Congratulations, you are officially a graduate student! I know the road has been tough (and hopefully fun!). This is where the real fun begins and where you get to shape your academic path. By all means, there is no “right” way to go through your graduate career. Everyone experiences life in general in different ways, and school is no different! With that being said, I want to cover five main components of areas to help you through your time in your garden program:
- Get to know your professors
- Get to know your fellow cohort of scholars
- Stay organized.. At at least try
- Make everything count!
- Try applying theory to practice
Get to know your professors
Please do not let the intellect, or seriousness, of your professor intermediate you into not talking to your professor. As graduate students, some of your professors might be your biggest supporters. I am not saying invite your professors out to eat.. Maybe try talking to them after class to get a better understanding of their field of work and what academics interest them. Attempting to make that extra effort goes a long way!
In my own experience within my current MA program, my biggest supporters are my professors! From my program director (who is also a professor within the program!) to my Research & Methods professors have become my extended academic advisor/family! Through afterclass talks, small emails (and some perks of being a GA), I was able to find out about different opportunities to further my academic and professional interest. Which no bring me to my next.. Making friends.
Get to know your fellow cohort of scholars
I truly believe that this is one of the most important aspects of being a graduate student. Getting to know other people with your program helps you not just learn about them, but your own understanding/interest in your particular field of study. There may be some upperclassmen that can give you great advice on how to navigate through the program!
I was able to make friends with two of the graduating “seniors” of my program before they left. From talking to them and attending their Senior Simposime, I was able to get an idea of the direction I wanted to go for my future thesis project. Quite honestly, because of them, I was able to get a read of how professors were in curtain classes and how to prepare for them!
Stay organized.. At at least try
Even though this point may sound self explanatory.. I still am going to explain it. As your semester goes on, assignments, projects, meetings, personal life, and everything else you can think up will come to bite you in the butt! So to prepare, I would recommend buying a wall and hand calendar. It’s easy to both write things down while in class, and then transfer them to your wall calendar at home. I promise, these will probably be your most used school supplies.
I am a bit extreme.. So take this advice at your own risk. Since I wear MULTIPLE hats, I try to keep separate calendars for each aspect of my life. I currently have two calendars in my room (one wall and one regular hanging). I write down important personal information and dates to keep track of. I also have a weekly calendar I use to keep track of school/job todos. Lastly, I have a calendar on my ipad to keep off things that are too much to write on a paper calendar. As I stated previously, I am extreme and I have multiple calendars…
Make everything count!
This tab is more so for the next blog post, but I think it is vital to mention it now. Believe or not, there is life after academia! So with that said, try to make everything you do or experience in your graduate program count towards your future ambitions. Employers will be impressed with seeing that you can transition from academic work to practical work. By all means, it is always easier said than done, but try to get creative with it!
I like to do multiple projects and occupations at once because it helps me develop my understanding and professional experience. So to break it down, my future career ambitions are the following:
- Tenured Professor (English Studies or Media Design)
- Instructional Designer
- Media Design Specialist (I have some experience, but I would like to go in different aspects of the field!)
- Researcher (The Pedagogy of Writing and education technology)
Through my educational blog (this one here!), work that I do as a graduate student/assistant, currently being an adjunct professor, and other side projects I work on; I try to make all my materials align with each other so that I could put it on my Cover Letter (Cover Letters are important.. Start making one!).
Starting a new degree can be both exciting and challenging at the same time! But if you follow at least some of the steps I presented to you, it will make the process even more enjoyable!