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Summer is Coming

I get nostalgic as summer arrives each year; I remember neglecting my homework to go play outside, so excited for the lawn sprinkler. And when school was finally over, well, life just couldn’t get better. In my rose-colored memory, my summers looked a lot like The Sandlot and Troop Beverly Hills (I neither played baseball nor scouted, but I have an active imagination). Even now, I feel a sense of freedom and exultation when I roll down the windows as I drive or play some of my favorite summery music or –gasp!—read a book for fun.

Summer can be a sort of academic playground. You can devote your time to concentrated research and writing. You can give that new pedagogical practice a try. You can revise your seminar papers into publishable articles, or prep for exams, or collect data. Without exception, summers have been the most formative and transformative seasons of my academic career. I do my best reading, my best thinking, and my best writing in the summertime.

But with summer’s allure—sunshine! beach! unstructured time!—it can be a challenge to stick to a research program or stay disciplined in your writing. Here are five strategies that I recommend from my two years of productive summer research.

1.    Write a manifesto. What do you hope to learn through your research? What are your goals, as a scholar and a professional? What do you want this research program to do for you? How does this fit into your big-picture career goals? Manifesto writing can be a powerful process of self-authorship. It will help you to stay focused not only on what you’re doing, but why you’re doing it. And when the beach calls, it’s important to remember what’s driving you. Want an example? Graduate students might appreciate The Expert Enough Manifesto; any of these others provide a useful template.

2.    Develop objectives. What will you have accomplished by the summer’s end? By the end of August, what will you have completed? Be specific, and be realistic. You may want to complete an annotated bibliography, putting the emphasis on your reading. You may want to complete a draft of a proposal, or a draft of an article. If a manifesto is about what you hope to learn, objectives are about what you hope to do.

3.    Make a syllabus. Don’t just make a reading list; make a syllabus. That is, divide your reading the way that you would assign it in a class. Group like texts, pair primary and secondary sources strategically, arrange texts to be in dialog with one another, and consider big themes as they relate to your research objectives. And most importantly: schedule. Plan specific dates, detailing when you’ll read what. This will help you stay on track, and keep you from being overwhelmed by the huge stack of books you’ve just checked out of the library.

On this front, I’d also suggest working with your advisor, if you feel comfortable doing so. For each of my summer research plans, I constructed a “wish list” syllabus; my advisor helped me whittle it down and made suggestions. Particularly early on in your graduate career, this can be an exceptionally useful way to read widely in your field.

4.    Write daily. This is especially important if you develop a reading-heavy summer plan. My first summer in graduate school, I blogged with a colleague. We took turns writing each week, and commented on each other’s work. It was great to have some accountability, and I look back on those blog posts often to track my intellectual progress and develop those ideas. My second summer, I was on my own, and my regular writing practice fell by the wayside in favor of reading voraciously. While working on comprehensive exams, I realized the error of my ways. Even if you only write a 500-word recap of what you did each day, you need to capture your ideasWrite them down, and set them aside. At the end of the summer, read through your notes. See how your thinking changed and developed. You might discover something new in your old notes, or think about old ideas in new ways.

5.    Stay organized. My favorite way to organize the many tasks on my plate is by using a Gantt chart. I like this one from GanttProject. Gantt charts allow you to strategize and prioritize your tasks based on time ranges (“must be completed by…”) and help you to track your progress. I find that prioritizing my work in this manner helps me focus on what needs my attention now and what can wait. And at 5:00, when all I want to do is ride my bike to my favorite bar and drink a summer beer, it’s nice to realize that I can wait to work on those edits.

OK, one more: #6: rest. Yes, do research over the summer. Build your summers in to your five-year plan as productive, active times. But make sure that you take the time to recuperate after a stressful semester. Rest up, so that you’ll be ready to face a new academic year clear-eyed.

