The advice or words of wisdom is simple, do whatever you think you want to do. I mean I had to really figure out if this is what I wanted to do and why. When that was settled, I did my research on programs and such but for me I talked with other academics from different disciplines. I needed to hear what it would be like emotionally and mentally and then think about how I would handle those ups and downs. Once, I had the basics of what I needed, and I knew what I could control, I put my best effort forth and then I felt content with results. This has been my mindset, to understand the coursework, to learn and adapt, and do my best. And once you’re in a program, they want you there, otherwise they wouldn’t have accepted you.
Graduate studies are not to be taken lightly, and choosing the lab, department, and institution are just as important as the research itself. The U of G supports their graduate students in a way that some larger universities don't, and an emphasis is placed on graduating well-rounded, critically-thinking students that will be able to succeed in whatever profession they choose.
In addition to providing a stable funding guarantee, the department and college offered a number of additional travel and research funding opportunities that contributed substantially to the quality of my work.
Be informed. Always make sure that you understand each and every step of what you're trying to accomplish, but at the same time don't be afraid to plunge into the unknown. Be mindful of what makes you happy, and pursue your goals with a passion because at the end of the day, when we look back at our accomplishments, the gratification from that is what keeps us going.
The most rewarding component of this journey has been discovering the ways in which I can make a difference in the community. You can join a club, volunteer, be a teaching assistant, attend conferences, complete a work-study program, and apply yourself in new and exciting ways. The opportunities are endless and highly accessible! Being a graduate student in such a supportive, intellectual and practical program has pushed me to realize that the sky is the limit!
I would advise prospective graduate students to read ahead. There are a lot of materials to cover in each reading, and each person depending on where you are from, will understand the material from a different perspective. That being said, respect each other's opinion because though it might be different from yours, it is every bit as valuable. People come from areas with different customs and traditions that are unique. Students from the Caribbean will react to material differently than those in Latin America, and sometimes people in the same countries exhibit different outlooks; it is a uniquely diverse program. Additionally, it is an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself outside cultures of your own.
Allow yourself time to understand your work ethics in this new environment, especially if this is your first graduate program. Pace yourself, it is not a race; do not be afraid to ask questions because we are not experts yet. Do not feel that if you do not know something, it puts you at a disadvantage – you will learn. Your peers are all of the different backgrounds, do not measure your intelligence against theirs /others – you were chosen for this program based on your hard work. Feel confident, write confidently and pay attention to every point no matter how minor, and you will do fine.
Also, start thinking about your research/thesis idea early, it is a long process, and the earlier you know what you are doing, the easier it will be to write.
See graduate school as an opportunity to grow in many different ways. UofG has plenty of wonderful research opportunities, and a big part of being a researcher is the chance to communicate your research to different audiences. Graduate school is an awesome opportunity to become a more well rounded person from developing problem solving skills as a researcher to sharpening communication skills, all of which are crucial for any walk of life you end up travelling down.
Identify your passion and reason(s) for wanting to become a graduate student. Write them down, type it up, post it large and visibly on your desk or wherever you do your work so that it remains a constant reminder of why you are doing what you are doing and will motivate you through the hard times that every graduate student has and does go through, so that you can always see the light at the end of the tunnel.