Sunday, October 17, 2004

Top Ten List for First Years

I wrote this up for the woman I TA with. I found that every day I was giving her pearls of wisdom about the department. I wanted to avoid coming off as preachy, but some of this stuff you just have to know.

Top Ten List of Things First Year Graduate Students Need to Know

!) You don’t have to do all the readings. Seriously. You’ll kill yourself trying and you won’t remember what you read the next semester anyway. Do the important ones carefully, skim the rest if you must, and remember that it’s COMPLETELY OKAY.

2) Remember that you ARE NOT STUPID. No matter how you feel after that seminar, job talk, MIRC meeting, theory colloquium, or political psychology prosem, you are at one of the top programs in the country and you’re really smart are you wouldn’t be here. Furthermore, if you were in a room with a random sample of people from the general population, you would be one of the most highly educated folks there. Keep your perspective.

3) Your grades don’t matter. No one is going to ask you when you leave this place with your doctorate in hand what your GPA was when you were a grad student.

4) There’s always someone in the department to talk to about whatever problem you may have. If your boyfriend dumps you, if you feel like that certain prof hates you, if you feel like you may never make it through this semester, talk to someone. All of us have been there and we’ve all made it through. It is always better to talk to someone than to bottle up your stress and nervous energy.

5) Our grad student secretary knows everything. If you have a bureaucratic issue, go to her. She knows who to direct you to and she has a lot of experience in dealing with crazed graduate students.

6) “Normal,” non-academic types will hear that you’re a political scientist and say things like, “so do you want to be a politician?” A quick smartass retort to that is, “Do historians want to be history? Do chemists want to be chemicals? If I wanted to a politician, I’d go to law school.”

7) Sometimes it may seem like grad school is overwhelming and frustratingly difficult. But keep it in perspective. What else would you be doing? Remember the benefits, too. I like to remind myself that grad school is one of the few jobs I know where, if it’s nice outside in the middle of the day, I can go outside for a couple of hours and nap in the sun. Flexibility is a nice benefit.

8) Free parking!!! If you enter and exit on Sunday in the following facilities (except during events): Fourth Street Ramp; Twenty-First Avenue Ramp; and Gortner Avenue Ramp you get it for free!!! Sunday is a good study day in the department, too.

Also if you enter AFTER 8 p.m. and exit BEFORE 8 a.m., seven days a week in the following facilities (except during events): Fourth Street Ramp; Twenty-First Avenue Ramp; and Gortner Avenue Ramp you get free parking, too!! Whoo hoo!!

The Twenty-First Avenue ramp is really close to the Social Sciences Building. Use it well.

9) Go to political science events, but don’t do anything embarrassing at them. The stories will be repeated for years.

10) Relax. Grad school should be a priority in your life, but you should have other ones as well. Get a life outside of grad school (friends, ballroom dancing, music, whatever) so that when things aren’t going well at school, you always have something to fall back on to cheer you up. Relax. Breathe deep. You’ll get through it.

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