Grad school is a unique experience, especially in an increasingly digital world. Often the study skills that helped us excel in undergrad no longer suffice at this higher level. The relationships with professors also changes drastically as we find ourselves in limbo between student and colleague. Grad school is an extended period of transition moving from student to teacher, from taking classes to doing independent research, and from being the novice to the expert. Given how unique this experience is, and the fact that the majority of people don’t go to grad school, making the transition can be difficult.

When it comes to tackling the professional side of grad school, we at GradHacker have  a variety of ways of surviving. Reaching out for guidance and support is important as we move from being the pupil to professional. While many of us are lucky to have advisors who will be explicit and frank about the process, there are often alternative ways of proceeding that our advisors may not know about. At GradHacker we’ve had a number of posts that discuss our successful methods for navigating grad school.

Gaming Grad School: Katy Meyers argues that setting up grad school goals and challenges like a game can make it easier and fun. She proposes setting both short and long term goals, creating a rewards system, defining levels (and celebrating once you pass one), and making side challenges to help you gain new skills. By making grad school into a game, we can motivate ourselves better and also enjoy life a lot more by making time for rewards.

Don’t Keep Your Head Down, Digital Dissertations and Graduate Training: Alex Galarza argues against a a recent statement by the American Historical Association, which argued that open access digital dissertations ruin a scholars chance at publication. Instead, he wrote that “graduate students should be encouraged to build authorship around their scholarship so that their dissertation’s impact will not depend solely on the publication of a monograph in an academic press”. Security does not lie in anonymity, and publishing a digital dissertation can greatly benefit the scholarly community as a whole.

Hacking Your Committee Meeting: Dissertation committees are a unique grad school entity, and they can be daunting. Terry Brock has a couple of tips to make the meeting more productive and less scary. He notes that its important to contact them first, set up meetings using an online service like Doodle, have an agenda, set deadlines for reviewing chapters or other items, schedule the next meeting, and leave with action items to complete. Most importantly, remember that it is your meeting and that you are in charge.

Keeping a Teaching Journal: Many grad students will be teaching assistants and strive in the future to be professors. Julie Platt proposes keeping a teaching journal from day one can help in this process. The journal serves as a consistent record of successes and failures, which will help in the future when creating a teaching portfolio and philosophy. She believes that it is the act of writing the journal that is important, not the method or technique, suggesting a number of good online and digital journals that would be helpful in the task.

[Image by Flickr user Brennuskrux and used under Creative Commons license]

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