Department of English

Preparing Yourself Personally

  • Characteristics of successful graduate students:

      • Perseverance; stamina; desire to contribute to the intellectual life of the community; intelligence; self-discipline; self-motivation; good time management skills; not easily intimidated or discouraged; patience; creativity; tolerance for solitude; an impressive academic performance as an undergraduate; a very strong interest in your major field. (Goldsmith, Komlos, and Gold 16-17)

  • Try to enter graduate school with the fewest possible encumbrances (financial and personal): your academic work will demand so much of your time and energy that it can be very hard to cope with other demands. At the same time, it's important to preserve your support network. Talking to people outside academia--or even just outside your department-can help you keep your perspective.

  • Graduate school will be very different from your undergraduate experience here at UWSP. For one thing, most graduate courses are devoted less to learning content than to learning methodology: how to do original research; how to work with theories; how to formulate and defend original interpretations of literary works; how to situate your work in relation to that of other scholars. In most seminars, for example, the whole group will work collectively to investigate a topic or problem. Instead of having a professor lay it all out for you, you will be participating in the creation of knowledge. Instead of just listening and taking notes, you will be required to get actively involved in the research, thinking, and talking. Much of your work will be independent, only minimally guided by your professors, who will expect you to take a lot of initiative.

  • Being a graduate student is like working several full time jobs. It is very stressful. It can also be tremendously rewarding to feel that you and your work are being taken so seriously.

  • You may sometimes feel that you are under significant pressure to "prove yourself," particularly during the first year of a Ph.D. program. The department/university has a lot invested in its graduate students (both money and prestige). You may feel pressured to conform to departmental expectations at the expense of your own. Try not to lose sight of the fact that you have your own goals and motives, and do not really owe anyone anything--except yourself.

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