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Advice I would give to First Year Graduate Students

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

1. Self-validate yourself, self-care, self-love routinely.

  • Thinking and doing takes a lot of energy, especially when you’re at a new institution. Don’t take for granted your humanity and finding how to feel at balance when you’re trying to find a balance.

  • There were times this year when I, and my communities members were mentally exhausted due to events, personal lives, both, and sometimes you can actively engage in what’s leading to your exhaustion and other times you have to say and do a pause.

2. Develop relationships with professors who are warm demanders.

  • The first year of graduate school, I was blessed to receive an assistantship with one of dopest professors. She’s one of the professors who genuinely cares about your overall well-being, and recognizes your overall humanity.

  • Bearing in mind the expression that experience is the best teacher, it was also helpful to gather stories from friends to get insight. Once you developed peer-friendships, stories will naturally be shared.

3. Intentionally find friends with the same self-identifying status as you, and hopefully alumni as well.

  • You may be one a few within your cohort, or the only, but there may be others in your different cohort–this is both a great way to know that you’re not on this journey alone. And also, to receive social education, that no handbook can provide. Historically speaking, and currently speaking higher education institutions were not created for the other. So there may be an air of loneliness, outsiderism, or impostor syndrome, especially if you don’t have time to decompress in homogeneous circles.

  • If you have ever wondered these questions:

Did that person just ask me that question because I’m _______??

Did that person just throw shade because I’m_____??

Do I belong here____??

4. Start a Researcher’s Journal to help yourself become an Active Researcher

  • As you read articles, books, watch media, take time to organize them into different categories. Develop your own system that works for you in order to summarize the information and capture key information.

  • Make sure to backup and organize your articles

  • Create an account with a citation manager tool, such as Zotero, Endnote.


5. Intentionally build community within/outside your program.

  • Since my program is interdisciplinary, I have the fortunate opportunity to be able to build relationships with a diverse range of scholars. Having a diverse range of scholars within and outside of courses is helpful in grappling with information (theories, methods, events) from different perspectives. It is also helpful in challenging you to translate your academic jargon to compare it to other jargon and make it applicable in ways you may not have considered.

6. If you have time, join a group of interest because you will meet like-minded individuals who think differently due to numerous reasons–their training, experiences, work.

7. Find out what are the benefits that come with being a graduate student.

  • If you want to work in academia, as some of my professors reiterated, it's not only that you’ve completed the degree, it’s also what you’ve done, i.e. presenting at conferences, working with organizations on and outside of campus, publishing are all evidence that you’re actively engaging in scholarship.

  • Engaging in scholarship takes time, so find out about how your graduate department and student organization support this both financially and socially.

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