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Surviving Graduate School - 3 Tips for Survival and Success

Surviving Graduate School - 3 Tips for Survival and Success

Kristie Lorette, ArticlesBase.com

So you’ve been accepted to graduate school and you’ve heard the rumors about how different it is from undergraduate study. You’re shaking in your boots (or flip flops, depending on where you live) and you need some good advice on how to survive the next few years of your life as a graduate student. Here are some survival guide tips to help you get through it all, from working with your graduate advisor to completing your research project.

Survival Tip #1

Make the most out of your relationship with your graduate advisor.

Your graduate advisor can be your lifeline to succeeding in your research and studies as a graduate student. They have already been down the road that you are traveling so they can help you make it a clean path or a really bumpy and messy path. Here are some ways that you can create a smooth and beneficial relationship with your graduate advisor:

• Meet on a regular basis. By having a scheduled meeting with your graduate advisor on a regular basis it will help to keep you on track. You are more apt to make progress on your research and project efforts if you know you have a certain time that you have to complete it before you have to report your progress to your advisor.

• Be prepared and organized. Prepare the night before for your meeting with your advisor. Create an agenda or list of items that you need to discuss with him or her. Gather all of the materials, notes or completed projects that you need to show your advisor and place everything in the order that you need to go through it at the meeting. This will give you the appearance of being organized and prepared, which you will be.

• Follow-up. Follow-up each meeting with your advisor be sending him or her an email. Reiterate everything that was discussed and covered in your meeting in the email. This will create a written record of your meetings and will help to ensure that you and your advisor are on the same page as you progress through your research and projects.

• Be proactive. This is your education, not your advisors. While they are there to mentor you and to help you succeed, they are just as busy as you are. You need to be proactive in contacting and keeping in touch with your advisor.

Survival Tip #2

Find a thesis topic and formulate a research plan.

• Pick a topic that is interesting to you and that will hold your interest throughout the entire process. This will help you to stay motivated.

• Pick a topic that your advisor also finds interesting. Your advisor will be more motivated to help you with your research and to help you make progress on your research topic if they think that the project is worth devoting their time to.

• Pick a topic that is interesting to the research community in order to make yourself more marketable.

• Make sure that topic addresses a real-world problem.

• Pick a topic that is narrow enough to be completed in the timeframe that you have been allotted to complete the project.

• Be realistic. You should expect to complete your research and earn a good grade as an accomplishment. Don’t necessarily expect to receive the Nobel Prize.

Survival Tip #3

Make continuous progress on your research.

• Have a master plan. Keep a master calendar that includes all drop-dead deadlines. Identify key tasks that need to be completed by certain dates. Go over your deadlines and key task schedule with your advisor to make sure that you are on the right track.

• Make to-do lists. Once you have your master calendar created, you will need to make to-do lists of tasks that you need to accomplish each day in order to meet your deadlines. Being able to check off completed tasks will mentally make you feel like you are making progress on your research project.

• Notebook and pen. Also have a small notebook and pen with you to jot down ideas that pop into your head. You never know where you’ll be when a thought comes to mind.

• Discuss your research with others. Your fellow students, friends, and family may have very useful insights for you on your topic. They may be able to provide you with a fresh perspective since they are not engrossed in the project like you are on a daily basis.

• Don’t get distracted. You have to focus on your research and set a certain amount of time a day aside just for research. It is easy to be distracted by everything in the world around us, but you must avoid things that will distract you when you should be doing your research and working on your project.

By following the advice that these survival tips provide you, you will be sure to survive graduate school. Being organized, prepared and focused are traits that you will need for real-world situations long after you leave graduate school. So while these skills will help you survive graduate school, they really go beyond that and help you to survive life.


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