What No One Told Me about Graduate School

What No One Told Me about Graduate School

What I wish I knew

There are things no one will tell you about your first year of graduate school, and the Internet is full of postgraduate “advice” from former and current grad students warning people to stay out of graduate school. Some advice: If someone tells you what they wish they would have done or known before entering a graduate program, listen. There are a lot of problems you’re going to have to face in this adjustment period. Having watched others and gone through the process myself, I’m here to offer you my own two sense and help make the transition smoother.

Here's what no one will tell you about the next 2+ years of your life:

Grad school isn’t like undergrad. The atmosphere from undergrad to graduate school is a complete change of pace. As an undergraduate, you were most likely discovering yourself (such as your interests or political views). By the time you hit graduate school, most of the self-discovery has been found and all that’s left is the work. Graduate classes tend to be longer, smaller, and include much more self-paced work outside of the classroom. Remember, as a grad student, your academic future now depends on the success of your research.

SO MUCH READING. Everything is reading and as the work load increases, students suddenly find that they are expected to master 2-3 times the material that they were used to as undergraduates.  You may no longer have exams to study for, but you have pages and pages of reading every week. This can be intimidating, but don’t panic. Keep a large collection of highlighters and post-its handy and during this adjustment period you will be surprised at the extreme time management skills you will hone in order to get it all done on time.

Your classes will discuss those readings. Always read and take notes on your readings. You will be discussing these readings as a class (which counts towards participation).

There are no right answers. As you work towards your dissertation you’re exploring subjects that don’t necessary have a right or definitive way to address or answer them. The things you address as a grad student deal more with solving problems not yet resolved.

Grades are different in graduate school. It is time to think “differently” about grades. Grades were all important as an undergraduate, but as a grad student they become less significant. Don’t take this observations as to say that academic performance is not vital, however, be aware that time spent on coursework is time spent away from research.

You’ll need to be a self-starter. Unlike undergrads, advisors will not seek you out if a problem arises. Instead, you’ll need to track your own courses and find the people you need to speak with when issues arise. When it comes to research, you may work with a faculty member as an advisor, but when it comes to writing or conducting research, no one can push you in any one direction. You’ll need to be self-motivated.

Adapt or die. There is a large transition and adjustment period involved when relocating to a new city; leaving family and friends, and starting a new program all bring about significant personal change and adjustment. Allow yourself time to find your rhythm in graduate activities such as teaching and supervising students, as well as building new relationships and navigating within a new city and program.

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Karina’s Path to Grad School

Karina’s Path to Grad School

My name is Karina.  I am in my second year of doctoral studies and enjoying the learning process.  Being in graduate school has been my dream from the first months of college.  There were many college professors who challenged me to grow and think outside of my immediate culture.  Some of them started controversial class discussions, taught concepts using performance art and others were really patient teachers.  I wanted to teach like those inspirational professors, so I decided to pursue doctoral studies. {eblogads}

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How to Write a Proposal: For a Master’s Thesis or Dissertation

How to Write a Proposal: For a Master’s Thesis or Dissertation

Note: Many thanks to fellow PhDStudent blogger Ryan Krone for his contributions and insight to this post.

Your thesis/dissertation proposal provides an overview to your committee of your plan of research; including the general scope of your project, research questions, methodology, and significance of your study. Most universities offer guidelines for their dissertation and theses requirements with information about how to set up and organize the document. Most dissertations are organized into four or five chapters. The proposal generally consists of the first three chapters because it is designed to justify and plan the project as well as explain how it contributes to existing research.

Understand and accept that the proposal will be a scrutinized document that will most likely be redrafted and resubmitted before approval. Think of the proposal as an introduction to your thesis, bridging the gap between existing work and your research. Remember that the proposal is not binding or meant to limit your ideas- you will likely modify and refine your scope, argument, and methods throughout the submission process.

