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3 Ways You Can Completely Blow Your Midterm

Even if you aren’t the best test-taker, there are some simple ways you can improve your readiness for graduate school midterms and finals. Conversely, there are always some ways to “blow it.” The key is always preparation—graduate school requires a lot more of it than undergrad. Don’t let any of these mistakes ruin those big exams and hurt your graduate school success!

Don’t ever cram the night before

Graduate school midterms are not the type of test you can successfully cram for in one 24-hour period—taking any test exhausted is a surefire way to wind up with bad scores. Make sure you are sleeping regularly at least six hours a night in the weeks leading up to midterms. Information “sticks” in your brain better if it is revisited in short bursts over an extended period of time, and you will only be able to memorize so much information in a short span of time.

Be extra neat on your scantron or grid

By the time you get to graduate school, you will have taken hundreds of tests that use a scantron or grid-in. A number two pencil lets you mark in each answer and allows for professors to grade multiple choice questions quickly and efficiently. Though most midterms now also require a short answer or essay portion, make sure to be cautious with the grid. Bubble in your choices fully and darkly so that there is never any confusion as to which choice is intended. If you need to erase and change an answer, always erase neatly and as completely as possible. It may sound silly, but many students still miss one or two answers due to machine error. The neater you are, the better likelihood of that not happening!

Cheaters never prosper

The best graduate schools are institutions with strong academic policies and extremely strict cheating punishments. Whether it’s on a multiple-choice midterm or a thesis essay, don’t ever, ever cheat. We’ve all heard the phrase, “cheaters never prosper,” and it’s true! Character and integrity is part of what you came to grad school to build, and cheating doesn’t prepare you for success beyond academia. On a practical level, there is no guarantee that on test day, the person you are cheating off knows the correct answers, or that the person whose essay you copy is any more convincing than your own thoughts would be. If you are caught cheating, it could lead to a serious blight on your academic records, and you could even be dismissed from the school. Trust that you are capable of doing well on your own!

How to Stay Motivated

Motivation may be key to success, but it’s also one of the most difficult keys to acquire!

I’m one of those people who feel really motivated after accomplishing just one thing, because it makes me want to accomplish everything else that I have to do. Then, once I’m done with all my work, I get this weird feeling because I want more, but by the time I get it, the motivation has passed and it takes me forever to get started again.

Below you’ll find some problem-solving aids I’ve implemented to help keep my motivation (or create it).

Make lists.

Something about having everything I need to get done in the next day or two written down makes me want to sit down and do it all. A lot of the time, we psych ourselves out by thinking we have such a huge workload that we get overwhelmed, but once it’s all written down it doesn’t seem that bad.

Knowing the work won’t be as time consuming or difficult as I initially thought is a huge motivator!

Tackle easy things first.

This is so important!

If you start with the most time consuming and difficult task, you’re going to drain all of your energy, and the smaller things may not get done.

Go for the easiest, quickest of your tasks first so that the accomplishment will motivate you for the harder tasks to come. This way, you’ll also ensure that you won’t run out of time for everything else you have to do–because it will already be done.

Get help from friends.

My friends yell at me to do my work more than my parents used too.

Let your friends know when you have a lot of work to get done and what your deadlines are so they can remind you. Or, at the very least, they can not invite you to things that are more fun than sitting around doing homework so you don’t feel the urge to skip it. If that won’t work, use going out with your friends as the motivation to get your work done. Whatever works best for you.

Pat yourself on the back.

Self-validation is key to success!

There is nothing wrong with being proud of a job well done. If you get all of your work done, or even some of it, consider it a win. Don’t underestimate even the smallest victories like reading for class or writing a short paper.

Reward yourself in some small way–a break, a snack, planning something fun with friends, a Netflix hour, etc.

Fill your time with what’s important.

I hate to say it, but if you have zero motivation to tackle your workload no matter what you do, you may just have the wrong workload.

I took a class I absolutely hated last semester and never wanted to do anything that involved the subject. Luckily for me, it was just an elective, so I never have to deal with it again. But if you’re feeling this way about work that’s in your major, it may be time to reconsider your chosen field.

