Navigating Graduate School: Insights and Recommendations for a Productive Degree Path

Navigating Graduate School: Insights and Recommendations for a Productive Degree Path

Jenna Cambria (Educational Statistics and Research Methods, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJAVET.2015100102


Beginning graduate school can be an exciting experience; however, given the new social and intellectual experiences, there will be unique challenges that arise during your graduate program. Within this article, the author shares what was useful, helpful suggestions others have offered her, and pieces of advice she wishes she knew going in. In the author's experience, her lessons learned in graduate school fall under five main categories. These include planning for success, beginning a line of research, writing papers, focusing on learning during coursework, and becoming part of the academic community. In each of these sections she shares with you her experience, as well as the experiences of some peers, so you can learn from some who have already gone through this process. Many of these suggestions come from the author's experience preparing for an academic profession, but these suggestions can be stretched and edited to professional paths outside of academia as well.
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Planning And Productivity

As you begin your graduate career, you will likely be invited to take part in many different intellectually challenging activities; this is one of the best aspects of university settings. However, it is important that you are self-regulated in what you choose to take part in and how you break down the task.

In general, my sense is that a productive graduate experience can be summarized by a combination of professional productivity while maintaining a realistic and healthy workflow. For me, this process begins by setting clear goals. In setting my own professional goals, I start with long term goals and break them down into manageable chunks of smaller goals. When I say broad, I mean broad. I begin with the overall goals of how my work can contribute to a greater societal good; that is, an overarching goal that would be my piece to contribute to the larger puzzle of applied research. Next, I make a plan for the next ten and then five years. Of course, one should maintain a flow and be open to new possibilities, but I am convinced that goals are best achieved when knowing exactly where the goal is and planning for success. Not only is it helpful to have a clear path in a career where there are few stated guidelines and individuals supervising your work, it is also good to bait any worries concerning level of productivity. If you make good goals and work to achieve them step by step, those concerns are not on the table. Next consider the goals you would like to achieve in the next year. How many articles would you like to write? Would getting a grant help you to achieve your larger goals? Would a grant allow you access to individuals or money that would support your long term goals? Next create your monthly or weekly goals. This is what has worked for me, but stretch and edit these suggestions as they suit your working needs.

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