-motivating books. Two suggested readings by Dr. Deluty are “Observed and Imagined” and “The Long and Short of It,” which were written by him.

UMBC is definitely looking forward to fostering your success as a graduate student. PROMISE is part of the resources on campus for graduate students, with activities and workshops through the semester. For further information about workshops and seminars, please email


Submitted by Miguel Nino, UMBC Graduate Student, Instructional Systems Development