Grad School 2.0

Since this is my second go-round at a UBC graduate degree (or third, when you consider I switched programs this year) that probably equips me with some insight worth sharing about UBC and grad school in general. I promise that not all of these posts will be lists full of advice…I will expand on some of these points in future posts.

Pearls of Wisdom for Potential Grad Students:

  • Your relationship with your advisor is likely the single most important factor influencing if you will complete your program or not (and I will definitely post more about this!)
  • A good fit with your program is almost as important as a good fit with your advisor but sometimes you can find flexibility when it appears there is none
  • You should probably have a better reason to pursue a grad degree than personal fulfillment unless you simply cannot imagine doing anything else or you are independently wealthy
  • Grad school really isn’t like a job even though lots of people will try to convince you that it is
  • Most graduate programs are not designed for students with professional type careers that work while taking classes and doing research (although there are a few exceptions at UBC)
  • Asking for reference letters may feel awkward but most professors understand it is part of their job and don’t mind writing them unless they don’t know you well or you ask for one at the last minute
  • Grant applications are a pain but SO worth it when you get funded!
  • Sometimes you will be denied funding due to things completely out of your control (like my CIHR application that was denied because my supervisor didn’t have enough publications…)
  • Choose a thesis topic that you are passionate about because you will be VERY tired of it by the end of your program and at many points along the way
  • Get used to being asked “Why do you want to do a PhD?” and “When will you be finished?” and “So what is your thesis research about?” over and over and over again

4 thoughts on “Grad School 2.0

  1. Just found your blog… I hadn’t noticed it before! Looking forward to hearing more advice, since this is my *first* (and hopefully only) go-round. Curious about what especially makes grad school different from a job for you.

    Why do you want to do a phd? 😉 Just kidding. So far I’ve given a different answer to that one every single time, depending on my mood.

    • I think the main thing that makes grad school different from a job is the level of personal investment involved. If I have a bad day at work, I go home and try to forget about it. If I have a bad day working on my research, I become obsessed with trying to fix it! Also, I have noticed that doing work as a TA or RA usually involves being “on-call” practically all the time and unless you are self-employed, that isn’t often the case with a day job. I find it can be challenge to balance any sort of life with grad school and the related responsibilities, especially if you are working with/for a professor that has no life outside of the university…

      • I think the intention of the people who tell you to think of it like a job is to get you to take it seriously, but not personally. Whether it’s actually possible or even appropriate to follow that advice, I’m not sure.

        The schedule is certainly different from most (though not all) jobs. Certainly the intensity of the work sets it apart (but again, that exists in many high-pressure jobs, too).

        Maybe it’s actually the pay scale that really makes it so different. There’s a much higher effort-to-reward ratio in academia. 😉

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