Attend class while wearing pajamas, cup of coffee in hand, and cat in your lap or dog at your feet. Sounds good, right? Online learning has many advantages, but it's also hard work and not for everyone. Learn more about online learning, what online graduate classes are like, and how employers view graduate degrees earned online. Finally, learn how to spot diploma mills that sell fake degrees.
Recently a graduate student posed the following question: "I noticed that there are some grad students in my department who dress up. Some could pass as professors. They're active in the department and work in the office, for example. They get a lot of opportunities. They look really different from the rest of us. Does appearance matter in graduate school? Or are these students just sucking up?"
The dressed-up graduate students receive opportunities, but you also mentioned that they are active in the department. Sure, doing clerical work and generally helping out may not be academic tasks, but the students are visible. Being visible (in a positive way) is critical to being noticed and remembered, which are prerequisites for being offered opportunities.
As for being well dressed, there's no need to buy a new wardrobe. Graduate students do not need to dress as professors. Simply being neat, clean, comfortable, and professional are enough. Note that professional does not mean "dressed up." Instead, professional means dressing appropriately. Nothing provocative and nothing with holes in it (even if the holes are intentional). We don't like to admit it, but appearance matters. It subtly influences our impressions of students and often without our awareness. One way to convey the message that you are competent and professional is to pay attention to your appearance, how you present yourself. Make no mistake, what you actually do is way more important in determining your career than your appearance, but looking neat and pulled together certainly can't hurt.
One of my former students faced a wonderful, but very difficult, decision. She was awarded admission to 3 doctoral programs in psychology. She wondered where to go - and whether she should choose a PhD or PsyD. Identifying details have been changed, but this student's decision process -- and our conversation - may aid you in making decisions about which graduate program to attend.
Commencement ceremonies were held at most colleges and universities within the last week or two. Graduates often report feeling a mix of relief, happiness, and also some sadness. Why?
You've been looking forward to graduation since you first started college or graduate school. It's finally here! Why aren't you happier? Students spend a great deal of time and effort working towards earning a degree. Sometimes when a long-awaited goal is achieved, we feel a sense of emptiness -- sadness. Why sadness? What are the graduation blues?
Often students say something along the lines of: "I thought I'd feel different, but nothing has changed." It's a common feeling. I experienced it after defending my dissertation. What's the solution? Remind yourself of how much you've achieved. Look back on the path you've taken. Take pride in your accomplishment. Think about your next goal(s), whether it's to improve your social life, improve your physical fitness, or earn another degree. Did you experience the graduation blues? Share your response on this page and read what others have to say.
Graduate students should end their semesters mindfully, by evaluating their performance in each class and gathering materials that will aid them in the future. Information gathering, evaluation, and fact checking is especially important for graduate students who teach. Graduate student instructors learn to teach by doing and most learning is through trial and error. Evaluation is a critical part of the learning process. At the end of the semester evaluate your progress as an instructor as well as your course's organization. Consider:
- What activities worked? Why?
- Do activities lighten the load, making teaching a bit easier?
- What chapters or topics were difficult to teach? Easy? Why?
- Do you have an activity or exercise to accompany each topic?
- How often did you engage in full class discussion? How well did that work? What would improve it?
- Did you have enough time to teach all of the topics in the syllabus?
- Will you modify your class plan in light of what you accomplished?
- Were the class assignments, such as term papers, effective?
- What can you do to improve student learning and performance?
For example, my classes just ended and evaluating each one is on my to-do list. What did I do differently this semester? Did it work? Did students appear to find any particular topics boring? YES! Which ones? Why? How might I jazz it up and increase learning next semester? Did my paper assignments work? What did students find hard and easy? Do their experiences match my goals? In other words, was material that I deemed easy in fact challenging for them? Rather than plan my semester a week or two before classes start in fall, I find it much more effective to take a few moments to think and take notes now. Follow my lead, consider these questions, and seek advice from faculty and other graduate students who teach. Teaching is a constructive process because it entails actively building teaching skills, activities, and a knowledge base. After 17 years of college teaching, I can attest that improving teaching skills is a career-long endeavor.
Also see: Teaching 101: Getting By
Receiving a letter of rejection in response to your application to graduate school is disappointing to say the least. Anger, sorrow, and confusion are common responses. Accept these feelings as they're normal. Once you have wallowed a little bit turn your attention to feeling better and taking action. Recognize that rejection does not necessarily mean that you are unfit for graduate study. There are many reasons why applicants are rejected that have nothing to do with their credentials. Then consider your applications, your fit to each program, and what may have gone wrong. Finally, learn from this experience and determine specific changes that you can make to improve your application.
How did you cope with rejection? Share your experience.
Summer is just a few steps away. If you're planning on going to graduate school, whether applying this fall or next, you should take advantage of summer time as an opportunity to get some research experience. Its not too late to speak with your professors and get some leads on research opportunities. These opportunities likely will be unpaid but help you get experience and make contacts.
We all work hard to manage our time well and avoid procrastination, putting tasks off until the last minute. However, intentionally delaying work can have benefits.
The GRE General Test gets all the attention - and it should as it is required by all graduate programs. The GRE Subject Tests, however, receive less attention but sometimes are still a critical part of your application. Is this true for psychology applicants? What is the GRE Psychology Exam and should you take it?
That's the allure of online graduate study. I teach online courses and working from home, at your own page, coffee in hand, and in comfy clothes is a plus, but online learning is accompanied by a host of challenges. Can you stay motivated and produce without a designated class time and in-person instructor? Online graduate degree programs are not for everyone. Is an online master's or doctoral program for you? What should you consider in selecting an online graduate program? What are warning signs of graduate programs to avoid?