Been there, done that.

After six years of grad school, there are a few things I've picked up from personal experience and a whole lot of time talking with other female grad students (AKA procrastinating). I've always wished there had been some kind of handbook about how to handle the whole world of graduate school, so I figured I'd start a friendly place to discuss what it's like to be female in grad school, and maybe pass on some wisdom too!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The summer before starting

(Wow, I swear I'm going to be better about posting here more often. Really. It's just the looming graduation ceremony later this week has kind of taken over my life. Oh, and that pesky dissertation thing, too. Funny how that is...)

Okay, for most people out there, summer has already started (for those lucky semester system people), or is getting underway shortly (for those of us stuck on the quarter system). For some people, this means getting ready to start grad school at the end of this season. Some are working still, others are on break, but probably a lot of you are looking forward to the big change of grad school starting in the fall.

So, what are you doing to get ready? Wait, did you think you didn't have to worry about this yet? Um, no. Really, this should already be on your mind. Like, I'm sure you've probably already gotten housing plans underway. Maybe rented the u-haul and have a move-in date ready to go. But there are other things that would be helpful to think about before fall come barreling down on you faster than a mag-lev train. Why? Well, let's be honest. Your first year of grad school has one main objective: wear you down and really show what you're made of. Luckily, there are some things you can do to get you started. Here are a few things I did, or I saw other people do, that I think might be helpful. Got some others? Please share!

  • Start reading now. I mean it. If you can find some of the reading that will be assigned in the stock classes that will be offered in your department, get your hands on them and get reading. Take good notes. This means that when it comes to class time, hopefully you'll just have to review them, and that takes a whole lot less time. You'll thank yourself later!
  • Start networking. The graduate coordinator in your department probably has a list of the other incoming grad students. Not only is this a great resource to find a roommate if needed, but it's also a great way to get to know people. Chat, go out of a drink, get to know your cohorts, if possible. The friendlier you are with them, the easier things will be later. Plus? Study partners!
  • Move early. Really, this can be helpful. Get to know the area you'll be living in for the next few years. Find good study places and where the grocery store is. It'll cut down on stress later if you aren't trying to find the only place in the region that sells your favorite ice-cream once you really need to chow down on Chubby-Hubby.
  • Get friendly in your department. Many people use the summer to get some serious research done, so don't be a bother, but stopping by to say hi, talk to people, and get your face known (in a good way) is always helpful. If you can find a way to help out (move someone into their place, or do a little lab work) earning those brownie points early goes a long way.
  • Find the best places to chill. Whether it be the best place to go for a long run, or a good bar for a beer, this will be essential later in the quarter. Good places are hard to come by, so knowing where they are now can't hurt!
  • Have a little fun. Don't get burned out before classes start! Seriously, take a little vacation. Get your head in the right place. Be calm, cool, collected, and start off your grad career on the right foot!
Okay, those are my thoughts. Some of these I really wish I'd done, and others (like reading early) totally save my butt when I was starting out. Happy summertime, peeps!


  1. Wow, thanks! I will be starting grad school this fall and your article really helped me out!

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