Another Academic year starts – Are you ready for graduate school?

August is always an exciting month for me. For one, I get to celebrate my birthday and more importantly it is the start of an academic year. This means that new graduate students will be entering the program with excitement and some trepidation. As faculty, it should be our top priority to take a step back and help students adjust. These graduate students, whether at the Master’s level or PhD level will spend the next several years working through courses, research, and juggling their personal and professional lives. This blog is primarily for graduate students but faculty and advisers (especially those who are new) will benefit from these pointers.

Whether you have a graduate research assistantship or not, it is important that you position yourself for doing good research.

– Set up an appointment with your advisor to discuss course work.

– Ask for key research papers that you should be reading. Make sure that when your advisor sends you those papers – read and in some cases study them in detail.

– Maintain a journal. Keep good notes on research and other issues you encounter

– If you are PhD student and you have finished your M.S. degree elsewhere you need to ask your advisor if you can make a presentation to your group – 20 minutes including questions. This tells your advisor that you are proactive.

– Make a honest assessment of your strenghts and weaknesses and make sure that you begin to address these issues.

– If programming is a weakness, start to strenghten it now. Ask for resources to help you with this issue and get your hands ‘dirty’ by coding. There is nothing like a good research problem that requires coding and analysis.

– Change your mindset from undergraduate to graduate work. Graduate degrees are not merely academic, they are research oriented.

– Do not take courses just for the sake of…. Think about how it will benefit your research.

– This is the probably the best point in your graduate school to start getting ‘seriously organized and manage time and projects

– Remember to exercise, rest and above all get to know your peers.

– Read by book : Navigating Graduate school and Beyond : AGU Press

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