Guide to Grad School: Part Two - Top 10 Pieces of Advice
Advice while in school - how to make the most of your experience
- Write a little every day - whether you add a page or two to a paper, write a response to something you're reading, or just jot down some quick reflections, take the time to stay in the groove of writing. You'll be writing a lot in grad school, and it's a craft you want to be working on constantly.
- Practice good time management and plan ahead! Do you have a planner or use a calendar? If not, it's time to start! The best way to ensure you'll complete your assignments (and find success in grad school) is to plan ahead and do your best to stay ahead of the game. At the beginning of the term, sit down with your syllabus and write out all of your reading, written assignments, and even break down your large final assignment(s) into smaller chunks. This will keep you from falling behind, and just makes it easier to tackle hard assignments!
- Challenge yourself! There's likely a professor in your program or a specific class that is known for being extra tough - take it. Not only will it challenge you to grow as a scholar, but will also help you grow as a person. The hardest professors just want to help their students improve and take their work to the next level. You'll come out on the other side a better writer, better speaker, and stronger scholar on the whole.
- Develop relationships with your professors. Take the extra time to go to office hours and connect with your professors. You will not only stick out in their minds, but they can offer invaluable insight on your paper topics, your overall academic goals, and life in general.
- Take your education into your own hands - be your own advocate. You're in grad school now, it's time to up your game. Do your homework, learn the ins and outs of your program, and make a plan that suits your goals. Know the requirements you need to meet, be aware of important deadlines, and go into your advising meetings with a plan in hand. Your professors will respect you more, and you'll be an active part of building the best graduate experience for yourself.
- Take classes outside your concentration. Expand your horizons! Are you a contemporary art lover through and through? Change things up and take that ancient manuscript class. Totally smitten with the Italian Renaissance? Try taking a class on contemporary Chinese art. You might find a new era or artist that you didn't know you loved, or, at the very least, you will grow as a scholar. Varying your academic experience will broaden your mind, teach you how to practice new perspectives, utilize different methodologies, and become more well-rounded as an academic. It will also give you a richer perspective when you return to your 'home' discipline.
- Connect with your classmates. You're going to be spending a lot of time together and going through a stressful experience - might as well have some good company along the way. Invite your classmates to coffee or out for a drink, meet up to work on homework or compare notes, and support each other when things get tough. It's always easier when you have some friendly faces to lean on.
- Maintain healthy habits - both physically and mentally. Grad school is a stressful time, you'll want to be feeling your best on all sides. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat well, drink lots of water, and exercise regularly. It can be easy to put your health on the back burner when the work piles up, but do you really want your immune system to give out during finals week? On a similar note, make sure to work plenty of mental breaks into your routine, too. Go for a walk, light a candle and enjoy a cup of tea, color for a while, or watch a few episodes of your favorite show. If you show your brain and body some TLC, they will thank you!
- Attend events. Guest lectures, symposiums, gallery openings, etc. There will be tons of events happening both at school and in your surrounding community - even if you've got 100 pages of reading waiting for you at home, stop by at least for a little bit. You have a responsibility to your professors and fellow classmates (who are all your colleagues now!), and it will actually be fun. It's important to plug into your discipline outside the classroom and start building the connections and networks that will become essential in your professional life. (And trust us, your professors pay attention to who attends regularly, and who never bothers to show up. Which student do you want to be?)
- Be flexible! Grad school is an exciting time full of opportunities you can't imagine when you're just starting out. Go in with a plan, set your intentions, but also be open minded and willing to change if your path takes you somewhere unexpected. Maybe you think you have a specific career track starting out but then you take a class that completely changes your course - embrace it! This is a period of remarkable change and growth, make the most of it.