What they don’t tell you about graduate school…

Posted on Posted in Blog, Main

. . . are things that can be difficult to find out on your own. Luckily for my fellow first-years and me, the more-experienced CRDMers are more than forthcoming about things they didn’t tell us at orientation. I am trying to listen to them as much as possible to avoid any unexpected issues or to help me learn coping mechanisms before fatigue or frustration set in. You know, like your doctor says – let’s be proactive and not reactive.

So what am I learning that they don’t tell you?

  1. You’re a PhD student – you can ask for anything. Believe it or not, not everything about graduate school makes it the worst experience of your life. In the words of a wise professor, part of being a graduate student means that faculty work closely with you and want to help you succeed professionally. Want to have a workshop on the academic job search? Ask a faculty member. Need advice on sending an article out for publication? Ask a faculty member. It is rewarding for a faculty member to engage intellectually with bright graduate students, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them.
  2. You must be your own advocate. While faculty or admin may be generally aware of your research interests, if you want to do a project with them, you must initiate it. Or if you want to teach a different course than ENG 101 next year, you’ve got to step up and show your qualifications and interest. Opportunities won’t fall into your lap (unless you’re really, really lucky), so you’ve got to get out there and make them happen. 
  3. Conference travel is expensive! It’s vital that you keep up with your field by submitting papers to, presenting at, and attending conferences. Conference in San Francisco? Cool! I’ve never been there. But – long flight, expensive city for hotel and food. There’s not a lot of travel money in departments anymore, and as a graduate student, you may have a few opportunities for travel grants, but they definitely do not cover even the entire cost for one conference.

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