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What new graduate students need to know

Brian Croxall overviews a number of tacit rules, conventions, and todos that new graduate students should be aware of. Down under in Australia, we refer to such students as postgraduate students. Below is list summarizing his advice.

  • It’s common to feel lost and out of place, and even experience the impostor syndrome.
  • Treat graduate school as a job, be professional about it. When you’re at work, work. After the working hours, pursue your hobbies or do something that interests you.
  • Network with your colleagues, people in and outside of your field. Whether at a conference or in your work place, mingle with those around you.
  • Graduate school is not your entire life. You work hard during the working hours. But outside of those hours, pursue other activities.
  • Your chosen field does not determine the rest of your life. You can change fields later on.
  • You might be a graduate student now, but you might work outside of academia after graduation. Having a graduate/PhD degree doesn’t lock you into a career in academia. Search for other career options.
  • Maintain an online presence: blog about your readings, twitter, contribute to online discussions on blogs, wikis, and other online forums.
  • Maintain a personal research library. Make notes of what you read and your thoughts on your reading.
  • Your subject librarians are one of your best friends. Get to know them.
  • Share your experiences with others, mentor new graduate students.
  • Keep informed about the whole of higher education. You never know what opportunities exist. For example, read The Chronicle of Higher Education.

If all else fails, read PhD comics. It’s a good way to learn something while you’re procrastinating.


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