The patterns that we set and develop as young scholars will be patterns that we carry with us throughout our academic careers. Consider your summers training in self-discipline: the discipline to work when it’s time to work, the discipline to play when it’s time to play, and the discipline to know the difference.

3 Steps to Making Lifelong Learning a Natural Habit

Many individuals live in the idea that once they leave the four corners of their school with their college diploma on hand, there’s no longer need to invest on continued learning. This is not true. Life- long learning is vital and there are scientific facts to prove it.

What you have learned in college is no longer suffice to essentially prove what you can actually do but what you are willing or able to learn. Also, ongoing demographic changes have put momentum into this development and demand for skilled individuals is ultimately high to be complied or met by ordinary college graduates alone. Nowadays, most companies are reliant on innovative and extensive academic knowledge brewed by tones of college homework more than before. This knowledge can be acquired through providing continued education to individuals.

An important education concept was explained by Professor Sylvia Heuchemer. She explained that we are now faced with technological and scientific progress with an increasingly rapid cycle of innovation. This therefor requires individuals to keep their expertise, skills and knowledge up to date.

Knowing this, it is just fair to say that learning should be a continued process and even you completed your college degree, need to learn more in order to master your skills, get a high paying job and more.

If you take time to look on most successful individuals, even these people still have passion for continuous learning and are committed to deepening their knowledge and understanding the world constantly. If you wanted to make lifelong learning a natural habit, there are ways to help you.

How to Make Lifelong Learning a Natural Habit-Suggested Ways to Follow

You do not really need to execute lots of ways to make learning a natural habit because just these 3 ways can help you do so:

1. Figure Out What You Really Wanted to Know

Having this overall love and passion for learning is actually wonderful however, if you wanted to channel this love and passion, you must develop some particular thoughts about the things that you wanted to focus on. If you do not have goals, you will surely end up with shallow understanding of many different important subjects. By determining personal passion and the desired outcomes, one can really chart learning path for themselves. It is highly essential to realize that your focus can significantly change over time. Lifelong learning is a natural habit that you must cultivate for it gives shape to directions of your learning.

2. Make Learning a Part of Your Schedule

Another step to make lifelong learning a natural habit is making an effort to carve out energy and time for everyday learning. This means that you need to make learning a part of your schedule as much as possible. Time block does not really need to be that huge; even 15-20 minutes of reading or writing can be great. You then need to decide what you need to do, when to do it and where you are going to do it. Put that particular period on calendar then stick to it. Remember that most successful individuals in the world make lifelong learning a great priority.

3. Never  Stop Learning

Putting effort to learn is not enough, you should not stop learning instead. Continue the passion and the drive to learn. You need to accept and then enjoy that learning and believe that learning never ends. There are always things that you wanted to learn more and there are those skills and experiences that you wanted to improve. When learners accept the fact that their learning journey is not yet over completely, they become more motivated to push through and continue learning and gaining knowledge every day.

There are many good reasons to never stop learning. As you are actively seeking to learn new things, you become happier. Several studies revealed that the more ambitious individuals have become especially in the goals they set, they become happier. And as they decide on their own goals, their happiness does not become reliant on others.

If one continues to learn, he or she becomes irreplaceable. If you are fine with the knowledge you accumulate during your college years, then you’re limited by your contributions. If you learn more, you will be able to build, create, develop and more making you irreplaceable.

These are actually just a few of the many ways to make lifelong learning a habit. If you take time to search, you will discover more ways to help you become the better version of who you are.

These steps are what you need to take in order to make lifelong learning a natural habit. By incorporating these steps in your life, you can certainly establish this good habit that can benefit you in many ways for a lifetime.

Handwritten vs. Typed Note-Taking

Handwritten Versus Typed Note-taking

Laptop computers make note-taking convenient and efficient, but can they also be a hindrance to students?

A recent study found that students who took notes with paper and pen outperformed their classmates who used laptop computers to take notes on the same material, suggesting that teachers and lecturers should encourage their students to turn off their electronic portable devices and jot down notes the old fashioned way.

