Tips for Graduate School
I am currently half way finished with my second master's degree. I have maintained a 4.0 average for both of my degrees. Graduate level work differs from undergraduate in many ways. Being successful at this higher levels requires increased dedication and motivation. However, if you are willing to put in the work, the experience is rewarding and will (hopefully) have long term benefits. Here are a few things I have learned that help make graduate school a rewarding process versus a nightmare.
Do the Work
Doing the required reading is a lot more important when you are in grad school. There are classes where you will be able to skim the material or skip it all together for lectures. However, there will be other classes where the reading is required. In a lot of seminar classes, professors will call you out individually and require you to summarize the reading before there has even been any discussion. Coming to class unprepared makes you look lazy. Even if the professor does not bring up the reading in class, it may help with you papers or other assignments. If you have a lot of reading to do, prioritize! If you have one class where the professor never discusses the reading, do that last.
Turn your work in on time! Professors have to deal with undergrads all day long who have this or that excuse for not getting work turned in on time. Their patience is gone by the time they get to you, and they are expecting more.
Relationship with Your Professor
Having a good relationship with your professors is an essential part of surviving graduate school. In most programs, you will have to put together a thesis or dissertation committee made up of several of your professors. These professors will be your main source of guidance through the thesis/dissertation process. By meeting with them often, they will help you catch errors that could keep you from graduating. Also, if you meet with your professors about writing assignments and other work, you will receive valuable feedback that will help you make better grades in your classes.
Your professors want to see that you are motivated and care about your work. This means face time. If you have an office on campus, spend time there. Building a relationship with your professors has other advantages besides help with school work. Professors are your best source of recommendation letters when applying for doctoral or postdoc programs and jobs. While your professors are your superiors during school, if you plan on entering Academia, they will one day be your colleagues. This makes them an important network source.
Go the Extra Mile
If you plan on staying in Academia, the competition will be fierce. Anything you can do to make yourself look better than the next person will help you get that position in a doctoral program or that professorship spot. This means getting involved. If your program has an honor society, join it and run for office. If there are research/teaching assistantship positions available at your department, apply! Research and teaching experience look amazing on a C.V.
Take a Break
If you don't relax every now and then and have a little fun, you will burn out. Go to bar after class and vent with your cohort about that professor everyone hates. Read a book that has nothing to do with what you're studying.
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