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5 Things You Should Know About U.S. Graduate School

1. Learn to manage your time.

You will not only have an intense workload in graduate school, filled with required reading, writing extensive papers, research, and listening to lectures, but you will also attend conferences, seminars, and events. You will not only need to become an expert in your field, but you will need to master how you manage your time. The hours in a day will disappear quickly. Start now by stepping back and looking at all that you need to accomplish. Are there tasks that deserve more time than others? Learn to measure what’s worth your time and energy and what’s worth a little less effort. Have a pile of required reading? Learn to skim books and do it well.

2. You will write and research constantly.

In graduate school you will be writing papers, long ones, all the time, and the standards will be much higher than they were in undergraduate school. You will be conducting first-hand research as well as citing research. For certain fields, your future career depends on how often your work gets published. You will need to write clearly and concisely, and not rely too heavily on citations to supplement your text and/or ideas. At this point in your academic career, you need to be confident in your ideas. As an undergraduate, you were expected to analyze and explore ideas intelligently. As a graduate, you need to embrace your expertise. It’s true that you need to learn to cite properly, but writing and researching takes practice. Start now.

3. Be prepared to network, your career depends on it.

Graduate school is competitive and so is the job market. You need to network in graduate school. Let me repeat that: you need to network in graduate school. I know your workload is ridiculous, but the whole point of graduate school is to get a better, higher paying job, right? Networking could be the key. Learn to get out of your comfort zone. Talk to your professors, attend conferences, seminars, volunteer, and start at the beginning of grad school. Who you meet may be your future colleague and/or boss.

4. Be career minded.

As was previously stated, graduate school is extremely competitive and so is the job market. Just because you have a graduate degree doesn’t mean you’re a shoo-in for a job.

“You can’t build a meaningful life as a scholar, thinker, or leader without knowing how to write a fellowship proposal, how to compose a CV, how to network, how to gain mentors, how to communicate, or how to prepare for an interview or job talk.”
Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

5. Strive for balance.

As you’re probably learning, you will live and breathe graduate school. It can be all consuming. But in order to keep your sanity, it’s important to maintain a social life outside of your graduate career. That means spending time with friends and family outside of your program and doing things you love – not related to your graduate program. Even binging on your favorite TV show once and awhile will give your mind a rest.

Remember, you can do this!