I hope that’s not the case, but if it is, know that that’s okay.

Hopefully these tips will keep you motivated for a strong semester. Now go get that to-do list done!

5 Things You Learn in Your First Month of Graduate School

5 Things You Learn in Your First Month of Graduate School

1. You are your own boss

When people say that grad school is what you make of it, what they really mean is that you are on your own. There will be many deadlines, assignments, and other duties, but most likely no one is going to check in with you periodically, hold your hand along the way, much less help to keep you on schedule.

Your professors and peers are all busy with their own research, publishing, and studies. To put it bluntly, no one else cares about your advancement.

Try to see the bright side of that: you have full autonomy over your academic life.

2. Setting your priorities right is crucial

While we all know that grad school can easily become a 60-hour-a-week job, very few of us are able to dedicate 100 percent of our time and energy to our studies. Most of us have at least one other, larger commitment: a spouse, children, and a job. That makes the life of a grad student a delicate balancing act.

You need to decide what roles in your life are the most important and what your non-negotiables are. Are you a mother and wife first, a working professional second, and a grad student third? Are you a researcher first, student second, TA third?

Set your priorities and decide what percentage of your time and energy you are willing to allocate to each role. If you work full-time, study part-time, and TA part-time, you may be left with only an hour a week to spend on your scholarly publishing. The sooner you make peace with that the better.

Knowing what is realistic to achieve in the time allocated to each role will help you avoid beating yourself up over not getting more done.

3. You should use your commute time well

Unlike during the undergraduate years, many of us choose to live off-campus as graduate students. As a consequence, we face long commutes, often in rush hour. It is crucial to make use of the time spent on the road.

If you are taking public transport you can finish drafting a journal article, give your presentation one more read-through, or grade student papers.

If you are driving, you can listen to an audiobook or have your phone or computer read one of your papers to you through the text-to-speech feature. Catching up on the news while commuting is also a great way to start and end your day because it gives you something current to talk about with your peers and professors.

4. Teamwork is crucial to graduate school success

While your undergraduate years were spent exploring various subjects and being graded on them by professors, your graduate studies are focused on a narrow field and you spend most of your time working alone or completing group projects with your peers.

The transition is one from pleasing your professors to proving your value to yourself and to your peer group.

5. You might not make friends with everyone and that’s fine

Just like any other social environment, your program has a variety of personalities. Some you instantly connect with and others are simply not your cup of tea. There will be people who will not talk to you and people who talk about you behind your back.

Occasionally, you might find out about group parties the next day, or may feel left out when you are sitting alone and see a large group of your peers having lunch together.

Don’t take it personally. Maybe not inviting you was a mistake, maybe they have a small house, or they needed to talk about something in private.

For whatever reason you didn’t make the cut, and that’s okay. Try to let go of your hurt and keep things professional with everyone.

Bonus Tip: Comparing yourself to others is pointless and exhausting

You are probably not the smartest person in your program. You are also not the dumbest one. You are somewhere in the middle, perhaps average. There is nothing wrong with being average among a group of advanced degree students; by definition, everyone in your program is already gifted, and probably so in an area different from your strong suit.

Therefore, competing with your peers does not make sense. The sooner you accept that you are only in competition with yourself, the sooner you can start growing and outdoing your past self.

Fast Track From Undergraduate to Graduate

Did you know you can get a head start on your master’s degree with the Fast Track Program?

The Fast Track Program is designed to enable undergraduates to accumulate up to six credit hours of graduate coursework, to satisfy both the undergraduate and graduate degree requirements, while still pursuing their undergraduate degree. The coursework will enable an efficient graduate program transition with the potential for accelerated completion.

The Fast Track B.S. to M.S./M.A. Program is open to all students. It will create a cohesive and supportive learning community for a diverse range of student populations that will assist them in the attainment of a bachelor’s degree with the immediate transition into a master’s program.

