Caged Birds!

Advice January 26, 2013

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Hi C&C readers! I’ve been missing in action and posting some real quickies, but I’m back and hopefully better than ever. For those of my beloved who don’t know; I’ve been a caged bird for the past 7 years, caged in a PhD program that has both ensnared and encouraged growth. I’m currently in a wonderfully brutal internship which has sapped my strength but I finally got the bobby pin in the lock and I’m headed to freedom. I’m by no means a pro grad student, but I do know some pitfalls to avoid so let this caged bird sing.

1. Find a program with a good fit. You will hear this a lot in grad school with little explanation of what it even means. Imagine a great pair of shoes, they have to compliment your arch, account for the depth of your heel, as well as the flexibility in your ankle. And that’s only the start then there’s color, style, ornamentation etc…these are the things you must consider when finding a great grad program. Do they match your learning style, research interests, geographic issues, and time constraints? Then, how important is a name, alumni, grants/funding, and mentors (mentioned later)? Consider each of these and more when applying.

2. Find a powerful mentor. Nobody else will tell you this but grad school is a political game and you must have a mentor with some pull. You’ll need it during dissertation time-trust me.

3. Time management. Grad school is an independent endeavor. If you aren’t a natural self starter you may need an accountability partner and rigid schedule to keep you on task. Missed deadlines can keep you in school forever!

4. Financial planning. This could be a whole post by its self. But basically, don’t spend more than you will be able to pay back, either with future income or loan repayment programs.

5. Maintain balance. Don’t forget to hang out with your friends, workout, and stay linked to your spiritual center (meditation, church, or some peace and quiet).

I hope this is helpful for some grad school hopeful.

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