How to Deal with Grad School Competition

How to Deal with Grad School Competition

It is no secret that pursuing a graduate degree is emotionally, psychologically, and physically exhausting. Graduate school can be the first time students truly experience the deep frustrations of a competitive learning environment. Graduate students can come face to face with a deep, pervasive anxiety that seeps into everyday life, a constant questioning of capability, intelligence, and whether or not one is cut out to be there.

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As mentioned in our Adjusting to Graduate Study section of PhDStudent.com, most individuals who apply for grad school are often in the top of their undergraduate classes, however, because you will be in class with the top of the top as a graduate student, you might find it more challenging to stand out. Here are some more tips to help you stand out, even when the competition is tense.

Competition is Sneaky

Competition is the silent topic that graduate students hate to discuss. It creeps into every classroom, lecture hall, and presentation. Looking at your colleagues, there will be people publishing more, teaching more, more extracurricular activities, or and people with more funding than you—making it easy to think you don’t measure up. This self-deprecatory thinking causes students to ignore strategies that can help make them successful and instead of fixating on what colleagues are doing. What are these strategies?

There are benefits to seeing where you are at compared to others, but do not negatively compare achievements:

Turn envy into admiration. Sit down with a colleague whose path you would like to know more about. You’ll learn the steps required to achieve that level of success.

Run your own race. When thinking about what peers are doing, remember this is your degree, not someone else’s. Classmates may be pursuing teaching-track positions while your goal may be a tenure-track research position. But because of all the teaching work they’re doing, you might feel the need to work on your teaching strategies, even though teaching doesn’t match up with your career goal.

Competition is Confusing

When graduate programs advertise an overly positive picture of cohort cohesion – students sometimes feel ashamed for experiencing feelings of competition, something that is a normal part of life. Competition sometimes resurrects insecurities among students—wondering if classmates are having greater accomplishments—leading to feelings of worthlessness, which can be exaggerated when graduate schools promote a “We are in this together” mindset.

Types of Competition

Little research has been done that focuses on the graduate level competitive atmosphere—but we all know it’s there. The underlying issue to when discussing academic competitiveness is the pressure grad students feel to succeed. The pressure to perform well in academia comes from many forms of internal and external sources (e.g., peer pressure, familial expectations, teacher expectations, or self-expectations). There are three types of competition:

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What is an Academic Coach? Do you need one?

What is an Academic Coach? Do you need one?

 

Academic coaching is an interactive process that focuses on the personal relationship created between the student and the coach. The coach challenges the student to think about his or her personal and/or professional goals in order to relate them to his or her academic/educational goals. In this learning process, it is important for the coach to encourage the student to become more self-aware by understanding his or her strengths, values, interests, purpose, and passion.” -National Academic Advising (NACADA) 

According to a 2011 study by Eric Bettinger and Rachel Baker, “college completion and college success often lag behind college attendance.” Bettinger and Baker say that a reason students struggle to succeed in college is they often lack key information about how to be successful.

Academic coaching is a service provided for undergraduate and graduate students with a trained academic coach who can help you improve your study skills and performance. An academic coach will listen to your needs and concerns as a student and work closely with you to develop personalized academic goals and suggest tools, resources, and strategies to assist you in reaching those goals. Investing in an academic coach improves the odds that students will make the best use of their time in college. Graduate and undergraduate students are expected to be able to manage themselves and their time independently and to be prepared for more rigorous academic challenges.

Academic Coaching versus Tutoring

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How to Find Free Money for Graduate School Part 3

How to Find Free Money for Graduate School Part 3

 Assistantships are another way of funding your graduate education and are available at many schools with graduate programs. Unlike scholarships, assistantships are more like a work-study program. Graduate assistantships are additional educational opportunities for graduate students while pursuing their graduate education. With assistantships, graduate students are offered free or reduced tuition in exchange for leading discussions in undergraduate classes, proctoring exams and grading, or assisting professors with important research.

 

As mentioned in my previous posts (part 1 and part 2 of my Free Money series), scholarships and fellowships are not the only ways of getting free money toward your higher education, my post today is going to cover all you need to know about assistantships.

