“What I Wish I Knew When I Started Grad School”

Current Master of Arts student Stephanie Awotwi-Pratt shares her tips and tricks for new graduate students

  1. Start Scholarship applications early and get feedback frequently from your supervisor or a professor who is familiar with the application process and the requirements. Try to attend these workshops on a weekly/ biweekly basis (depending on what you signed up for).
  2. Get consistent support at the CSC (Centre for Scholarly Communication) and attend as many workshops as possible to dispel any myths or grey areas like writing conference abstracts or how to improve technical writing in your coursework/ scholarship applications.
  3. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Be honest about what you can handle in a term and get consistent help with your coursework to avoid burnout.
  4. Try to avoid getting involved in lots of things that do not spark joy. But focus on a few things that you can work on long term. Focus on what is sustainable in the program. Maybe a volunteering position that gives you a break from school? Or a passion project that makes you eager to write/ study after.
  5. Budget your time for reading and taking notes. It took me a minimum of 4 hours a week to read the content for each class and some I had to read over multiple times. So, making time in your schedule to complete assignments and read is ideal. Reading is also an art, just like writing. So, finding a way to understand difficult passages in a given week requires consistent, dedicated time and effort.
  6. Make time for self-care and checking in with people you trust. Grad school is a marathon full of ups and downs, and having a support system and professional counselling helped me and might help you!
  7. Try not to compare yourself to anyone. The saying goes that comparison is the thief of joy is so true! There will be so many personalities and people in the program/ class and focusing on my personal and long-term goals helped me keep my blinders on and keep focused on learning and engaging with the course/ material. Once you compare, you run the risk of downplaying your achievements and personal goals in and after the program. So set the intention to focus on what makes you unique. Ask yourself what perspective you bring that is valuable to your peers. Grad school is full of excellent students, and you are one of them!
  8. Finally, try not to be so hard on yourself when you get any type of feedback. Once I realized that comments and feedback are important to help you improve rather than a reflection of your worth, I started to improve my writing. Focusing on how to craft your voice amongst other scholars and scholarship is so important. In graduate school, reading and writing are the focus. Reading difficult scholarship can help you improve your writing by giving you a broader perspective. Getting consistent feedback will give you the tools to improve on future assignments.

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