Old Gems, New Season
Last fall, I had a tweet go viral.
Not going to lie, this was my face watching all the likes, retweets and comments come in over a couple days.
My intention was to vent about grad school (it's hard y'all) and to share some advice I had picked up over my first year of a Master's program. In an 11-post thread I shared 5 general tips for understanding and being productive in grad school. To my surprise, it was received very well and affirmed that we are all out here trying to get through! (even faculty)
A year later, now degreed and on to a doctoral program, I wanted to share the thread again and offer some additional words of wisdom.
Alright, here we go:
The intro tweet:
Yep, this is pretty consistent! Grad school is no less harder than last year. Even with growing knowledge of the research process and my field, new tasks and challenges force me to digger deeper into myself on a daily basis.
*Please don't mind the spelling and grammatical errors sprinkled throughout the posts.
1. Prioritize and protect your time.
In grad school, everything takes 20x longer than you anticipate. In my experience, when I have underestimated how long a task to complete, it compromises the quality research I am able to produce and how well I am able to teach.
The key to prioritizing and protecting your time is first doing a trial run of the task and learning how to appropriately schedule time for it in the future. Whether planning your course for the week, reading and annotating an article, or researching a statistical method, it take may take having boundaries around your time, in order to be a more efficient student.
2. Be resourceful.
In grad school, most people want to see you win -- but it is also expected that as a life-long learner you are going to take responsibility over your learning and be resourceful about getting your own needs met.
Resources are anything and/or anyone that can help you find the answers you're looking for.
Sometimes in grad school we don't know exactly what we're looking for, but its important to be aware of who and what is available to support you.
Whether finding the materials to independently explore your research interest, or trying to figure out how to get a parking pass on campus, its important to be resourceful and perhaps assertive about finding and getting support.
3. Use a citation manager
Moment of transparency, I have not been able to successfully use a citation manager in two years. But it does not mean you don't need one.
Citation managers are a tool for storing and organizing and sharing academic articles. They provide an infrastructure for helping students to track what they are reading, note take and easily retrieve the information in the future. Throughout grad school you will be exposed to much more information than you can consume at that moment -- but please don't be ignorant to believe that some of those readings won't be needed in the future.
It seriously behooves us to not have a system for archiving what we have read, are reading, or should read later. Here are links to a couple you can check out:
4. Write it out.
What they don't tell you when you get admitted to grad school is that you've signed up for 3-5 years of learning how read and write again.. in order to clarify and substantiate your argument. It's perfecting how to 1) summarize what you've read, 2) how to integrate and synthesize information across texts and then 3) how to re-present your argument to other scholars, practitioners, stakeholders. For a long time, I did not realize these are all writing exercises and ways to begin "speaking" to the different audiences you care about (scholars, practitioners, parents, the general public, etc.)
Each audience requires different language. So keep writing to get your message out! If you haven't heard, published writing is the currency in academia. This means that in academia, writing journal articles, book chapters, grant proposals, op-eds is valued and one of the main ways to be recognized in your field.
5. Be open to the process.
As I said in the beginning, "grad school ain't no joke". I'm goofy and I brought my goofy self into my Master's program and got a huge wakeup call to how rigorous and rewarding grad school is.
Be open to making new friends. Be open to your research interests or topics evolving. Be open to how much graduate school will take a toll on your thinking, how you approach life and success. Be open to failure and ambiguity. Be open to opportunities you believe you are not qualified for!
I would say most importantly, be open to how to visualize yourself as Dr. (insert your name). More than ever, this is a time that scholars should embrace more than the traditional tenure track path -- be open to seeing more possibilities with your PhD. With new research methodologies emerging, new issues to address, new ways of disseminating information, and new entities pouring into real people and causes, there is no need to limit yourself to being a university professor.
I hope these old gems resonate with you in this new season!
I would love to hear from you other tips for graduate students.
Comment below or follow me on Twitter to keep the conversation going.
Until next time,