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Home » Discover Rackham » What Advice Would You Give Your First-Year Self?

Your academic success is not worth your health; put eating well, going to the gym, and relaxing first and success will come as a result!

Amanda Hardy, M.A. in International and Regional Studies

Don’t get impatient if you don’t get to do exactly what you want to do as soon as you start. Sometimes you can’t see the connection of your research or teaching to a future goal, but it becomes clearer with time. A graduate degree is a door opener, but sometimes it means delayed gratification.

Don’t get discouraged if your path isn’t the same as someone else’s. You will have classmates with different goals and it can be quite discouraging to feel like you don’t live up to their aspirations. Your path and the skills you are learning to advance down it are valuable because they are yours! Along the same lines, be mindful not to belittle anyone else’s plan because it’s different from yours!

Joanne Beckwith, Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering

“Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.”

Christine Quince, Ph.D. in Educational Studies

Grad school is amazing, if it’s short. Don’t try to boil the ocean. Get the expectations clear, finish early, use the opportunity to secure a satisfying job.

Morteza Taiebat, Ph.D. in Resource Policy and Behavior

Write down your goals. Why are you going to grad school? Who do you hope to be when you get out? Then review this document at least yearly. Grad school has a way of turning your interests and values into it’s own. Writing your goals down allows your future self to honor the wishes of your current self.

Christopher Quarles, Ph.D. in Information

For Ph.D. students, choosing a lab/advisor is way more important than choosing a department/school, because you are going to spend the next couple years with this one advisor. Even in the same department, students have drastically different experiences because of the differences among advisors. Make sure to have a personality fit before a research fit.

Lequn Geng, Ph.D. in Chemistry

“If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek, five things observe with care: to whom you speak, of whom you speak, and how, and why, and where.”- Caroline Ingalls

Ruth Li, Ph.D. in English and Education

Don’t try to teach yourself it all before you start. Take time before school starts to read what you want and really unwind. And remember, it’s supposed to be a challenge. Don’t feel like you have to know it all, you’ll be surrounded by incredible students and faculty, connect with them.

Robert Schultz, M.S. in Survey Methodology

Do not live where mostly undergraduate students live! Eat well, utilize fresh, healthy packaged foods (not frozen dinners) whenever needed. Take Vitamin supplements and exercise regularly. Do not feel bad about yourself because you had to be off for a day, a week, or even weeks due to illness. That happens to every Ph.D. student. Hang in there, check frequently with the advisor, and things will get sorted out.

Mijeong Kwon, Ph.D. in Management and Organizations

Short-term productivity is not the same as long-term productivity. When you get a Ph.D. you need to accomplish a lot in the 5+ years you’re here, but that isn’t the same thing as getting a lot done each and every week. Sometimes you just need to read the literature or think about your results. And taking time off is very beneficial to your long-term success too.

Gillen Brown, Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics

Immerse yourself in your cohort quickly and find your people and support system. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, whether it be for your mental health or for academics. YOU GOT THIS! 

Kelcey Hanover, Master’s in Molecular and Integrative Physiology

Be proactive and hang out with other graduate students. Grab lunch with them and go to social events. Even if you have amazing college friends with whom you chat regularly, it doesn’t harm to get to know more people.

Tianyu Jiang, Master’s in Applied Statistics

Make the best use of your time, be open and have lots of firsts, work hard and enjoy as much as you work.

Shaurya Sarna, Master’s in Mechanical Engineering

You belong here! Coursework will absolutely be hard, and there will be other students who seem miles ahead, but that’s okay. I promise, you belong here!

Lily Mei, Master’s of Science in Engineering in Mechanical Engineering

Don’t be consumed by hustle culture. You don’t always have to do a million things for your success to be validated.

Fatima Traore, Master’s in Human Genetics

Grad school is hard. It may often feel stressful, but you’re not alone. It is a part of the process, and your feelings are shared by your peers and all those who have taken this path and made it. You’ve got this!

Lilit, Master’s in International and Regional Studies

Do it afraid. Don’t let imposter syndrome steer you away from anything. You are meant to be here and you will excel.

Shantaris D. Brown, Master’s in Sport Management