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Advice / Career Paths / Training & Development

5 Smart New Year’s Resolutions for Grad Students

The new year is here, and while all of your friends and family are making resolutions, you might think you’re off the hook this year (isn’t “Get through finals” enough?). But, not so fast: There are a few small personal and professional goals you can set that’ll bring you success, both as a student and as a graduate.

So, if you’re looking to make the most of 2013, consider one of these common new year’s resolutions—with a grad student twist.

1. Stress Less

Grad students are notoriously stressed out—but the good news is there are loads of resources to help you manage that stress. Before the semester kicks into high gear, look into the student services that your university offers and take advantage of them.

For example, if you’re feeling anxious about life after graduation, make an appointment to see your graduate career counselor. They’re trained to not only equip you with practical ideas for your job search, but also to help you recognize and address the emotions that may be holding you back. Or, find a new creative or athletic outlet that will help you blow off some steam—an on-campus art or yoga class, for example. Whatever you need to manage your stress, chances are your school has free or low-cost services to help you.

2. Volunteer More

You may think you need to wait for that high-paying salary before you can really give back to your community. But the truth is, no matter what you’re studying, there are tons of opportunities to put your knowledge to good work. Whether it's volunteering to provide pro-bono legal services, working with a mobile clinic, or signing up to tutor a young student, there are many ways you can use what you’re learning in school to benefit others.

See what options are available at your school, or take the initiative and launch something of your own. Remember, service opportunities can also be great learning opportunities, as they often let you perform tasks or roles that you’re still just learning about in class.


3. Pay Off Debt

As much as you might want to put this one off until after graduation, it’s actually not too early to start strategizing how you’ll pay off your student loan debt. The first step is to make sure you’re sticking to the amount of living expenses you have budgeted for each semester. If you’re not, think about where you might be able to cut back (here are a few suggestions).

If you want to move beyond budgeting consider taking a class or enrolling in a program like Dave Ramsey’s My Total Money Makeover that will walk you through the process of paying off debt and setting savings goals.

4. Travel 

So many of us vow to travel more when a new year rolls around, but on a student’s budget, you may feel like travel isn’t an option.

But it definitely is—you just have to be creative. Spend some time this month researching conferences and training programs abroad that will allow you to apply for grants from your department or university. Or, check out language intensive programs and fieldwork fellowships. Whether you get away for a couple of weeks or an entire semester, both can be a great way to get a change of scenery while staying in school and on budget.

5. Find a New Job

Feeling nervous about hitting the job market before you’ve got that degree in hand? Searching for a job when you’re a full-time student can be draining, but getting started now will make your life a lot easier in the weeks before graduation.

Start small by following leaders and companies you’d like to work for on Twitter. Then, get a few dates on your calendar when you’ll attend a career fair on campus, revamp your resume, and conduct informational interviews with people who might have job leads for you. Remember, when it comes to the job hunt, every little bit counts.

What are your resolutions this year? Share with us what you plan to tackle in 2013.

Photo of grad student courtesy of Shutterstock.