Tips and Tricks for Surviving Chatham’s MPW Program

You’ve decided to begin your adventure as a grad student attending an online program. Like me, the decision was the easiest part. Now I have to figure out how to transition to a student’s schedule while working full-time and having other grown-up responsibilities. Let’s dust off the cob webs from our brain and prepare ourselves with a tool bag of online resources to survive the journey.


Start thinking of yourself as a writer by reading. You may have only written Facebook post, sick notes, to-do list and work emails over the past few years, but don’t fret, you are not the only one. Before you begin class feeling like you snuck into a room of scholars by accident, immerse yourself in the blogosphere. Yes, it is your basic anticipatory socialization, but it will kickstart that part of your brain that has been on snooze. Check out blogs from successful writers to get thinking about modern professional writing.  Positive Writer has a list of the Top 25 Writing Blogs full of entertaining and stimulating post to get you excited about that homework! has a team of four professionals churning out daily tips on grammar, editing, business writing and even 40 Yiddish Words You Should Know. Ann Hadley has a Writing GPS to rethink your process (or create one for the first time) and The Procrastiwriter gives some motivation and encouragement for those trying to “be a successful writer around a full-time life.”

Update from a paper planner to an app. You might have been the student who has a different color ink pen busterfor each class and correlating highlighter colors to indicated task and urgency. That won’t cut it now. Check out a planning app that goes with you everywhere and can set unavoidable reminders. My Study Life is free and works with all platforms so you can copy and paste from your syllabus on your laptop, and task while in traffic. iStudiez Pro has been awarded as being the best app for college students, parents and even educators for it’s usability. Feel a little more savvy and need more than a calendar? Try Evernote to organize your draft and research materials. So busy you don’t have time to app it out? Try Dragon Dictation to speak to text your notes, drafts and reminders. Don’t underestimate the power of a whiteboard on display. Seeing your week’s task laid out may not only help you when the battery is dead, but may show everyone else in the house how much you have to get done (maybe you can get some sympathy chore assistance).

Now you’re ready to get to work. Don’t panic. It will all get done. Being smart about how you approach it will help. Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. offers 12 Tips for Surviving and Thriving in Grad School  and What I Wish I Knew In Grad School: Current and Former Students Share 16 Tips, written toward Psych students. She suggest a new approach to reading with purpose, and learning how to stop yourself when the piece no longer meets your goals. Letting go of perfectionism, focusing on perseverance and the imposter phenomenon are great for calming the anxiety and feeling normal about the challenge at hand.

Give it up when you have to. Running errimagesands that is. Time stealers like housework and everyday errands will leave you frustrated and exhausted and sitting down to start homework at 9 pm is not the way to approach this investment. Take that shinny new for a spin at Amazon Prime for Students! Free 6 month trial and only $50 after for a year membership. Receive free 2 day shipping on practically anything you would buy at Target. You might even save money without having the browsing  temptation. Free 2 day shipping and return shipping even on rental text books.  Click, add to cart, get it delivered, and done.

Take a break. You may not have a day or two free for relaxing with these 7 week intensive classes. Don’t reach for the wine, you’re not Hemingway, and you will need to get back to work soon. Instead check out a medication break app like Calm. With guided medication you can refresh yourself in 2 to 20 minute session and get back to being productive. This is not a new age hokey thing, download or go to their website and choose a soothing nature scene to stare at and let the trickling waters wash out your anxiety.


Take advantage of every tool available to make your life easier during the new period. Don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged. This phase will go by so much faster than you think, enjoy being a student again. The hard work will be worth it. 

3 thoughts on “Tips and Tricks for Surviving Chatham’s MPW Program

  1. I started out managing my weekly assignments with a simple MS Word table-based template. It should have occurred to me that there’s an app for that. Good tips.

  2. Great tips, Natalie! It’s really difficult to transition from regular adult life to regular adult life PLUS grad school. Getting yourself organized and reminding to schedule breaks for yourself are so important in staying on track and avoiding burnout. And Amazon Prime is a lifesaver. I’m definitely taking advantage of Prime for Students.

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