Hey there, and welcome back! I'm sorry if you've been checking back looking for new posts, but life has been a whirlwind.
Prior to the New Year, I drafted up a post "5 Tips for Applying to Graduate School" and then I realized that by November/December, most students have already submitted!
1. Read your syllabus(es)
As those acceptance letters come rolling in, I hope you'll find this post helpful as you prepare for your first year as a graduate student.
Whether your course syllabi are online or handed to you in a packet, read them over. Do you have a midterm? Final? Are there regular small assignments due or does class participation matter more? Make a list of major due dates for each class, then compile them together in a term calendar. Check back for links to planning resources on sale at my Etsy shop.
2. Go to journal clubs
Journal clubs for my department are actually required, and so I have been lucky to gain regular exposure to the intellectual discussion and debate between professors in my track with the opportunity to assimilate my new knowledge, applying it to recent publications as well as asking more critical thinking questions than are tested on exams.
3. Talk to faculty (but not too much)
Your professors probably like coffee just as much as you do, and there will be at least one time that they are behind you in line at the nearest cafe. Don't assume that they don't recognize you! In fact, what if they know you're in their class, and you just ignore them?
Take a deep breath, turn to them and say "Hello! My name is [...] and I am in your [...] course." Stick out your hand and give a firm (not vice grip) handshake. Oh, and smile!
Let them respond.
Then say "I am a [degree] student in the [...] department, and am really enjoying learning about [...] in your class."
If you run into your professor in a situation that would involve a longer conversation - think, headed in the same direction to the parking garage - don't fret. Utilize strategic silences so you do not end up rambling. Introduce yourself, let them respond. Don't be afraid to pause - they'll probably ask you what you're interested in. Give your best elevator speech, then pause. Let them respond. This is when they might say "hey, I know someone who is doing research on that".
In sum, the (not too much) part of this section title is to address the risk of rambling. You want to give the appearance of a calm professional person even if acrobats are doing somersaults in your stomach and med students should be practicing EKG interpretations on your heart rate.
4. Talk to TAs
You may find that you have class with a second year Masters student. Or you are next to them in the coffee line. If you have lab or section groups where they interact with you almost one-on-one, then you definitely need to assume they recognize you. This situation prompts a friendly hello, and how their day is going. If they look at you like you grew another head, work in that they TA for one of your courses. As you run into them throughout the term, give a friendly hello. Who knows when you will be wanting advice on what classes to take or what advisor to request? They are only an email away at that point.
5. Make friends
Remember the first few weeks of freshman year in undergrad? Where you met a hundred different people but most faded away because they weren't in your classes? From my experience, giving a friendly hello and smile at your first Masters or Doctoral meeting will go far in making a new friend group at this new place.
Students that apply, and are accepted to, graduate school are systematically different than those who do not/are not. They are choosing to take out student loans and be in school for X more number of years. Hopefully your track isn't cut-throat, but at the same time you also shouldn't have anyone trying to copy your homework. Everyone there wants to work hard and carve part of the research world out for themselves. Embrace your joint passions, talk about your backgrounds and how you got to where you are, and figure out who you study best with! Study groups are so underrated.
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