If you’re a graduate student like us, summer isn’t just an opportunity to unwind after a long academic year – it’s a time to make progress on your “grad school” to-do list. With unfinished research papers in the cue, new data to analyze, and a part- or full-time internship, it can be tough to get your priorities straight. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your summer break.
Ok, so this is one of those posts specifically tailored to students who are already in graduate school, but perhaps if you’re a college student, you might glean something from this as well.
So…you got into the graduate program of your dreams and you want to make the most of your first year. Here’s a list of the 11 things that will make your first year a total success:
- Stay organized. Schedule out what assignments you are going to do every day of the week and try to stick to it. Use a hand-written planner or an electronic one (like Google calendar, or cool Aps like Wonderlist or Evernote) – whichever you prefer to keep you organized.
- Meet with your advisor early and often. Your relationship with your advisor, whether you’re a Masters or Doctoral student, is the most important relationship of your graduate career. Make sure you’re cultivating it early, and it will make the rest of your graduate career much easier. Set up weekly or bi-weekly meetings with your advisor, even if just to catch up on the things you have been working on.
- Don’t be afraid! If you have a question, don’t hesitate to ask anyone! Graduate students (especially in our department) are like a family, we help each other out and want to learn from each other’s mistakes.
- Don’t procrastinate… yes, let’s all just admit it…we’ve been there, you’ve been there, and it always stinks! As graduate students, we are expected to balance many different responsibilities at once, and excel at all of them. This is an extremely difficult task on its own, so don’t leave assignments for the last minute. This will ensure that you are able to complete all your responsibilities, and come out standing on the other end.
- Stay healthy and active. Graduate school can be one of the most fun, but also most stressful life experiences. Don’t let yourself become victim to the severe negative consequences of stress. Make sure you schedule in some “you-time”. Go for a run or a hike, bake cran-oat chocolate chip coconut muffins, play with puppies, make fish tacos, take a yoga class, go to Sweetgreen and get a deliciously overpriced salad…whatever it is that you like to do that relaxes you and keeps you mentally and physically healthy! Get out there and do it!
- Make new friends…join study groups, attend social events, don’t be afraid to have a little fun in grad school. Set up study sessions at Panera with a buddy, go to happy-hours, or just hang out in your lab and get to know your lab-mates. Making friends in graduate school is your first step to developing your social network of colleagues, so get out there and socialize!
- Join professional organizations. By joining professional organizations (like SRCD, APA, APS, etc.) you become eligible for discounts to attend conferences, receive journals subscriptions, and you can hear about the latest news in the field. Most of them have student rates too, so us poor-old grad students can afford the hefty bill.
- Relatedly, start following your favorite professional organizations on social media. Almost all professional organizations keep and maintain Facebook and Twitter accounts and constantly update them with the latest news, articles, research findings, and cool facts. It’s an excellent way to get your favorite information, fast, simply by browsing your Facebook or Twitter accounts, which, let’s face it, we would all be doing anyway.
- Attend conferences. Conferences are usually associated with a professional organization. This is where you can start to build your professional network of collaborators, friends, colleagues, and the like. You never know where these relationships will take you! Submit to them as often as you can, talk with your advisor about potential topics and research ideas that could get you towards a conference submission. There is always something out there that you can do!
- Update your CV…OFTEN. Any time you take on a new task or responsibility make sure you are updating your CV ASAP. Graduate school is about taking advantage of the many opportunities that are being thrown at you; make sure you’re giving yourself credit for those opportunities on your professional Vita. Trust me, if you don’t put it on your CV right away, you WILL forget, so update it many times throughout your career to ensure you always have the most up-to-date version. You never know when you’re going to need to whip out your trusty CV and impress someone in an elevator…
- Being a TA is important, but don’t let it take over your life. Some graduate students will be asked to be a teaching assistant (TA) for an undergraduate course. This is a very educational, but time-consuming assignment. You will learn A LOT, but it can easily take over all your time, so don’t let it! Get it done, and make it good, but don’t let it take over your life!