Juggling Grad School and Student Leadership—Tips for Success

Throughout my term as a National NSSLHA Regional Councilor, I’ve been asked one question countless times:

How can I take on a leadership role while being a graduate student?

There’s a huge misconception that being in grad school means you don’t have time for anything else in life. The reality is that being a student leader is feasible, regardless of the profession, the coursework, and the school you go to!

Here are some things that you can do to maximize your success as a student leader…

  1. School always comes first! It’s important to remember that you’re a student Being a student will always be your primary role. So, no matter what’s on the horizon for your leadership role, it takes a backseat until you’re on track with your schoolwork.
  2. Inform your professors of your leadership role. Your faculty will be thrilled that you want to take on a leadership position. Keeping an open line of communication with them from the beginning of your term until the end will help them understand what your role demands of you. In doing so, the department will be able to support you both in and out of the classroom.
  3. Be open and honest with your fellow leaders and peers. The great thing about being a student leader is that you get to work with other students who are tackling school and a leadership role just like you! Do your best to keep them updated about what’s going on in your life so they can better understand when you need help with a task. Everything is easier when you are on the same page as your team!
  4. Buy a planner—and use it. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by countless assignments, tests, and tasks you have to complete on a weekly basis. Keeping a detailed calendar and to-do list will help you figure out the order you should complete everything in. I keep a list in several places (computer, phone, calendar) so that I can update it when I’m given new assignments or tasks. Not only does this help me remember what I need to do, but it also helps me feel productive every time I get to cross something off of the list!
  5. Set aside time to relax. Taking on extra responsibilities can be exhausting. I love our field and the opportunities I’ve had, but if all I ever did was think about CSD, I’d burn out long before graduation. Find something you enjoy doing outside of school and leadership (hiking, reading, cooking, etc.) and allow yourself to relax. You’ll give your mind and body the refreshment it needs to power through your busy schedule.

Being a student leader has taught me more than I could ever learn in the classroom. It’s been the best part of grad school and I’ll carry the experience with me throughout every stage of my life. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and dive into the world of student leadership. You never know where it might lead you!

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