While some students equipped with a pen or pencil may like to doodle on their note pages, research indicates that taking notes the hi-tech way is actully more distracting. Modern electronics makes it easy to tune out the lecture and class discussions.

A study titled “The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking,” published in Psychological Science, tested which method better affects learning.

Researchers Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California Los Angeles found that note-taking falls into two categories: generative, which is summarizing, paraphrasing, or concept mapping information; and non-generative, which is copying information verbatim.

This sets a foundation to the researchers’ proposition. One function of taking notes is the process of retaining what is learned by encoding the information. A second function is that taking notes creates a storage process that can be looked at later to reinforce what was encoded. The dilemma is the interplay between fast typing, which captures maximum word flow, or selectively compressing key ideas while writing by hand, which is a slower and more incomplete capture method.

Drawing Conclusions

Mueller and Oppenheimer conducted three controlled tests to measure student performance with notes that were typed versus handwritten. They found that the students using laptops took significantly more notes than those using paper and pen. Students using both note-taking methods remembered facts such as dates equally well. But laptop users did significantly worse in answering follow-up questions based on conceptual application of the information presented.

The researchers got similar results in a second note-taking test that nudged laptop users to avoid writing things down verbatim. The laptop users could not overcome the instinct to capture information presented verbatim. In fact, laptop note-takers did progressively worse the more words they copied verbatim.

The third research segment tested the concept of externally storing and reviewing notes to improve retention of learned information. The researchers allowed students to review their notes in between the lecture and test.

The premise was that students who reviewed their typed notes would be able to benefit from the more extensive notes than their handwriting classmates had to study. That premise failed. The students taking notes by hand continued to outperform the laptop note-takers.

This evidence suggests that longhand notes may also provide better external storage as well as superior encoding functions, Mueller and Oppenheimer concluded.

This research might also place more prominence on using electronic note-taking devices that rely on stylus input rather than keyboard typing. The researchers suggested that it is unreasonable to expect students to fully shun modern devices in favor of old-fashioned paper and pen. But an electronic tablet with a stylus might overcome the gap Mueller and Oppenheimer found between notebooks and laptops.

Tips for College Students Living at Home

Not everyone goes away to college. If you have decided to continue your education locally, you may also choose to remain living at home in order to save money. But, now that you are a college student, is this living arrangement going to work? After all, you are an adult now, and want to live by your own rules. But, since you will still be living in your parents’ home, they will likely expect you to live by their rules. The trick is for both sides to be able to make some compromises. Here are eight tips that will help you make living at home work.

  • Discuss Expectations 
    You will expect your parents to treat you as an adult and not as a child, and they expect you to be respectful of their house rules. What chores are everyone expected to do? Do they expect you to pay any bills? Do you expect them to start giving you more privacy? Make sure that everyone knows where they stand with this living arrangement.
  • Discuss Visitors
    It is important to discuss visitors. Do you plan to have people in regularly to study or visit? Do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, and want them to be able to spend the night? The rules are different now that you are an adult and in college, but this doesn’t mean that your parents are going to be comfortable. Discuss it with them before you invite anyone over.
  • Discuss Rent 
    If you expect to be treated like an adult, you need to behave like one, and this means paying rent. This can be quite beneficial to you, because you would be considered a tenant, which means that you have a lot more say as to when you come and go, what you eat, who you hang around with, etc.
  • Save Your Money
    One of the main reasons why you chose to live at home while attending college is to save money. “So, start saving your money. If you are working at a part-time job while going to school, this is a great time to start saving for the future (or have money to pay off student loan debt later on),” suggests an expert from Flipping Houses 101.
  • Find a Quiet Space
    Now that you are paying rent, you may want to ask about having more space. Your bedroom likely isn’t the best place for studying. If there is another room in the house that isn’t being used, such as a spare bedroom or a rec room, as if you can turn a corner of it into your own personal study area.
  • Talk about Curfews 
    You will need to talk about curfews, which should now be a thing of the past. While you are still living at home, you are no longer a high school student, and you need to have rules that you can actually live with. For instance, you may no longer need a curfew, but you can agree to let your parents know if you are going to be coming home late, out of consideration.
  • Join Clubs and Teams 
    One of the biggest problems with living at home is that you may be less likely to take part in school activities, because you aren’t living on campus. You can still get that full college experience, even if you are living at home. Be sure to find clubs, teams, activities, etc. that you are interested in, and sign up. This will also keep you from being at home all the time.
  • Work on Family Relationships 
    It can be difficult for adult children to live with their parents. You may not always agree with the way they run the home, and they may not always agree with your lifestyle. You need to take time to work on family relationships. Encourage open dialogues, schedule family activities, etc. in order to get along well and remain close.