Benefits of the Fast Track Program

  • Improves chances of getting into graduate school
  • Allows students to more quickly complete their undergraduate and graduate degrees
  • Creates a clear path for goals and helps guide other class choices
  • Allows undergraduate students to interact with graduate students and teachers to get a better feel for graduate school
  • Graduate coursework will be more intensive and allow Fast Track students to experience projects and assignments that align more closely with work projects in their chosen career path
  • Allows undergraduate students to have more hands-on experience

How Much Does the Fast Track Cost

Fast Track can save you around $500 per each three hour course that you take. Additionally, Curriculum and Instruction and Counseling and Psychology waive the GRE admission requirement, which saves you over $200 per test taken.

How Do I Get Started on Fast Track?

  1. Meet with an advisor to determine Fast Track program eligibility
  2. If you are eligible, your advisor will have you fill out a request for Fast Track Course Credit Form
  3. If you are accepted into the program, you will receive a Notice of Acceptance Form
  4. Bring the Notice of Acceptance Form to the college of Graduate Studies to be signed and processed.
  5. Bring the Notice of Acceptance Form to the Records and Registration Office for processing

Current Programs in the Fast Track Program

  • Business Administration
  • Chemistry
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Counseling & Psychology
  • Computer Science
  • Curriculum & Instruction
  • Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Professional Science Masters Environmental Informatics Concentration

Presence: Showing Up is Half the Battle

Imagine this scenario.

As everyone in the office huddles around, it’s catch up time after the holiday. Larry discusses how big the turkey was during Christmas dinner. A few minutes in, your mind starts to wander: “Did I take out the trash?”, “While I was looking down the microscope, did that cell run off the slide?” Then suddenly, consciousness returns and everyone is looking at you, “Oh…uh…yes!” A wave of embarrassment hits you, but you find yourself drifting off again a few minutes later. This happens to all of us. However, there’s a common problem this phenomenon stems from. It’s a lack of personal investment that individuals are willing to have in conversations or life.

Are you paying attention?

The main thing is that people within a conversation or meeting tune out. They stop caring about what the other people are saying. Instead of stopping them to switch topics or to something more substantial, they listen half-heartedly with glazed eyes. This is tragic for both you and the people around you. Not only does it mean that we aren’t connecting with each other on a meaningful level, it means that we are uninterested in staying in the present. We aren’t paying attention anymore.

This is a larger problem now that we have cell phones. Have you ever been in a conversation and had one person whip out his/her cell phone? Although it seems acceptable, it is rude and unflattering. You are non-verbally telling the person, “You are not worth my time.”

Presence is crucial

You may think this is yet another elitist ranting about how technology is ruining things. However, hear me out…I swear it isn’t. The main point is that we miss out on many connections and opportunities because we aren’t present in the moment. When we are, devoting both our time and attention to someone, it’s noticed and appreciated. The conversation becomes much deeper than the surface level, “How about that weather?”

Have a big name in the field that you want to network with? You’re going to have to be present and show them you value their presence. This is vastly overlooked and has led to many lost connections. I guarantee that if you stay present in a conversation, meeting, etc., your impact and words will hold much greater weight. And as an added benefit, the potential for strong connection and networking increases dramatically.

A challenge and some tricks for staying present

It’s tempting to take out our phone whenever we’re bored. Instead, I offer a challenge. I suggest you try something different. Next time you’re waiting in line, observe the situation around you. How is the building decorated? Is music playing, if so what is it? Who are the people around me and what are they doing? Have a casual conversation with the people waiting around you, be curious about how they live. Basically, if you practice awareness and presence within your everyday life, staying present becomes easier.

When you’re transitioning to greater presence in conversations, there are a few tricks you can use. The first trick is to swap the topic of conversation into something both parties (i.e. you and the other person) are interested in and would find valuable. If you stay present in the conversation, you can catch whenever you or others start to glaze over. When you do this, you can pull them back into being present with you.

The second trick is used if they are discussing something that takes some time to get through. In these situations, focus on the feeling in your toes. Seriously. Whenever you feel like you’re drifting off, focus on the feeling in your toes for a few seconds. What’s going on down there? Is it hot or cold? By focusing on the feelings in your extremities, you can bring yourself back in the present by reminding you what is going on in the moment. It reminds you that you’re standing in space with other people. These tricks take practice, however they work extremely well to maintain the opportunity for connection.

