Monday, August 25, 2008

Advice for first year graduate students

About now, most graduate Economics programs are starting. Time for me to give some advice on how to survive this first year.

The first year is going to be a grueling experience. Never before were you so challenged. You may have flown through your classes before, you may have been the first in class. Not anymore. Within a year, you are supposed to be literate in economic research, within a second year ready to contribute to the frontier of research. This is a very short time that will require substantial commitment. Be prepared to spend long hours studying. Do not fall behind. Work with fellow students, not against them. Look beyond the technical aspects of your classes and build up your economic intuition. Attend seminars. Seek contact with faculty beyond the classroom. Do not worry about thesis topics during the first year, but keep an eye open.

The most difficult time is probably going to be in December, where you will be doubting why you are getting into such a stressful adventure. Everyone goes through such a depression, and it is only those who manage to work past this episode who will be successful. So be aware that you will have doubts. Grow over them.

If you are married or in a relationship, it will suffer. Foreign partners get bored of neglect and should seek contact with other spouses in such a situation, or look into taking classes of their own. Still set aside some social time, even if it is just with fellow students. Graduate programs are very multicultural, it is great to learn about other cultures (and foods).

But not everything is stress, doom and gloom during the first year. You will learn exciting stuff, meet exciting people and build relationships that will last for a lifetime, both personal and professional. This is an exciting year where you are building the foundations for decades to come. Make the most of it!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree, my first your of graduate school was my most stressful one. But it was also the best and most memorable one.