Managing Public Speaking Anxiety

3d human give a lecture behind a podium

We all have to present our work to others at some point in our graduate careers, and this commitment to public speaking can lead to real anxiety for some individuals. I know this because I am in that group. I have been so anxious before a 12 minute talk that my hands actually went numb from the terror, my pulse started racing, and I ended up speaking so fast that my 12 minute talk became 9 minutes, tops. That leaves a lot of room for awkward silence.

So how do we learn to manage our public speaking anxiety? Some would suggest simple hacks: use confident body language, speak slowly and in a deeper tone, or my least favorite “picture your audience in their underwear,” which is most definitely the LAST thing I want to think about during a talk. While these hacks can be helpful for people with minor issues they are by no means sufficient if you are experiencing serious anxiety prior to public speaking events.

You might have public speaking or performance anxiety if you have experienced any of the following before giving a talk:

  • trembling
  • sweating
  • clammy hands
  • rapid heart rate
  • shortness of breath
  • muscle tension,
  • blushing
  • confusion or losing your train of thought
  • upset stomach
  • shaky voice
  • dizziness

At this point I think just about everyone can say yes to experiencing at least one of these prior to public speaking. Thankfully, since my numb-hands-speedtalk days I’ve learned some new ways to manage public speaking anxiety.

Know your stuff: This is the most important part for dealing with anxiety related to graduate level and professional presentations. Minor hacks such as puffing up like a fish to project confidence and lowering your voice will not help you if you don’t know the material. This happens to me on a regular basis: I do just fine presenting my own work (which I know) but the moment I have to present for journal club (where one student reviews a recently published paper in depth in front the of the department) I start getting anxious because I am presenting work I am unfamiliar with.

Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to go over your talk before hand. One trick that has helped me immensely is to structure my slides so that the end of each slide leads directly to the next. By building in and practicing transitions you are much less likely to get lost, and your audience will appreciate having a cohesive narrative in your talk.

Notes aren’t just for class: Even when you know your project inside and out it is still good to have some form of notes on hand–whether it is a general outline of your talk, important sources and citations, or specific technical details of experiments. You can do this the old fashioned way and have printed notes, but I recommend becoming familiar with the joy that is presenter view on Powerpoint. If you don’t know how to use it I highly recommend this approach as it allows you to have your notes for each slide displayed for you, but not your audience. However, not all presentation venues are set up for presenter view (a lot of conferences are like this, unfortunately) so keep a hard copy of your notes handy just in case.

Get (non-threatening) feedback: Next time you have a big anxiety-inducing speaking event coming up (thesis defense, anyone?) try running through your presentation for a small group of fellow students, professors, and other coworkers and get their feedback afterwards. This is an enlightening experience as sometimes what you are the most worried about no one notices, or you find out that you have a distracting tic that you never noticed.

Managing the anxiety response: Sometimes no amount of preparation can prevent your innate flight response when faced with public speaking. If you can’t stop your innate responses you can learn to manage them. Your audience has no idea your hands are numb, and no matter how bad the talk goes you will not be chased down with pitchforks.

