Many doctoral candidates may be afraid of their “competition” in the program, but there’s nothing to worry about when you focus on your goals and what you need to get done. I have a few tips on how to gain that extra leg up either in your program or entire university, but it will take more determination and drive on your end to follow through with the actions.

Be proactive. As I just mentioned, listening to pieces of advice throughout your dissertation writing journey will only get you as far as you let it. You will need to be proactive and purposeful in your attitude before anything can be put to action. I received this idea from step ten of this article.

Network efficiently. Throughout undergraduate school, you probably heard the importance of networking. This idea doesn’t change for graduate school. Depending on where you decide to attend graduate school, you may or may not know many faces. For those of you who attended undergraduate school at the same university where you are now going through graduate school, you probably have done plenty of networking; however, don’t let that stop you from continuing to meet new people. The more people you know, the better chance you have of creating new circles, which can only help you in the long run. If you attend a different school at the graduate level, however, you can never network too early.

These tips and more are located on our PhDStudent website under our “Succeeding in Grad School” section.


  1. Eileen Flaig

    How can TAs stand out? It seems like RAs get to know the professors much better? I never interact with them outside of class (I am still masters level). Is it better to push to be an RA rather than a TA?

  2. You should only push to be an RA if you plan to have a research focused career or an interest in research experience, although these days even teaching schools often require their faculty to do research so the experience is always good.

    You can stand out as a TA, by communicating effectively with your departmental faculty or mentor (don’t over do it and seem annoying or needy). Listen to feedback from your colleagues and the students and adapt your teaching appropriately. We always have room to do things better. Also, you might want to meet with faculty who are well experienced in teaching and ask for their tips on teaching, graduate school, etc. This will not only expand your teaching knowledge, but get you valuable face to face time.

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