Mari’s No-Nonsense Tips on Successfully Completing Your Graduate Degree
(and Having a Fulfilling Academic Career)
1. Think twice (and three, four, five . . . times) before entering academe. Know what you’re getting into by finding out what an academic career entails. Give serious thought to why you want to pursue an academic life.
2. Make sure that you’re in the right discipline, school, and department. If you find out that you’re not, give serious thought to changing paths.
3. Have a plan for funding the rest of your graduate study.
4. Do not expect your life to be normal for the duration of graduate school. If you’re not ready or able to have your life revolve around your academic work for the next X [2-3 in the case of an MA, 5-10 in the case of a PhD] years, now is not the right time for you to be in graduate school.
5. Do not expect your family and friends outside of academe to understand, let alone sympathize with, what you’re going through in graduate school.
6. Expect that at least one major family, relationship, financial, automotive, health, housing, or some other type of disaster will be part of your life in the next few years. Acquire the skills of compartmentalization.
7. Plan your course of study with a long-term vision. Fill the gaps in your training early.
8. Do not underestimate the importance of acquiring strong writing skills. Make specific efforts to strengthen your writing skills.
9. Choose your mentors carefully. Develop and maintain a good, healthy relationship with your mentors. Have role models. Keep your mentors posted of your progress.
10. Nurture a community of peers with whom to share and mutually critique work.
11. Set high standards for yourself, but be realistic in your expectations. Remember that graduate school is only a beginning step in your long academic career.
12. Know that feeling stuck, overwhelmed, lost, helpless, unimportant, unoriginal, etc. is par for the course. Do not let those feelings steer you away from your goals. Find a way to pull yourself out of self-doubt and to focus on concrete goals at hand.
13. Try to keep perspective. Take your work very seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.
14. Maintain good physical and mental health.
15. When in doubt, remind yourself why you started this in the first place.