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April 14, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Advice for future graduate students and PhD candidates on surviving and doing well in grad school

Grad school was a series of short sprints for me. Doing the research and article readings when a project assignment was made and finishing it up generally during the last 2 days. This happened to work for me, but I should have probably more rigorously edited by paper rather than procrastinating. Here are some core basics to being a grad student:

• Learn to organize your life (I don’t know if its quite as true now–with more digital records on the teachers end, but I know I like to read paper articles because I can read them seemingly twice as fast and make notations at will). Also, if you’re teacher or a teachers assistant you need some

• Optimize your down time if possible for reading, research, etc…. (i.e. office time)

• Make friends in your department. You’re probably going to have lots of time with these people.

• Create a reputation for creating great work.

• Create an efficient way to write papers & make notations on articles. (I think I have 6 to 9 symbols which I can use to quickly find key parts in an article)

• Ask for tips for creating efficiencies from your professors.

• Find music you can work productively to. (I can’t stress how helpful this is)

• Learn how your teachers think & grade. Find out exactly what they want–or at least their core parameters or expectations.

• Campus parking, like in undergrad, is borderline evil.

• I don’t know if others agree, but don’t plan on selling your books back. If you’re in the field you will likely refer to the research and ideas throughout your career.

• There may be very limited exceptions, but I assume this is across the board.

• Read outside your domain to keep your self sane & interesting. Ideally, this will also make your papers better.

• Give yourself down time. Create times for relaxing and exercise. Relaxing and reflecting will make your experience so much better and your thought patterns better as well. Do your best and if you’ve done that you don’t really have to worry about grades.

• I found the conference experience to be fun and wish I had been able to do it during my experience as a grad student.

• Ask professors what they wish they paid more attention to and what they should have spent less time on.

• Find out what skills and thinking models professors picked up in graduate school that proved helpful.

• Ask graduates (presumably with jobs) what they wish they paid more attention to and what they should have spent less time on.

• Find out what skills and thinking models graduates picked up in graduate school that proved helpful.

• Get feedback on concepts, classes, teachers, assignments, and research from other people in the program (both your year….but perhaps more importantly from years ahead of you). This is obvious, but its a great way to build potential hacks.

• Keep between half and all your books. (this is technically a repeat…sorry)

• Try to file all your useful articles in the same place (ie email or dropbox)

* My bias is that the knowledge from graduates may be more useful, but it may be more difficult.

One Comment

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  1. compassioninpolitics / Apr 14 2012 3:27 am

    Stay curious. Stay energized.

    Get “real” feedback if possible (if you are in the humanities)

    Do experiential learning. Do stuff. Do side projects.

    Take advantage of your ecosystem uniqueness.

    Create a system for reading articles & reflecting on papers & writing papers & doing presentations.

    Read a book or article on visual learning. Read another on education in general–particularly adult education.

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