When you feel yourself starting to get anxious remember that these feelings, while very much real, do not mean that you cannot give a great talk. The trick is learning to be separate from your anxiety by acknowledging it and allowing yourself to have that feeling, then deciding that even with the feeling you can move forward. It can take some practice learning how not to be overwhelmed by these feelings, but eventually you will be able to acknowledge them and move past them in order to accomplish your goal of giving a good presentation.

Graduate School Papers and You

Graduate study is all about writing, as the thesis or dissertation is the ticket to graduation. However, lots of writing occurs well before the thesis and dissertation are begun. Most graduate courses require students to write term papers. Many beginning graduate students are accustomed to writing papers and approach them in ways similar to undergraduate papers. As students advance and near the end of their coursework, they often look ahead towards the next task (such as preparing for comprehensive exams) and may begin to resent writing papers, feeling that they have already proven themselves as competent students.

Both of these approaches are misguided. Papers are your opportunity to advance your own scholarly work and receive guidance to enhance your competence.

Take Advantage of Term Papers

How do you take advantage of papers? Be thoughtful. Choose your topic carefully. Each paper you write should do double duty – complete a course requirement and further your own development. Your paper topic should meet the course requirements, but it should also relate to your own scholarly interests. Review an area of literature related to your interests. Or you might examine a topic that you are interested in but unsure whether it is complex enough to study for your dissertation. Writing a term paper about the topic will help you determine if the topic is broad and deep enough to fulfill a large project and will also help you determine if it will sustain your interest. Term papers offer a place for you to test ideas but also to make progress on your current research interests.

Double Duty

Each assignment you write should do double duty: help you advance your own scholarly agenda and get feedback from a faculty member. Papers are opportunities to get feedback about your ideas and writing style. Faculty can help you improve your writing and help you learn how to think like a scholar.

Take advantage of this opportunity and don’t simply seek to finish.

That said, take care in how you plan and construct your papers. Attend to ethical guidelines of writing. Writing the same paper over and over or submitting the same paper for more than one assignment is unethical and will get you into a great deal of trouble. Instead, the ethical approach is to use each paper as an opportunity to fill in a gap in your knowledge.

Consider a student in developmental psychology who is interested in adolescents who engage in risky behaviors such as drinking and drug use. While enrolled in a course in neuroscience, the student might examine how brain development influences risky behavior. In a course on cognitive development, the student might examine the role of cognition in risky behavior. A personality course might push the student to look at personality characteristics that influence risk behavior. In this way, the student advances his or her scholarly knowledge while completing course requirements. The student, therefore, examine multiple aspects of his or her general research topic. Will this work for you? At least some of the time. It will better in some courses than others, but, regardless, it is worth a try.

15 Things to do This Spring Break as a Grad Student

In March or April of each year, grad students get a week off from suffering.

Or, at least, a week off from having to attend classes or undergo campus obligations. Multiple ways to spend this week exist, some more productive or fun than others. But a week-long break in grad student time is like a year in everyone else’s time. Every moment must be used or cherished. Here are 15 things grad students may want to do this spring break.

1.) During this week off, perhaps you should avoid intellectual anything. Seriously, just watch funny movies, do mindless activities and avoid friends who can’t seem to go an hour without philosophical or political conversation. True vacation!

2.) On the contrary, you could use this week to work on your thesis or dissertation. With dissertations consisting of often a couple hundred or more pages, according to a chart by FlowingData.com, and a thesis being close to or half of that, you should probably get on that sooner rather than later.

3.) There are plenty of music festivals go on during March and April, from Austin’s South by Southwest to Iowa City’s Mission Creek Festival. Check out MusicFestivalJunkies.com for a seemingly comprehensive list and get your rock on this spring break.

