Tackling each semester of grad school requires a lot from you. It takes drive. It takes focus. And it takes a lot of free food.
We know you want to succeed in graduate school. That’s the baseline. But with these tips, you’ll not just succeed—you’ll thrive in graduate school.
Know that the academic experience is going to be different.
There are differences in and outside the classroom that you need to know about to succeed in graduate school. First, you’re expected to do more work on your own outside of class. You’ll need to devote more time to learning on your own, and time in class is for synthesizing and processing those ideas with your peers.
You will also need to take a different approach to assignments, and expect a different kind of feedback. No longer are you the undergrad hiding in class and never speaking to your professor before or after class (or during the dreaded office hours!). Instead, you’re now expected to be proactive in all of your assignments, seeking out your professors for feedback and direction. As you’re learning to be a professional in graduate school, your professors expect a different level of engagement with assignments.
And the content of those assignments changes, too. Yes, you’ll memorize information, take tests, and write papers, but you’ll also be challenged to understand your program’s content in a much deeper way. Rather than just learning about biology or history, you’re learning how to be a biologist, and why historians understand history the way they do. You’re becoming a professional. You’re becoming the expert.
You are going to read a lot.
If you’re doing grad school right, you’re going to read more than you’ve ever read. Though the reading load can vary depending on the program, graduate students across the board will learn quickly that reading to identify the scholarly contribution and literature reviews are essential. Every grad student reads… a lot. So, buckle up.
The grading scale is different.
Cs are no longer average. As a grad student, you’re expected to make As and Bs in your classes and, at UL Lafayette, a 3.0 is required to graduate. That comes out to a B average. Guard against Cs. They represent work of the lowest quality for which graduate credit is given. Too many Cs -- or a single D or F -- will make you ineligible to continue your graduate studies.
Networking is a necessity.
Take advantage of being around the best and brightest minds on campus (and in your discipline). Cultivate those relationships. At UL Lafayette, we work to create a community of scholars and encourage an environment peer and faculty mentorship, because we know that your academic connections are so valuable while you’re in grad school and after you graduate.
Talk to your professors.
Keep an open dialogue with them. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. They want to mentor you every step of the way and see you succeed. Some of them won’t go out of their way to reach out to you, though. Instead, they expect you to be your best advocate and to take the first step towards strengthening your professional relationship.
Manage your time.
The way to thrive in graduate school is by managing your time. You need to be organized, to know how to prioritize assignments and tasks, and to be disciplined enough so you keep a schedule.
Graduate school is not kind to procrastinators. By doing a little more at the beginning of the semester, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of stress at the end.
Take charge and be independent.
Grad school is all about #adulting. You’ll be expected to figure things out on your own. If you have questions about anything, ask around and find the answer—but you can’t claim “I didn’t know” and expect to get very far. And those who think they won’t need help along the way are wrong—learning to take charge and when to ask for help are the marks of a good graduate student.
Go to events.
Go to events organized by your department, your college, student organizations, and the Graduate School. There’s almost always free food, and you’ll get to meet more graduate students and other experts with whom you can share ideas. And, you’ll often learn valuable strategies or tips for making the most of your graduate experience. Fill up your brain and your belly at the same time!
Embrace the fact that you’re creating knowledge now, not just being a sponge. You’re going to make serious contributions to your field while you’re in grad school. It's an opportunity that not everyone gets, so make the most of your time, learn all you can, and embrace the experience fully.