Parts of a Proposal

Theses and dissertation proposals across different programs generally include some form of these sections:

Title

At this stage in your proposal, you need only provide a working title. Don’t worry if you compose a lengthy title, the aim of a title is to convey the idea of your investigation. A good title should:

·         Familiarize the audience to the topic.

·         Indicate the type of study to be conducted.

Abstract

If required (since some fields and universities do not require abstracts), the abstract should provide a brief (350 words for Dissertation, 200 words for Thesis) overview of the proposal that gives the reader a basic understanding of your proposal. The abstract should summarize your introduction, statement of the problem, background of the study, research questions or hypotheses, as well as methods and procedures.

Introduction

Your introduction should put your project in conversation with other similar projects and provide necessary background information that establishes the purpose of your study. A good introduction establishes the general territory in which the research is placed and includes some references to existing literature (which will then be looked at in a later section called the Literature Review).

Statement of the Problem

This section may be incorporated into your introduction or stand independently (ask your advisor for the most appropriate format). Regardless of placement, you need to clearly identify the problem or knowledge gap that your project is responding to. To do so, be sure to limit the variables you address while stating the problem.

Purpose/Research Questions

Like the “Statement of the Problem,” this section can be included as part of the introduction or it can be separate. The statement of purpose/research objectives involves a description of the question(s) the research seeks to answer or the hypotheses the research seeks to advance. Once you begin your research, you may find that your questions or hypotheses may change- so don’t stress. What is important for you at this point is to specify your study’s focus and concisely explain the goals and research objectives. When doing this, however, remember to show how your approach will be different from the previous research and add to the field of knowledge.

Review of Literature

The literature review is a critical look at the existing research that identifies potential gaps in knowledge and is significant to the research you are proposing to carry out. Here, you need to be able to identify the key texts which contribute to your thesis or dissertation. Literature reviews often include both the theoretical and empirical approaches in order to effectively demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and the appropriate approaches to studying it.

Tips on drafting your Literature Review:

·         Categorize the literature into trends/themes and begin each with an appropriate subheading, then synthesize related information. Remember to:

o   stake out the various positions that are relevant to your project

o   build on conclusions

o   point out the places where the literature is lacking or flawed

·         Avoid defenses, praise, and blame. Your task is to justify your project given the existing knowledge.

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How to Find Free Money for Graduate School: Part 4

How to Find Free Money for Graduate School: Part 4

The best kind of financial aid is money you don't have to pay back, such as scholarships, fellowships, and grants. Grants for graduate students can be the difference between earning an advanced degree and ending at the bachelor’s level. But while scholarships are often merit-based, grants are more likely to be need-based. There are many grants available if you know where to look. The following includes a basic overview of the types of grants available.

Career Specific

There has been an increase in career-specific grants, funding given to students focusing on a specific career goal. If you are undecided, or open to any major, consider pursuing a profession in high-demand fields. These high-demand areas of study include foreign language, special education, math, and science. If your career objectives include a specialized role, or advanced position, you might find grant funding that specifically supports your goals.

       For example, the TEACH Grant is a non-need based grant awarded to students completing a master’s degree in specific education disciplines.

College-Based

Another good source for funding is college-specific grants. Your search for funding should include schools that specialize in the field you are interested in. Many colleges have grant funds set up by specific departments or by the alumni, which can be used towards opportunities that will give you valuable experience and enhance your professional credentials—such as internships, academic research, and other career advancement activities.

Opportunities are widespread and highly individualized by the universities that offer them, so it is up to you to uncover what opportunities your school gives graduate students. Financial aid professionals and program administrators can also provide valuable insight into available aid. Here are a few examples from well-known colleges:

...
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7 Things Students Should Know About Internships

7 Things Students Should Know About Internships

Whether you’re thinking of applying to grad programs or you’re in the thick of internship applications, being aware of these seven points can save you some heartache when applying for an internship or practicum.