4.) Let’s not sugarcoat it: Grad students are often poor. So why not use this spring break to earn a few extra bucks? Work a job, do some odd jobs or pick up an extra freelance gig. Do you and your wallet a favor!

5.) Go home this spring break. Give your parents a hug, your dog a pat on the head and your friends a high five. Breathe in the nostalgia and relax.

6.) Go travel! USA TODAY posted a useful list of affordable places to travel for spring break, including Portland, Ore. and Vermont. Roam free!

7.) You could play catch up this spring break. That is, if you’re behind. Maybe you’re not as far as you’d like on your research or a class. Perhaps work on it during the day and have fun in the evenings.

8.) Spring break’s a fine time to search for summer internships, fellowships or jobs. Browse InternQueen.com, Craigslist and other sites and get searching. Or ask around, go to networking events and sniff out opportunities.

9.) It doesn’t have to be how MTV showed it in the ’90s, but you could go to the beach during spring break. Not everywhere is cold. StudentUniverse.com has a great list of spring break beaches on its website, from Miami to Cancun. Get in the water!

11.) Keep your mind active this spring break, by visiting museums, watching documentaries and reading for fun. This contradicts number one on this list, but hey, going mindless for a week isn’t for everybody.

12.) Hang out with your friends who are either undergraduates in college or not college students at all. You surely know some of these people. You know, the types who don’t have a 300-page research paper lurking. See how they operate. Adopt their possibly-less-stressed-than-you attitude and breathe deep breaths.

13.) As a grad student, you may be so busy that you have been missing out on your own city. So stick around for the break, check out events and walk the downtown.

14.) As Lindsey Mayfield pointed out in a 2012 article for US News & World Report, “By spring break, you’ll probably have a good idea of what the rest of the semester will bring.” Use that foreknowledge this spring break to prepare for the rest of the semester. Reflect on the past few months and start planning ahead. A bumpy ride until May is probably ahead of you.

15.) For goodness’ sakes, don’t be like the grad students in a recent Late Night with Jimmy Fallonskit, who do things like enter wet argyle sweater contests and pass out in their bouillabaisse after drinking one too many glasses of Riesling on spring break. Unless that’s your thing.

Spring break as a grad student may not be as stress-free as it was when you were an undergraduate student and surely nowhere near stress-free as it was during high school or grade school. But a week off is a week off and you can use that time however you wish, even if it means indulging in more school work or working a job.

3 Tips for Conquering Midterm Stress

They say that the first step in overcoming a problem is admitting that you HAVE a problem. So before you can deal with your midterm stress, you have to recognize it for what it is.

You might assume that you have some kind of long-lasting virus (fatigue, stomach trouble, heavy sweating) or that you’ve developed a neuromuscular disorder (headaches, a twitching eyelid). But it’s just good old-fashioned stress (unless it’s not; if symptoms persist, you should see an actual doctor). So how can you handle it while still juggling the responsibilities of projects, reports, and other obligations like family and work?

1. Delegate

Yes, you’re in grad school, so money is probably tight. But sometimes it’s worth spending a little cash to get some peace of mind. So instead of trying to handle school AND the demands of daily life (I.e., keeping yourself and possibly others clean, fed, and clothed), outsource some of those chores!

If you have kids, a couple hours of peace to study or relax might make the money you have to pay a sitter the best $20 or $30 you’ve ever spent. Order takeout and drop off your laundry for someone else to do. All of these things require some expenditures, but consider them an investment in your sanity.

2. Look out for #1

Sometimes, what you really need to do is take a nap, go for a run, or sit quietly in a room staring at a blank wall. Even though midterms can be hectic, don’t be afraid to be a little bit greedy with your time, and allocate a chunk of it to maintaining your own mental health. Flight attendants have it right: you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others.

3. Don’t be afraid to look for support.

Sometimes, self-care isn’t enough, and there is absolutely no shame in that. Know what resources your school makes available to grad students and take advantage of them; they might include stress-management seminars, individual counseling, or other options. These services are there to help. Let them.

