At the start of every fall semester, I think about my own first semester of grad school. I went to grad school before the Internet, and before computers were ubiquitous. What was important then–as it is now–was the community that I joined. Unfortunately, that community could not instantly impart wisdom to me about looking for an apartment, selecting classes, or getting the most out of my two-year program. Now, things are different, and getting that instant advice is easy.

And so I asked my friends–many of whom have a graduate degree–to contribute advice that they wished they had when they began graduate school. More than 25 of my Facebook connections responded.

Jill Hurst-Wahl's Facebook page/via

Jill Hurst-Wahl’s Facebook page/via

Themes of Advice

Their advice revealed themes that run through those suggestions, and those themes included:

  • Manage your time well (including the time that you devote to your assignments, class work, and self-care).
  • Network with your classmates (who will be your future colleagues, as well as those who are already in the field. Your network will provide information, support and even job tips for years to come, so start building that network now.)
  • Focus less on grades and more on learning (If you focus less on grades, then you will be willing to take more challenging classes).
  • Take care of yourself and ask for help when you need it (No one wants you to fail).

Multi-Ethnic Group of People and Learning Concept

Six Really Good Suggestions
Of all 25 suggestions I received, I’d like to highlight six important ones, for today’s students who are jsut starting their graduate school careers:
  • Work smarter, not harder. Find out where you have blocks of uninterrupted time, and use them most effectively.
  • Gain as much practical experience as you can. Network, network, network. Take advantage of conference & association student rates. Don’t forget to practice self-care – give yourself a break sometimes, even if you have to actually mark it on your calendar.
  • If you’re going to grad school for the grades, you’re going for the wrong reasons. You get out of grad school what you put into it and the letter grades will reflect on your effort.
  • Your grad experience will be as rich as the effort you put into it. You are in charge: make this experience a good one that you will value for years to come.
  • You are an information specialist. That means if you do not know something find it out using your search skills.

A circle of friends is important

Have Friends

One piece of advice that I would add to the list is to have a good set of friends (and it doesn’t matter where they are in the world).

You need someone who will listen to what is happening–both the good and the bad–and who will offer support and advice, if you ask for it. Having someone to call or text–no matter the time–can help you stay grounded during this whirlwind called grad school.

Have you got a recommendation that you’d like to add to this list?

Is there something you wish you’d known before you started grad school? Please share it here in the comments!