Personal tip #1
I think for me the hardest part in graduate school was getting use to the class dynamics being different from undergraduate classes. The first term, I thought I was going to do all the homework perfectly and that the classes would have the same structure: they give you the syllabus and then main book and you’re good to go. But it’s different, in graduate school there is a more independent feeling to it, grades matter in the way that you want to do good, but it is not about that anymore. Now is more about how much can you get from the class in 9 weeks; from the teacher, from the homework, from papers and books related to the class. It does not matter if you don’t answer correctly all your homework, the importance is what you learn from it, and how does it apply to your research. Understanding this will take a lot of the stress at the beginning of grad school.
Personal Tip #2
Grad school can be a very competitive environment. Many grad students who were at the top of their class before coming to grad school suddenly find themselves surrounded by a community of extremely smart people and realise they are no longer the best. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and feel discouraged, especially during the first year when you are juggling a load of difficult classes, getting started on research, and just trying to settle into a new life. Don’t compare yourself to others – think about your own goals and work towards them. This can be an opportunity to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and pick up some great work habits from those around you!
Personal Tip #3
Resist the urge to work on the weekend unless you absolutely have to in order to meet a deadline! Although you may feel guilty taking the weekend off (there is intense pressure in grad school to be working at all times), it will actually make you more efficient. You will always have more work than you can possibly do even in a 70 hour week. Do not try to do it all. Prioritize. Let some interesting opportunities go so that you can focus and do a good job on your main tasks. Managing stress levels and staying positive about progress through your degree is absolutely essential to grad school survival.
Personal Tip #4
Ask your fellow graduate students for tips and advice. They can advise you which classes are worth taking and which are not. They can help you how to get to your major advisor and have good meeting with her/him. Also, learn how to use Excel, Word, PowerPoint, LaTeX, Mendeley, etc. These will save you some time when you are crunching numbers for your research. Finally, have a passion, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, weekends, family…a PhD will not return your life back.