Class Participation in Grad School

In college, students are responsible for their own education. Most professors spend a considerable amount of time preparing lessons, activities, and assignments for classes, but the responsibility for embracing and learning the material lies on students. Students who take responsibility for their own education—who come to class on time and avoid absences, pay attention and participate in class, and complete assignments with integrity—are not only more likely to enjoy their classes but  may also be more likely to succeed in the classroom and in future academic endeavors. The following are ideas for taking responsibility for your own education.

Class Participation Tip #1: Come to Class and Arrive on Time

Arriving to class on time and avoiding absences are two easy things you can do to take responsibility for your own education. Clearly, the more you are in class, the less you will miss, and the more you will learn. Following are three central rules for attending class and arriving on time:

  1. Arrive a few minutes before the start of class. Be prepared (books and materials on the desk, ready to go) by the time the teacher starts class.
  2. Do not ask questions that are not pertinent to that day’s lecture or materials during class. Wait until the end of class, after class, or during your professor’s office hours to ask questions about unrelated material, upcoming assignments (unrelated to current material), missed work, or other personal needs.
  3. If you miss a class, check your syllabus to see what you may have missed and talk to classmates to get assignments, class notes, and other missed information. If the syllabus and your classmate don’t offer the information you need, visit your professor during his or her office hours. Do not use everyone’s class time to figure out what you missed or to catch up on missed materials. More importantly, do your best to avoid absences and to attend every single class. Teachers use class time to teach material to students. Typically, there is no amount of reading and “catching up” that can make up for the information that is taught to students during class. Assume all class sessions are important and there is never an ideal time to miss class.

Class Participation Tip #2: Pay Attention and Participate in Class

Contrary to popular belief, class time is not a time to sit back, relax, and allow your professors to fill your brain with fascinating material. Class time is a time for you, as a student, to actively listen to your teacher and classmates; engage with the teacher, your classmates, and the material; and squeeze the most you can out of the precious few moments you spend with an expert in the field—your teacher.

The following are suggestions for developing the skills to pay attention and participate in class:

  1. Put away your cellphone, computer, and any other electronic devices. If you must use your computer to take notes, turn off the wireless internet feature. Unless your class involves electronic or online work, those contraptions will only serve to distract you from the work at hand. Strive to stay focused on what your teacher and classmates are saying and refuse the temptation to communicate with the outside world during class
  2. Sit close to the front of the room, raise your hand often, and take notes. The more active you are, the more likely you will be to engage with the material. Avoid the temptation (and believe me, it will be strong on certain days) to sit back and “listen” without participating. The simple actions of raising your hand, moving your eyes from person to person as the teacher and your classmates talk, and exercising your voice will help keep your brain awake, alert, and interested.
  3. Actively listen to what your professor’s says. In many classes, you will be required to copy down notes and listen to your teacher. If this is the case in any of your classes, ask your teacher to make his or her notes available online. Then, in class, give the majority of your attention to your teacher. Take notes based on the lecture and then correlate those notes with printouts of the notes your teacher puts online and the notes you take while reading and completing your homework.
  4. Think critically in and out of class. Do so especially while participating in class and while doing your homework. Much graduate school curricula depends on critical thinking—use class time and homework assignments as opportunities for improving your ability to think critically, and then offer your thoughts to make class discourse more rich, meaningful, and vibrant.
  5. Be prepared for class. This will be discussed in more detail in the next section. For now, know the degree to which you engage with your homework correlates to the degree to which you can effectively participate in class. Do not waste your teachers’ and classmates’ time by coming to class poorly prepared.

Class Participation Tip #3: Complete Assignments with Integrity and Prepare for Each Class  

Teachers use in-class assignments, reading assignments, and homework to give students additional time to work with class material. Completing your assignments with rigor and integrity is one of the best (if not only) ways to comprehend class material and to be prepared for class. That means avoiding plagiarism in your papers and getting a tutor if needed.