Assistantships

Assistantships are available on a limited basis in most graduate programs at universities and colleges throughout the nation. These positions provide funds for many masters and doctoral students. Each department or program has its own requirements and expectations so prospective students should be sure to do their research before applying to such a position.

Assistantships are a form of financial aid given by the college or university to graduate students who engage in teaching and/or research and provide students with training and valuable professional experience in higher education work environments. It is important to note that assistantship duties should not interfere unduly with academic studies, but rather should contribute to students' intellectual growth and degree goals. If you fell as if expectations of your assistantship are interfering with or conflicting with your studies, speak with your advisor or a department faculty member about your options.

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Welcome to the PhDStudent Blogosphere, Ryan!

Welcome to the PhDStudent Blogosphere, Ryan!

My name is Ryan, and I am currently in my final year of graduate school in the Public Policy and Political Economy doctoral program at the University of Texas at Dallas. My policy focus is on international development with an area specialty in Latin America and the Caribbean issues. However, I do find myself looking to Africa to see what development trends seem to be working there. I am fascinated with the intersection of politics and economics and how they relate to the development trajectories of countries abroad. I am currently in All But Dissertation status and am in the final stages of writing my dissertation with hopes to defend by January 2016. My dissertation is about how to conceptualize and measure rule of law in a new way and to systematically test what factors predict this conception of rule of law in a global data set.

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Note-Taking Methods for Grad Students

Note-Taking Methods for Grad Students

Graduate school can be overwhelming, as most of you already know.  There are classes and seminars to attend, research to do, labs to complete, exams to study for, and comps to take.  I’m sure if there was something that could make your routine easier, you’d be up for it, right?  Well, here’s your chance to simplify your life, if only just a little bit, by learning which method of note-taking will work best for you.

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A Pep Talk to the Overworked Grad Student

A Pep Talk to the Overworked Grad Student

Feel like your advisor is working you into the ground? Perhaps you have come to the conclusion that graduate programs have complete disregard for their students’ personal lives and that they intentionally and ruthlessly work their students like slaves. I won’t attempt to deny these accusations, but I do believe in seeing the bright side to any unfortunate situation. Below I’ve outlined a little pep talk to encourage you on your quest for that coveted postgraduate degree.

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Upcoming Series: Smartphone Apps for Grad Students

Upcoming Series: Smartphone Apps for Grad Students

It seems that technology is advancing with each passing day, especially when it comes to our mobile phones.  Smartphones have become such a part of our normal routine that we tend to panic when we forget them at home, when they run out of batteries, or when we drop them and crack the screens.

I’m basing my next series on these gadgets and something that we like to download onto them: applications.  Apps, much like our beloved smartphones, come in all shapes and sizes; some help you get organized, and others are more educational.  I’ll include these topics and more in the upcoming series.

Academic Subject Apps

Students in grad school tend to burn out at one point or another as a result of losing interest in their thesis/dissertation topics or even their diminishing mental stamina.  The learning apps in this post will include information and subjects for users to learn something new apart from their academic subjects that they’ve been learning for years.

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Tangentrider
I've been using Evernote, Adobe Reader, and Kindle Reader in the proposal drafting process. Super useful.
Wednesday, 31 December 2014 17:23
ReneMPaulson
Tangentrider, those are great apps for grad students; thanks for the input! I'll actually be discussing some of them in this serie... Read More
Tuesday, 06 January 2015 15:00
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Being Sick as a College Student

Being Sick as a College Student

We’ve all been there: sick in bed and unsure if it would be good to grin and bear it and carry on about our day, or call in sick to stay at home and rest.  Many graduate students probably end up ignoring their sicknesses and acting like they’re okay, but this isn’t always the best decision.  There are plenty of reasons why you might want to think twice about going to classes, work, lab hours, etc. while you’re sick: getting others sick if you’re contagious, potentially getting sicker, and not allowing your body to rest and recuperate properly.

Self-Care

I understand not wanting to get sick when you have a ton of things going on as a college student, but the answer to getting better will usually not consist of continuing to do everything on your schedule.  Sometimes, we get sick because our body needs us to slow down, take a break, and take better care of ourselves.  I’m not telling you to ignore your priorities as a student (and any other roles you play in your professional and personal life), but give yourself some time every month or so to relax and not worry about grad school stresses.  One of our other bloggers, John, even wrote about this subject last March; take a look at what he had to say.