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Starting 2016 Off Strong: Self-Care in the New Year

Starting 2016 Off Strong: Self-Care in the New Year

It’s January, which means for most of us, that it’s time to take down the holiday decorations and get back to the grind.

For me—and I’m sure for a lot of you, too—it feels like I never had a break from the grind. With work, classes, and the holidays all placing demands on my time and attention, I’ve felt a little overwhelmed, like I’ve been trying to keep afloat in a sea of final papers and wrapping paper.

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Introducing Stephanie and Her Road Map to Grad School

Introducing Stephanie and Her Road Map to Grad School

My name is Stephanie, and I'm working on my Masters of Science in Counseling (LPC) at SMU. I've taken a somewhat indirect path to graduate school. In fact, my undergraduate degree is in Writing & Rhetoric. I was especially interested in editing and creative nonfiction, but I often felt like I was on a road trip without a map--like I wasn't moving towards a meaningful destination. I finally had to admit to myself that I was interested in working with people and their stories on a deeper level than I could reach through editing and writing.

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Hi Stephanie! Glad to be on this journey in your cohort. My own story is leaving behind a life spent in 33, 34 really, years of en... Read More
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I had to think about what self-care really is. For my last year of work, and first year of school, grad school WAS my self-care. T... Read More
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3 Holiday Tips for Graduate Students

3 Holiday Tips for Graduate Students

Is Thanksgiving really only two days away?! If this is your first semester as a graduate student, you are in for a treat or two with the holidays coming up. Not knowing what to expect, you might be feeling nervous, excited, anxious, or a combination of these and other emotions. On the other hand, you might be as cool as a cucumber. Either way, your holidays as a graduate student will look a little different than they did when you were an undergrad or an industry professional. Here are things you should know about this holiday season as a grad student:

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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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9 Reasons Why I Miss Being in Grad School

9 Reasons Why I Miss Being in Grad School

It’s now been two years since I walked across the stage, shook the administrators’ hands, and received my doctorate degree. I remember thinking, “Yes, I did it!” Things were looking up for me, I had a job lined up, I was a new mom, and finally free from school and all the unpleasant things associated with it (like sitting in seminar meetings). Two years later, I have a much different perspective than I did back then. Below, I’ve outlined nine things that I miss about being in grad school. If you're in grad school, my advice is be grateful for what you've got while it lasts.

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3 Things You Can Do to Boost Your Academic Performance

3 Things You Can Do to Boost Your Academic Performance

Grad students are plagued by self-doubt and wonder if they’ll make it through the week—let alone the semester. When everyone else seems to be doing well, it’s easy to believe that you’re the only one struggling. In reality, these feelings get to everyone whether they’ll admit it or not. Research shows us, however, that there are simple things that you can do to improve study habits, grades, and even motivation for learning.

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motivational ,thanks for sharing your words.
Tuesday, 22 September 2015 03:12
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Time Management: How Your Scheduling Style Affects Well-Being

Time Management: How Your Scheduling Style Affects Well-Being

Grad school will test your time management skills. You won’t be able to graduate without successfully scheduling and completing events. But did you know that your preference for planning your day can have long-lasting implications on your psychological well-being?

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8 Dos and Don’ts About Note-Taking in Grad School

8 Dos and Don’ts About Note-Taking in Grad School

In a previous post, I wrote about a few general strategies to use while taking notes in graduate school.  Those methods included digitally and manually taking notes and the pros and cons of each.  With this second post, I wanted to provide a short list of tips for taking notes while in grad school.  These will help you hone your note-taking skills and become more organized with your school work.

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Looking for Jobs in Graduate School

Looking for Jobs in Graduate School

Wherever you are in your grad school process, it can be nerve-wracking to think of future plans.

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Responding to Your Graduate Advisor’s Negative Feedback

Responding to Your Graduate Advisor’s Negative Feedback

Sent a draft to your advisor and got it back dripping with red ink? Does it mean that you should quit? Not at all! How, then, should you handle negative feedback from your advisor?

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