Staying present is awesome

It may seem like this is superficial, but I assure you it isn’t. If you practice being present, not only are your networking and connection opportunities going to improve, you will also be happier. You will be more aware of life and what is going on around you. By becoming more present, you will appreciate the people around you and improve upon your own life.

Relationships With Professors in Grad School

The relationship between professors and students is important.  The development of strong relationships between professors and students may result in the accumulation of more knowledge, the achievement of a higher grade point average, and the promise of post-graduate support in the form of letters of recommendations or even job opportunities.

In short, developing strong relationships with your professors may enhance the graduate school experience making it fun, enjoyable, satisfying, and successful.

What do Grad School Professors Expect from their Students?

To build a strong relationship with your professors, it is useful to understand what many of them might expect of you as a student. College professors expect their students, especially their graduate students, to be independent, responsible, and trust-worthy adults. They expect them to do good work, participate in class, and take responsibility for their own actions and outcomes. While professors care about their students’ grades, they do not necessarily feel responsible for ensuring students achieve them—rather, professors place the onus on students to do all of the things they need to do to earn their academic success.

At the same time, professors want to be available to students to help them navigate the sometimes confusing and challenging world of graduate level academia. Most professors want their students to succeed, and are willing to do whatever they need to meet their students half-way. They typically work hard on preparing lectures, exams, and assignments, and they expect students to do their part by participating in class, studying hard, and completing their work on time and with integrity.

Five Things to do to Develop Strong Relationships with Your Grad School Professors

By knowing what many professors expect of their students, you can begin to take steps to develop strong relationships with your professors. The following is a list of five things to do to help you develop a strong relationship with each of your graduate school professors:

1. Be a good student in and out of the classroom.

Attend all of your classes, arrive on time, participate, and complete your work with discipline and integrity. Be kind, respectful, and considerate to your classmates and professors, even if you disagree with their opinions or don’t like them personally.

2. Make appointments to meet with your professors during their office hours within the first week of classes.

Prior to the meetings, read the syllabus for each class, make a list of questions, and develop some idea of what level of commitment you’re willing to give to each class. Then, during your appointments, introduce yourself, ask meaningful questions, and tell your professors what they can count on from you during the semester.

3. If you have specific needs, tell your professors within the first week of classes.

Let them know if you anticipate struggling with any of the material, if you have a learning disability, or if you have any special needs or requests. Also, if you know you will be missing any classes during the semester, let your professors know early on and plan on reminding them closer to the date(s) of absence(s). Once you have been absent, take responsibility for obtaining missed notes, assignments, and lectures.

4. At the beginning of each semester, thoroughly read the syllabus for each class.

Syllabi act as a contract between professors and students. Most professors devote a significant amount of time making their syllabi comprehensive, informative, and user-friendly so students are fully aware of the rules, guidelines, and regulations governing the class. Attention and adherence to the syllabus will promote a smooth, productive, and successful semester.

Take note of each professor’s attendance, grading, and participation policies and make sure you understand the materials, classwork, and homework required for each class. Throughout the semester, follow the syllabi’s coursework outlines and ask questions if you feel lost or confused. Syllabi, when used appropriately, allow you to take charge of your own learning.

5. Treat your professors as partners in your education rather than as people who are responsible for your success.

Actively engage in class and consistently complete your classwork, homework, and larger assignments on time and with integrity. Be prepared for classes, stay awake and alert during classes, and use your classes to develop a deeper understanding of the courses’ subjects. Also, treat your professors with kindness and respect by using class time to learn, taking positive advantage of your professors’ office hours, and utilizing resources made available to you.

By taking these five steps and acting as a responsible student, you will likely develop strong relationships with your professors. If taking these five steps fails, listen closely to your professors’ guidance and ask questions about how to best succeed in class. Most professors are committed to their students’ success and are willing to develop relationships with students who work hard and demonstrate a willingness to take responsibility for their education.

