Tips for Teachers and Classroom Resources Updated March 3, 2020

Top 10 Characteristics of High-Performing Graduate School Students

By The SHARE Team

A graduate school degree is becoming increasingly accessible for working professionals. Having that advanced degree gives a teacher a competitive edge and in-depth knowledge on the job, which has prompted many teachers to look at online education programs. Online graduate school programs are the most flexible, and are usually the best choice to fit into a working student’s busy schedule. Still, there are students who struggle to do their best. We’ve asked online degree students what they felt were the traits that allowed them to succeed in their accelerated graduate school program.


Attending a graduate school program frequently requires a lot of flexibility. Can you work, take care of family obligations and find time to study? An online program helps, as you can make your own hours, but those hours may change depending on your day-to-day tasks. You’ll need to apply your learning style to different situations and flexibility will go a long way in ensuring your success in a graduate school program.


Optimism is a foundational characteristic of a successful student attending a graduate school. When attending a graduate school, part of one’s success relies on one’s expectations. If a student is certain she’ll succeed, then she will put in her best effort into everything that she does. Positive thinking really does work wonders!


Anyone who is even thinking of enrolling in a graduate school program is motivated, but it is essential for a student to maintain her motivation. This is especially important for students attending an online graduate school, since contact with classmates and professors require self-discipline and the ability to ask questions as needed.


Like motivation, persistence makes the difference between a student who starts a graduate school program and a student who completes one. It’s essential in a graduate school program to be persistent, even if that means working on many drafts of an assignment, following up on questions, reaching out to fellow learners, etc. The prize is the degree and the satisfaction of accomplishment, both of which are significant rewards.

Strong work ethic

Successful students in graduate school programs are willing to work hard, period. Students in graduate school programs should expect solid amounts of reading and several writing assignments from each class during every five-week session. Graduate school programs can be time-consuming, and ask the best of you. Successful students are prepared for this, relish the opportunity to shine, and are ready to work hard to reach their goal.


A self-advocating student believes in her ability to complete her graduate school program and is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure she gets her degree. This student:

  • Asks questions.
  • Contacts professors for extra help.
  • Communicates regularly with classmates.

In short, this person uses all available resources to make sure she is successful in graduate school.


Organization means the difference between an enjoyable experience in a graduate school program and a stressful one. The successful student has a consistent, effective system of organization that includes her time, materials and money. This helps her anticipate obstacles and plan ahead to overcome them. The organized student ensures she can always effectively respond to any demand made of her. Keep important papers in one place, maintain a task and assignment calendar, think about contingency plans if a computer needs a tune-up, and how to get answers if an assignment seems unclear.


A connected student has:

  • A good Internet connection.
  • A reliable computer.

It might seem obvious that a successful online student is connected, but Internet access and a reliable computer really can’t be taken for granted. An unconnected student will routinely find she is unable to complete her assignments or attend online graduate school classes because of technical difficulties. Anyone attending an online graduate school should count her computer among her best tool for success.


Consistency is especially essential for students attending online graduate schools because online students often do not have as much externally imposed structure. Having a consistent routine helps the effective student remain focused, complete assignments in a timely fashion, avoid falling behind and stay organized.


The final–and most important–characteristic of a successful graduate school student is support. It can be challenging to complete an education graduate school program without the support and understanding of her family and friends. Some things to consider before starting include childcare, work obligations, financial aid or funding, home life responsibilities, coursework responsibilities and scheduling. A successful student discusses her needs with family and friends and ensures their support as she completes her program.

Research studies and trends continue to show the benefits of advanced education beyond higher compensation–graduates often emerge with highly desirable professional skills as well as a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. And, though graduate degrees can require much effort, they are seldom out of reach of students who exhibit these top 10 characteristics of successful students.

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