Keys to Success in Graduate School

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Professional Development for Research and Career Planning

Keys to Success Videos

The following graduate student and post doc interviews were conducted at the national STC Director's meeting in Arlington VA, in September 2010.

Why graduate school?

  • Is graduate school relevant to careers in industry as well as academia?
  • How do you use your existing job experiences (e.g., in a company or in an academic lab) to guide your decisions about graduate school?
  • When should you aim for a Masters degree, and when should your goal be a Ph.D.?
  • How can experience in a community college lead to persistence toward a Ph.D.?

How did you pick a graduate school?

  • What practical considerations should one make with regard to potential doctoral programs and schools, thesis advisors and fellow graduate students?

What about the first year of graduate school?

  • What is a comprehensive exam? How is this exam unlike anything one experiences as an undergraduate?
  • What is doctoral candidacy and how does life change when you've achieved it?
  • What is the role of failure in being a graduate student?
  • How do you maintain your self esteem in the midst of increased academic competitiveness and risk of failure in graduate school?

How do you pick a lab and advisor?

  • How much consideration should you give to the prospective lab's level of equipment and its student culture, to the adviser's ability to maintain funding for graduate students, and to your ability to maintain the research themes you worked on as an undergraduate?

How do you pick a research topic?

  • What's a Doctor of Philosophy degree anyway, and how does that degree represent the work you'll be doing as a scientist or engineer?

What role does an STC play?

  • What networking and collaboration opportunities to STCs afford?
  • How does the process of working with other lab members develop and enforce the knowledge you need to be a successful researcher?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of situating your graduate education in an interdisciplinary structure such as an STC?

What about mentoring?

  • ...both your mentoring of others, and your being mentored by others?
  • Since research is a social pursuit, how does a shy individual cope with asking for the information he or she needs to be successful in the lab?
  • How does being female impact being a successful STEM graduate student?

Any other hints for success?


Here are some links that might help you succeed in College or Graduate School


Success factors from Cengage


Miscellaneous Graduate School links.

Tips video from Central Florida

Factor associated with completion Australian study

IMDiversity How to Succeed

Sibrina Collins - understanding lingo

Post Doctorate

National Post Doctoral Association