Our department has recently started a series on academic skills, where grad students and postdocs at Penn can ask panelists about various experiences pertaining to writing a grant, or giving a job talk – things that are often not communicated in a formal way. This month’s session was about “What I would have liked to know before starting grad school”, where advanced grad students and fresh postdocs reflected on things they would have found useful to know or to have reflected on in advance. I thought I’d share some of the excellent points that were made by the panel and audience.
Grad school can be a great thing, but it comes with its own challenges. For me, the flexibility that often comes with being a grad student (unless you work on a project with a very fixed outline where your tasks are clearly defined from the start) is something that makes it especially awesome, but also especially challenging. You can work on what you really care about while managing your work schedule yourself. But you also have a lot of responsibility and need to be intrinsically motivated and reasonably disciplined to pull through. With that in mind, here come five thoughts and pieces of advice that can help you make your way through grad school.