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20 Rules for Grad Students to Live By

20 Rules for Grad Students to Live By

Maybe they don’t all apply to your particular situation, but it’s helpful to take a step back one in a while and think about how you approach things.

Elizabeth Hoyt

September 26, 2013

Nobody can give you a guide on how to live your life or a step-by-step manual on how to accomplish the things you strive for.

People can, however, make suggestions on how to go about your life and approach situations.

Maybe they don’t all apply to your particular situation, but it’s helpful to take a step back one in a while and think about how you approach things.

Here are twenty rules that graduate students can utilize in daily life:

1. Never rack up unnecessary debt.

While this seems like common sense, it’s important to note the word “unnecessary.” You may have no choice but to borrow to pay for school and expenses, but don’t borrow more than you need to get by.

Just because you’re able to take out a bigger loan or have a higher credit limit, doesn’t mean you should. You want to work towards financial freedom, not piling on more debt.

2. Learn to live on a budget.

You’re likely thinking, “Clearly! I have no money, so of course I am living on a budget.” What this references, however, isn’t about over-spending. It’s about the money you have to spend (everyone has expenses) and creating a plan to handle them.

Do you have all your expenses mapped out and organized so you can plan for them? There are tools that can help you do this, easily and efficiently. Also, you need to actually implement the plan you create or it won’t work. It seems obvious, but you never know…

3. Don’t neglect your health.

How can you possibly learn, think and grow as a person if your body is struggling? Try to develop healthy eating habits and avoid a take-out diet. Sorry, but this includes the over-consumption of caffeine, too.

4. Get health insurance.

You’re old enough to understand that this is necessary. If anything should ever happen, you don’t want to avoid medical care because you’re worrying about what it will cost.

5. Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep.

Sleep helps you process what you’ve learned, evaluate your thoughts and helps to refresh you for a new day. Do yourself a favor and make time for some shut-eye.

6. Never “get involved” with a mentor, likewise, never “get involved” with your students.

Hopefully this is self-explanatory, but this almost always ends badly. Maybe you’ve heard of some stories where it works out but the chances are slim. It’s usually not worth whatever hassle it will bring in the future.

7. Don’t become a hermit.

Seriously, an attempt at this just might save your sanity. Make – and keep – friends outside of graduate school. Just because you’re learning doesn’t mean you can’t have a life, too.

8. Never assume.

You know what they say about people that assume. It’s important to ask questions so you can understand concepts and learn from them.

9. Avoid undermining yourself.

Your thoughts and points are valid! Own and respect them – if you don’t, nobody else will.

10. Ask questions.

They say there is no such thing as a stupid question. While this may not be entirely true, most questions are worth asking even if they are solely for your benefit. Chances are, others have similar questions anyway.

11. Buy (or rent) the books and actually do the readings as they are assigned.

These go hand-in-hand because you can’t do the readings if you don’t have the book.

As for the readings, they were assigned for a reason. There’s obviously valuable information in there that will enhance your knowledge. If you stay on top of them, it won’t become so overwhelming.

12. Don’t hold knowledge above others.

You’re in grad school, which is a big accomplishment. Take on the mentality of sharing knowledge with others instead of holding it over their heads. That’s just an obnoxious thing to do.

13. Always have a career plan.

Chances are, you already do. But, just in case, make sure you know where you’re headed and how you’ll get there.

14. Always have a career “plan B.”

Many students continue their education to avoid the job market, in hopes that a higher degree will guarantee a position. It might help, but nothing is guaranteed. A backup plan is essential, just in case.

15. Join professional organizations.

It’s a great way to learn more about your field, network and meet others with similar interests to your own.

16. Work on writing and communication skills.

You may be the next Einstein, but nobody will know it if you’re able to articulate your thoughts clearly.

17. Be the best colleague you can be – to everyone.

Avoid gossip, volunteer to help out fellow colleagues and try to see the good in everyone. Your office relationships can potentially make or break career opportunities. Treat everyone you work with respectfully, no matter what their title.

This is actually a good rule to live by in life, as well.

18. Dress professionally – or, at the very least, like an adult.

Your appearance says a lot about you. You may think it doesn’t matter. You may think it’s OK since everyone else dresses that way.

Think about it this way: if you dress like a college kid, people will treat you like one. If you dress sloppily, people will think you’re disorganized or that you simply don’t care. (By the way, this is backed up by research on social behavior from graduate students, like you!)

Dress appropriately for your setting and, remember, it’s always better to overdress than under-dress!

19. Stay organized.

Being organized can often save you a lot of painstaking time and effort that’s avoidable. If you always know what you need to do and when you need to do it, you won’t be frazzled all the time.

20. Maintain a sense of humor.

Don’t stress and take everything so seriously. Try to enjoy your time as much as possible. If you don’t, you will regret it later!


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