Important Things to Know Before Starting Graduate School

There are always things that students wish they had known before entering a program.

Graduate school is both an incredibly challenging and rewarding time in a person’s life. As with any challenge you take on, it’s wise to be prepared. Oftentimes, some of the best people to help you along the way are the ones who’ve already been through the process.

What is troubling, however, is how little information young adults know about what is involved in earning a graduate degree that can be expensive and a huge time commitment. No one should pursue a graduate degree without a lot of research and soul searching.

Here are some of the things you should know about grad school before you forge ahead:

1. Don’t be in a hurry

There’s rarely a good reason to go to grad school immediately after earning a bachelor’s degree, observes Andrew Roberts, an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University and the author of a fabulous book, The Thinking Student’s Guide to College: 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education. The book is primarily focused on undergrads, but it does contain advice on graduate school issues. Roberts says that it’s hard for students to know if grad school is the best option until they’ve been in the workforce for a while.

2. Don’t make grad school your default move

Students often enter grad schools without knowing much about the eventual careers to which a graduate degree could lead. The worst thing young adults can do is go to graduate school because they aren’t sure what else to do or they can’t find jobs. Grad school, after all, is often an extremely long commitment. A Ph.D., for example, can take six years.

3. Don’t expect to get a job as a professor

Even if you do survive grad school, the job market for Ph.D.’s in academia is lousy. Fabio Rojas, an associate professor of sociology at Indiana University, summed it up in one of the many blog posts that he’s written about graduate school life over the years at orgtheory.net.

Here’s one of Rojas’ observations:

The job search process is harrowing for academics…there is little guarantee that persons completing their terminal degree will land a job teaching and doing research in their area. At a top medical school, the question is if you will get the residency of your choice. At a top graduate program, it’s often doubtful that someone will be offered a job at all.

4. Life in the Ivory Tower can be a grind

Grad programs are hard work and require much more challenging coursework. Roberts notes in his book that “the course material now becomes, to a considerable extent, technical, insider reading—that is, dense, abtruse, jargon-filled works polished in academic journals and by university presses. …You will not be tempted to recommend your reading lists to friends outside your field.”

Fabio warns about “toxic” grad programs where departments provide no support for students and seem happy to pit students against each other. He describes the most common grad program as one guilty of “benign neglect.” A few good students get support from professors, but most don’t.

5. Ask intelligent questions

If none of this dissuades you, here are some questions that William Pannapacker, an associate English professor at Hope College, in a column in The Chronicle of Higher Education, suggested would-be graduate students ask before selecting a program:

  1. What kind of financial support can a student expect to receive during the entire course of the program?
  2. How much educational debt do graduates leave with?
  3. How many discussion sections and courses are graduate students required to teach in order to receive a stipend each year?
  4. What is the average annual teaching load for graduate students?
  5. How many years does it typically take to graduate?
  6. How long are graduates on the academic job market?
  7. Where is every graduate employed in academe and in what positions: tenure track, visiting, adjunct?
  8. Where are graduates working, if not in academia?
  9. Does the program lead to appealing career paths outside of academe?
  10. What percentage of students earn doctorates?
  11. How many earn master’s degrees?
  12. What reason do students drop out?

New TTU Student Orientation

Welcome to Tennessee Tech University!

For those of you who are going to be graduate students here at Tech, this post if chock-full of resources to help guide you along the path of graduate school.

First of all, make sure to come to the New Graduate Student Orientation on August 23rd in Johnson Hall Auditorium Room 103.  Get your Eagle Card from 3:30-4:30 in the UC, then join us from 4-5 for a “Campus Service Office Fair” in Johnson Hall and we’ll follow the fair with a formal program from 5-6.  At 6:00 we will enjoy appetizers and meeting with existing graduate students.

There, you will not only be able to meet fellow grad students in the program, but you will also meet the faculty and staff who will help support you on your journey. The orientation is designed to help familiarize you to campus and academic resources as well as Cookeville as a whole. The following information covers all of the important links and reminders for new graduate students.