As the infographic above describes, there are plenty of ways to stay healthy and allow your immune system to do its job in protecting your body.  However, things we do to prevent sickness might not work all the time.  If you happen to get ill, think about taking a day or two to recuperate so you can get back to being 100% again.  Be careful with ignoring your symptoms and going about your days because you could end up worse and have to spend even more time to heal; plus, you could get classmates and coworkers sick, which they would not appreciate.

Communication

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Adjusting to Grad School: When You Can’t Do It All

Adjusting to Grad School: When You Can’t Do It All

I recently wrote that the major ways to handle schedule changes in grad school are to set your priorities, budget your time, and know your limits. I also discussed that managing your time, maintaining your relationships, and creating new relationships are ways you can adjust to social changes in grad school. But what if your new schedule and changed social life get to be too much?

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Adjusting to Grad School Life: Social Changes

Adjusting to Grad School Life: Social Changes

An adjustment change that many graduate students have to go through is figuring out how to balance their social lives and academic lives. Undergraduates have plenty of opportunities to be social, but grad students have a much heavier work load, and therefore, less time. However, there are still a number of ways you can have a healthy social life while in grad school.

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How Your Schedule Changes In Grad School

How Your Schedule Changes In Grad School

I hope you’ve all been enjoying this blog series about adjusting to graduate school. Today’s post is about scheduling changes: what you should expect in grad school and how you can transition well. When you become a grad student, you might feel that you’re not able to fit everything you need to do within your week, but here are a few ways that you can alleviate this feeling.

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Adjusting To Grad School: Money, Money, Money

Adjusting To Grad School: Money, Money, Money

Adjusting to graduate school is challenging for many reasons, but many students would probably tell you that the change that has brought the most difficulties is money. We already know that it’s difficult just to pay for grad school, as described in our articles about paying for graduate school. However, I want to focus on how to deal with the financial adjustments that must come while attending grad school.

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ReneMPaulson
Thanks for the input, PhDPodcast! I mentioned that I'll be posting a series about apps that grad students might find helpful. It... Read More
Monday, 14 July 2014 08:55
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Studying Habits in Grad School

Studying Habits in Grad School

How were your study habits during undergraduate school? It might surprise you to know that even if you earned straight As, you’ll need to adjust your studying habits according to your grad program. For the next 2–5 years, you’ll be faced with plenty of challenges, so it’ll be best if you’re prepared and already know about some differences between undergrad and grad school. Here are some helpful tips that you can use, whether you just started grad school, you’re almost done with grad school, or if grad school is just a twinkle in your eye.

Recent Comments
maddieg
Thanks for the encouragement! I loved the infographic and reading about other people who are struggling just as much as I am. The... Read More
Monday, 09 June 2014 16:46
ReneMPaulson
Yes, sometimes it's hard for people who haven't been in your graduate shoes to understand the toll it can take on grad students. ... Read More
Monday, 14 July 2014 09:03
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How To Pull an All-Nighter

How To Pull an All-Nighter

I hope you’ve been able to read through my current blog series about adjusting to life as a graduate student and getting used to the many changes that occur when you come from either undergraduate school or the work force and start your graduate career. As part of the transition, sleeping schedules tend to change and, most of the time, worsen, the more time you’re in grad school. However, there are plenty of ways to adjust your sleeping patterns, no matter what your usual sleeping schedule looks like. If you didn’t get a chance to read the first part of adjusting to graduate school by getting better sleeping habits, then take a look at it HERE. For this post, I want to give some healthy tips of how you can break those sleeping habits in healthy ways.

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Up All Night? How To Sleep in Grad School

Up All Night? How To Sleep in Grad School

When you transition into graduate school from either your undergrad or life in the field, you will probably find that your sleeping habits change and become unhealthy because of late nights studying and early morning classes. I want to give you two different ways to better the way you sleep in grad school: how to make your sleeping habits more consistent and how to temporarily break your habits in a healthy way. In this post, I’m going to address how you can make better sleeping habits for yourself.

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