The following is a list of ways to complete your assignments with integrity and to prepare for class:

  1. Read and comprehend the class syllabus. Make sure you have a clear idea of what is expected of you during the semester. Write down important dates (assignment due dates, etc.) on a calendar and plan your work accordingly.
  2. Set aside a realistic amount of time for completing assignments and do not procrastinate. You will likely be incredibly busy during school—therefore, it is very important to get a head start on all of your assignments and to follow a realistic plan for getting them done. As soon as you receive an assignment, schedule your work.
  3. Take notes while reading for class. Look for answers to the “big five” while reading: who, what, where, when, and how, and take notes of answers for each. In addition, do some critical thinking of the readings prior to class. Then, while in class, strive to learn something new from your classmates and to offer interesting insights you derived from doing your homework. This also gives you a good chance to come up with questions you can ask your professor during class.
  4. Complete all of your assignments, even if you don’t understand them. Homework is designed to teach you something—simply by working with it, even if you don’t fully understand it, you will learn something.
  5. If you don’t understand your assignments, or feel as though you are falling behind, ask for assistance. This means meeting with a tutor or your professor outside of class and reviewing course materials. Regardless of which graduate degree you decide to puruse, you are not expected to already know everything. Rather, you are expected to take responsibility for learning. If you’re lost, confused, and falling behind, ask for help immediately.
  6. Work with a tutor on difficult assignments or materials with which you struggle. If you continue to struggle, consider meeting with your college or university’s disabilities center to see if you have an undiagnosed learning disability. Learning disabilities, whether slight, moderate, or severe, can have a huge impact on students’ education and can often times be easily dealt with if diagnosed correctly. Attending graduate school with a disability, while more challenging, is still possible.

The Commonality Between James Bond and a Grad Student

Grad students and Agent 007 might just be another two contradicting concepts. But wait; let’s see what they really have in common. Let me start with 5 of the things I can think about as of the moment:
1. Both are knowledgeable on lots of things. We all know that James Bond’s character seems like a Mr. Know-It-All. He knows something about geography, politics, government, culture, and even food and literature. A grad student, as my former professor once said “must know something about everything and a lot about one thing”. I bet that’s a challenge for every grad student, to comprehend every topic that concerns his craft. However, there should be one field he/she should be an expert of.
2. Both have an arsenal of gadgets/tools. Blame it on Dr. Q. Double “O” 7 has submersible cars, mini blowtorches, miniature cameras, state-of-the-art communication systems, whatever you can think of. A grad student on the other hand has all the necessary tools for analysis. Statistical and mathematical tools, software tools, and other analytical tools needed for decision making and problem solving in their field of expertise.
3. Both knows how to improvise and innovate. We can just admire how our favorite spy agent can get out of every dangerous situation. Give all the credit to his resourcefulness and quick thinking. A grad student knows well how to improvise too. In the field of research, they are known to introduce tools or methods in their own field which were taken from other fields. A business analytical tool perhaps can be used in the field of environment or a social research tool is used in the field of engineering. These are just examples of how a grad student innovates and improvises in order to further his/her field of knowledge.
4. Both work even on vacation. If we see James Bond in a beach, or swimming pool, or a bar in a hotel, we all know he’s not on vacation, he’s on a mission. A grad student might also be seen in a resort or a hotel but inside that traveling bag you’ll see some lecture notes, or books, or a laptop with all the study materials in its hard disk. We all know what he’ll be doing whenever he finds the time.
5. Both sometimes don’t follow convention. Our special agent doesn’t care if his methods are acceptable or not as long as he gets good results in the end. Grad students are in the same way unconventional in such a way that they try to find new and fresh ideas in order to improve our understanding of the real world.
I hope it gives us the idea that a grad student’s life is as full of adventure as Agent 007 does. However, I do not claim that they are comparable in any way.