Checklist and Reminders for New Students

Things to Do

  1. Financial Aid: Make sure all paperwork is in order.
  2. Graduate Assistantship: Applications can be found at www.tntech.edu/graduatestudies/financial
  3. Student Email Account: Sign in, it’s the main method of contact by the university.
  4. Advisement: Contact the person listed on your Certificate of Admission.
  5. Register: Login to Eagle online and register for courses.
  6. Parking permit: Get a permit if you will be parking on campus.
  7. Complete Admission Requirements: If you lack any requirements for admission, it will be indicated on your Certificate of Admission. All admission requirements must be meet by the end of the first semester or a registration hold will be placed on your account.
  8. Advisory Committee: Start thinking about which faculty members you want.
  9. Forms: Go to the Graduate Studies website and click on the FORMS link and familiarize yourself with the forms we have available.
  10. International students: Check in with the International Education office.

Things to Be Aware of

  1. Permissible Loads: There are limits in some situations.
  2. Grades: Know what grades are required to avoid dismissal or probation.
  3. Program of Study and Admission to Candidacy forms: You’ll need to file one by the end of the semester in which you will earn 15 credit hours of graduate level courses. Failure to turn in your program of study by this time will result in a registration hold.
  4. Admission to Candidacy: Find out what the process is for your degree.
  5. Changes: Learn how to make changes and the proper forms to use.
  6. Degree Completion Time Limits: Six consecutive years to complete a master’s or specialist in education; eight consecutive years to complete a doctorate.
  7. Comprehensive Exam: Learn about your department and degree’s comprehensive exam (when, where, and how).
  8. Thesis/Dissertation: TTU has a specific format for theses and dissertations. Attend a workshop before you begin writing.
  9. Graduation: You must apply for graduation in the semester you plan to complete your degree. All applications are due by the published deadline posted on our Graduate Student Calendar by semester.

Other Academic Links:

Graduate Student Handbook

Student Affairs

Graduate Student Calendar

Graduate Studies Faculty Contact Info

Tennessee Tech News

Campus Resources

Campus Map

Tennessee Tech Library

Health Services

Dining Options

Fitness Center

Cookeville Links



Map of Cookeville Recreation

Cookeville Events

5 Ways You Can Save Money in Grad School

Many people entering their first year of graduate study experience anxiety over how they are going to pay for their education and make ends meet while they pursue their degree. There is no denying the fact that most graduate students do experience financial challenges, but there are several cost cutting solutions graduate students can employ to bank some extra savings before starting school.

1.Get a second job

While this is definitely easier said than done, one of the best ways to save money is to earn more. But before you submit an application at your local chain restaurant consider more appealing or less stressful employment options. Look into freelance opportunities, tutoring, or even dog-sitting. Find creative ways to earn extra cash doing the things that you love.

2.Live with a roommate or your family

Save on rent and other living expenses by getting a roommate or living with a family member. While giving up some of your privacy is a significant sacrifice, the savings gained by sharing the burden of rent, food, cable and internet costs may outweigh the minor inconvenience of sharing your living space. Plus having a roomie can be fun.

3.Buy used

Head to the local thrift shop or cruise yard sales to find deals on necessary items. Yard sales and online consumer to consumer marketplaces are a great way to find gently used items. Bonus – cruising yard sales can be a good way to enjoy some free fun, who doesn’t like spending time outdoors picking though other peoples stuff.


Save money on gas by living close to public transportation or in an area that has many amenities within walking distance. If you can figure out a way to live without a car all together, you can save a significant amount of money by eliminating monthly car payments and insurance costs.

5.Eat Smart

Don’t go out to eat, and if you do try to take advantage of specials and coupons. Save money by sharing meals with your dinner dates. When you go grocery shopping, avoid expensive meats opt for frozen veggies, and healthy pastas, this frugal diet may even save you inches on your waistline.

Saving money is never easy, but the correct motivation, such as your future as a graduate degree holder, may help you to make the short term sacrifices necessary to achieve long term success. When you feel the urge to splurge take the time to consider if the expense is worth it in the long run.