10 Qualities of a Successful Graduate Student

How can you succeed in your quest to obtain a higher degree? Are there desirable traits that you should cultivate to reach your goal? 

See if you have the following 10 qualities of a successful graduate student.


Every time new graduate students enroll in the subjects I teach, I always give tips for them to ponder and adopt while pursuing a higher degree. I do this primarily to encourage them and ensure that they finish what they have aimed to achieve, that is, to finish an advanced degree.

What are the qualities or characteristics that a graduate student must have in order to succeed? I draw upon my experience and my observations of students who have made it through the graduate school.

10 Qualities of a Successful Graduate Student

You may already have some of the traits below, but consider other characteristics that you might have missed.

1. Adept at multi-tasking

A successful graduate student is flexible in his dealings with home, work, and other duties requiring his or her attention. He or she should be able to easily shift from one task to another—the essence of multitasking.

Graduate schoolwork is demanding, so you must develop this skill to succeed. While waiting for the computer to boot, arrange things on your table.

2. Finds time to relax

Despite the grueling work involved in graduate school work, a successful graduate student should find time to relax. The old saying, “All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy” holds true. Taking rest replenishes your energies to do more.

I find my 30-minute trip to dreamland invigorating. A quick nap relaxes me and sharpens my wits once again to write much more efficiently.

Give yourself a rewarding rest and relaxation each time you accomplish something. Even a visit to a beach and seeing the horizon can give you a good break from a hectic day.

qualities of a successful graduate student
Find time to relax and destress from a hectic graduate school life.

3. Knows how to plan to reach a goal

When you plan, you save time. Breaking tasks into manageable bits keeps the momentum going. Focus on completing the most urgent and important tasks. Imagine your goal and picture yourself reaching that goal. Your body follows what your mind sets you to do.

4. Has a deeply ingrained motivation to succeed

Think of the benefits you will gain once you finish your advanced degree. This can keep you motivated to go on despite the hardships along the way.

Always be positive. Stay on course and finish what you have started. The end result of pain is gain.

5. Works hard in a smart way

Do not let lots of reading materials exasperate you. Enjoy your readings and extract important theories or concepts from them. This activity becomes much more meaningful if you ask yourself some questions before reading.

Questions like “What do I want out of this reading material?” or “What significant piece of information do I need to derive from this book?” can spare you from wandering about the text. Read with a purpose in mind.

10 Qualities of a Successful Graduate Student 1

6. Has a keen eye for mistakes

A good graduate student has a keen eye to notice mistakes. He or she does not take things for granted. He is meticulous to see even a wrong punctuation or illogical statements in his write-ups. He or she writes the References section completely, with all the commas, periods and semi-colons in their proper places.

7. Manages resources effectively

A successful graduate student manages important resources like time, money, and effort efficiently. He or she keeps appointments, arranges files for easy retrieval, and works on assignments quickly. He or she passes class requirements on time.

8. Has a passion for discovery

The end result of a master’s degree or a doctoral degree is the capacity to do research. The purpose of research is to discover new things or new relationships between variables.

If you have that passion to discover something new, then that will keep you going in your chosen field of specialization. Discovering something new is satisfying.

9. Can integrate scattered data and draw up concepts

Integrating scattered data or information takes some skill. Once you develop this skill, it will be easy for you to develop concepts that will guide you through research work. Concept building requires higher thinking skills like analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating different works on a given phenomenon.

10. Physically and mentally fit

Last but not the least, graduate students should be physically and mentally fit to take on the stress associated with graduate school work. Walking or running for 150 minutes each week can give you the energy and conditioning to take on long hours of reading and writing.

Now you have the knowledge of how to make it in graduate school by knowing the 10 qualities of a successful graduate student. Enhance the qualities you already have and work or improve on those qualities that you lack.

Now is the time to act. Do what it takes to become a successful graduate student.

© 2014 September 17 P. A. Regoniel | Updated 2024 January 6


  1. Pattan August 15, 2021