Find Success as a Graduate Student
September 2, 2014 09:00 AM
As many of our student members are discovering, graduate school is a completely different experience than the "halcyon days" of undergraduate school. What may have worked in getting you through your bachelor's degree is not necessarily the same approach you should take to achieve your postgraduate dreams.
Grad school is more of a mix of coursework and apprenticeship. While there are classes to attend, these courses are more designed to lead you into a professional understanding of your chosen discipline through independent study and research. Most of a grad student's learning comes not from classes, but through working closely with a faculty member on their research. You'll learn how to define research problems, design and carry out projects to test hypotheses, and disseminate your findings.
Consider joining a professional organization such as APPAM. An association can provide you a wealth of opportunities to network with fellow grad students, as well as young professionals, expert practitioners, and seasoned academics who can provide you with direction, assistance, and possibly mentorship.
Keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to become an independent scholar and design your own research program.
So with that in mind, there's a few things that new graduate students should pay attention to in order to get the most of their postgraduate education.
Successful graduate students emerge from the more advisory-based assistance of undergraduate education into one of self-guidance. Take advantage of your education by seeking information on requirements, staying abreast of new policies, obtaining practica and applied experiences, and submitting a dissertation. You should also keep track of required courses and evaluate your progress through them towards your degree. You are the best person to ensure you're making consistent and valuable progress towards completion of your degree.
Shield Your Time
If you haven't figured it out by now, you will soon: graduate students must use their time differently than undergraduates. There's less time spent in class and more on academic activities that take place outside the classroom, such as attending lectures, reading, going to colloquia, and research. You need to maintain a somewhat flexible schedule and yet accomplish a lot of work within that time frame. Find ways to use an academic calendar and to-do list to best meet and track your responsibilities. And it's critical you schedule some social and relaxation time to maintain your mental and physical health.
Stay the Course
A lot of graduate work necessitates working by yourself. You'll spend a lot of time reading, writing, and analyzing data, so motivation and initiative become very important. Successful graduate students don't just have great ideas - they also find ways to make them happen. And don't be afraid to ask for help when needed. Above all, it's important to not give up. While setbacks will occur, with good planning and a tenacious attitude, these occurrences can be reduced to a hiccup on your way to success.