By Courtney Herring, Guest Contributor
In continuing my mission to inform and empower current and prospective individuals seeking to further their education with an advanced degree, the following tips are helpful strategies that are just as important to attend to as your academic performance inside the classroom. By keeping this advice in mind, your graduate school experience will certainly be enriched and may prevent later frustration.
1. Make an effort to extend yourself to the faculty and administration in charge of your specific program. This is especially helpful and pertinent for those of you who are new to an advanced degree program because it shows that you have a vested interest in gaining the most while you are there. By extending yourself, I don’t mean “kiss up,” but do not be afraid to introduce yourself to faculty and administration .Give them a brief idea of your interests (by brief, I mean a Reader’s Digest version of your research interests). In fact, most members of faculty/administration welcome students stopping into their office hours or soliciting their help with your ongoing thesis or projects. Extending yourself to faculty is also important because you never know who can or will help you later on with selecting courses, recruiting thesis/dissertation committee members, participating in academic conferences, as well as participating in some cutting edge research that could inform your own future research or career. If you are not new to your graduate program, it is not too late for you to start branding yourself as a dedicated, interested student. You will be surprised at who remembers you.
2. Try to get involved in group research projects OUTSIDE of those your courses may require. I know what you’re thinking: yeah, right. Between homework, other existing group projects, and teaching or researching responsibilities — oh yeah, a social life– it may seem like you’re already stretched too thin. But if you can spare the time to become involved in research groups that your professors organize, the pay off will likely be worth the sacrifice. Graduate professors are always coordinating group research projects or are engaging in their own, and more than likely the topics covered are those you may be interested in. Not only does this extra involvement allow you to hone your skills as a researcher and scholar, it also allows you to see who you may or may not want to work with in your own research. Oh, and it looks great on a resume or CV because graduate professors research with the intent to not only learn more about the subject at hand, but the objective is also to gain exposure through academic conferences and journal publications. And, we all know what that means…presentation credits and/or publication citations for you!
3. Respect your graduate program’s administrative assistant. Some of you may be wondering why this merits mentioning, but more often than not, you will need to use your program’s administrative assistant as a resource for information, as a liaison between you and the faculty and/or members of the administration, and to help you get into that class that is “technically” closed. With that being said, when he or she requests that you return important documents and information, DO IT On Time! This person’s role is so important to your success in graduate school that it would be a bad idea to give them an unfavorable impression of you. By respecting this person’s time and efforts, you also show your prospective instructors and thesis/dissertation committee members that not only are you a scholar, you are a professional as well.
All of the above tips require you to give more of yourself and they encourage you to push yourself beyond mediocrity. Putting in the extra time and effort will yield meaningful results for you.