20 Tips for New Graduate Students

Bookshelf with labels reading, “All these books are donated by customers . . . Reading is always enjoyable.”

[September 2020, updated September 2022]

I’ve spent over 10 years in university, and I’ve been a graduate student for 8 years. What follows is a list of 20 tips for new graduate students, based on lessons I’ve learned the hard way in academia!

1) There’s always more work that could be done; you can’t – and shouldn’t – do it all. Protect your time for: exercise, relaxation, hobbies, and relationships. Take long lunch breaks and go for walks. Have fun with your colleagues.

2) Figure out when you get your best work done. Personally, I use mornings for deep work and afternoons for admin work (emails, scholarship searching, etc.)

3) Start your work day by reading and summarizing one paper related to your research. If you get nothing else done that day, you will have at least read one paper. UPDATE: Alternatively, use 15 minutes to 1 hour every morning to slowly work on a paper. Just open up the file, see if you have anything to say. Even if it’s just to vent about the project.

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