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Archive for May 13th, 2012

Roughly ten years ago I was graduating from college and making plans to start grad school in the fall. I was lucky to have great undergraduate mentorsĀ  who gave me an idea of what to expect. Today, students can also rely on Fabio’s Rulz. Here, then, are a few pieces of advice for those who will be starting grad school in the fall from somebody who survived (and even enjoyed) the experience:

Show up to things (Whether or not there is free food, it is good for faculty and other grad students to know who you are.)

Once in a while, say something that sounds intelligent (Once people know who you are it will be helpful if they occasionally hear you say something that indicates you were paying attention.)

Do not tell your professors about your work habits (Ideally, they will think that you start every paper months before the deadline and thoroughly complete all of the readings. Don’t ruin the illusion for them.)

Do some thorough reading (In my first few years I diligently read every page of the assigned texts but I wish I had taken more time to actually digest the material that I was reading. Reading a portion of the assignment thoroughly and being able to discuss it intelligently is probably better than doing a surface reading of all of it but having nothing to say!)

Get started on research (Whether working on your own or collaborating with professors or other students, it is never too early to start developing your research agenda, whether or not you think this work is leading toward your master’s thesis or dissertation.)

Think seriously about the type of job you want (Research will be important for getting any type of job, but there being able to teach some of the core courses in your field will also be helpful in most situations. If you know what kind of job you want it will be easier to seek opportunities that will look good down the road.)

Have a good time! (Grad school is a marathon, not a sprint. Your life will not be appreciably worse if you put off – or skip – some of the reading to go out with friends, but it will probably be appreciably better if you do!)

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