What to Know Before Starting Your Graduate Program

Making the transition from undergraduate to graduate student can be just as challenging, or even more so, than the leap from high school to college. For those of you who are starting up with an advanced degree this coming fall semester, here are some tips from current graduate students about what to know before day 1 of class:

Ask Questions

Whether you’re a PhD candidate or working on your Masters, you will have an advisor who can serve as a mentor to you and your own personal & professional growth. There are a lot of things you will likely be learning about for the first time, both academically and professionally, and so asking questions about things you don’t understand is crucial. No one expects you to be an expert— it is your mentors’ and advisors’ goal is to help you be as successful as possible.

You’re Good Enough To Be Here

A common experience of graduate students is Imposter Syndrome, a feeling that you don’t belong or only got where you are by luck. Remember that you worked hard to get the grades and experience that resulted in getting accepted into graduate school. Keep in touch with those in your life who support you, whether it’s a parent, partner, or friend, to remind yourself that you do belong.

Take Care Of Yourself

With immersing yourself in a new environment, being away from extended family, and financial uncertainty, it can be difficult to take care of both your mental & physical well-being. It is important to remember that graduate school is a marathon, not a sprint. Exercising, watching a movie, and engaging in other activities that you enjoy aren’t a guilty pleasure, they help recharge your batteries and make the time you do spend in class or meetings more productive. Sleep is always a priority.

Planning Is Key

It’s okay to not know the exact institution, company, location, or job title you’re seeking on the very first day of your program. It’s also okay to change your mind on ideas you may be having about your future while in graduate school. In order to make the most out of your time however, it’s a good idea to begin the process of planning tangible steps for after graduation. Are you interested in working for chemical or pharmaceutical companies in the Midwest? Start building connections to employees at Roche, Eli Lilly, and DuPont. You never know what faculty or alumni connections to these companies exist until you ask about it.

Meet With Your Career Coaches

As always, Career Coaches at the Walter Center for Career Achievement want to help you feel confident moving forward into the first day of your graduate program. We can help connect you to resources both locally and closer to your future graduate program that will help bring your closer to your career goals.

More tips on managing life in graduate school can be found here: “What I Learned About Surviving Graduate School,” “What To Know Before Starting A Ph.D. Program

By Aaron Brutkiewicz
Aaron Brutkiewicz Graduate Intern & Career Coach Aaron Brutkiewicz