Whether you are facing medical school, law school, pharmacy school, or any other course intensive program following college, graduate school studies are notoriously known for being both demanding and quick-paced.

Once you get your acceptance letter and commit to a program, a seemingly unbreakable sense of relief and euphoria may wash over you- that is, until the school year kicks in. Your relationships begin to suffer, you haven’t stepped within a 20 mile radius of a gym in weeks, and sleep becomes an entirely foreign concept.

As challenging as these 2-4 years may be, there are many ways you can prepare yourself for your prospective program by channeling your critical thinking skills acclimated during your undergraduate career, brushing up on your research abilities, and managing your time to avoid procrastinating on important assignments.

Grad school is the place where you are meant to hone your skills in a particular area and further cultivate your interests in an intimate classroom setting. Unlike the 300 person lecture hall you may be familiar dozing off in, upper division classes offer you the opportunity to develop relationships and work closely with professors and classmates. You will ultimately be held accountable for more information than previous years, from lengthy weekly reading assignments to the capstone project that you have been mulling over for months.

Chances are that you are over the age of 22, and you thought you would have your life figured out by now, when in reality it is really just getting starting. Starting a serious grad school program may require you to put elements of your life on hold, so you must make the most of your time and put the following tips and tricks to use.

Keep a notepad with you at all times. An Irvine law student and a dear friend of mine shared with me this piece of advice, given to her by her criminal law professor. Always have a pen and paper on you, especially when you are going to a professor’s office to pick up or drop something off.

You never know when you will have a serendipitous run-in with your adviser at the copy machine or coffee shop on campus. Key word, being serendipitous. Before you know it, simple weather talk can quickly turn into a conversation about about Foucault’s post-structural analysis of gender and sexuality regarding the final paper due the following week.

Spend any free time you have in office hours. Binge watching the latest season of House of Cards on Netflix will not get your capstone done by the deadline; however, visiting your advisor’s office hours will. The more you spend time in that office, the more opportunity you may have to pick your professor’s profound brain with regards to the upcoming paper. Also, be sure to use all your resources while in graduate school. An opportunity not taken, is an opportunity lost.

Master the art of note taking. While you’re in graduate school, you will take pages and pages of notes and will most likely have to live with a perpetual hand cramp. There are a few different strategies you can employ into your note taking routine to record your understanding of important classroom concepts. Rather than writing everything down that comes out of the professor’s mouth, you should hone your listening skills to pick out important tidbits that may find themselves on the next exam. Quality is key, not quantity. Keep your notes short, concise, and straight to the point.

Blue ink and difficult-to-read fonts promote better recall. Another tip to expert note taking is to write everything down in blue ink. According to copywriting professionals, blue ink is associated with trust which leads to a heightened sense of comfort and creativity. The use of color triggers a form of cognitive arousal that enhances recall and aids in memorization. If you happen to have some free time subsequent to handwriting your notes, transcribe them onto a word document and print in difficult fonts.

According to the Harvard Business Review, students exposed to slides and handouts using less legible typefaces perform better on tests than students exposed to materials presented in more-readable type. By making the text harder to skim, you are training the brain to slow down and process the information rather than rush to the end.

Accept the challenge with open arms. The golden tip to surviving graduate school and coming out strong is to acknowledge and understand that while the next few months may be challenging, there is nothing you can not accomplishment with the right mindset. By channeling your challenges into a source of inspiration to continue working hard and dreaming big, you will be able to truly experience and gain the most from your graduate studies.

Featured Image Via Fordham