For most of us, graduate school is something we only get to experience once. As I reach the midpoint in my graduate school career, with almost all of coursework behind me and all of my dissertation ahead of me, my advice for what I would do differently if I could go back is threefold: I would have more vigorously sought out the people who could help me fill the gaps in my education; I would have more vigorously used the personal/academic development opportunities available at Texas A&M University; and I would have more vigorously networked with members from other universities.
- Seeking help in filling your academic gaps
It can be very intimidating working with professors and even other students who seem educationally and intellectually superior to us. But it is these very individuals who can help us most to advance. If I could redo the first three years of my graduate degree, one behavior that I would have cultivated sooner would be honesty about my academic weaknesses. Hiding these weaknesses shielded me from improving them as much as it shielded me from ridicule for them.
- Using the resources available at Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University has too many resources for professional development than can be delved into in this blogpost. No blogpost could do proper justice to the opportunities afforded to members of this community. This myriad of choices can be a curse as much as a blessing. With all the choices, I have spent more time failing to choose where to spend my time than utilizing the resources offered to me. If I could redo the first three years of my graduate degree I would 1] systematically catalogue all (or as many as possible) of the extracurricular opportunities available; 2] make a reasonable list of the ones I could participate in and 3] participate in them.
- Networking with academics at other universities
One of the best forms of advice I received from a professor while in graduate school was to expect that scholars will appreciate hearing from other scholars (even unpublished, pre-dissertation scholars) interested in their work. If I could redo the first three years of my graduate degree, I would have followed that advice more closely. What stopped me most often was my lack of mastery over the subject I was interested in. It was feeling intimidated by approaching an expert in a field that I wanted to learn more about, but felt that I knew virtually nothing. My advice: do not wait until you are an expert in a filed to contact that experts. By that time, they are unnecessary.
Jennifer is pursing an M.A. in Communication and a Ph.D. in Philosophy.