If you just began graduate school this past August, then you’ve probably settled in by now. You’ve spent time studying and collaborating with members of your cohort. You’ve learned how far it is from your makeshift office or cramped grad lounge to each of your classes. Maybe you’ve learned enough from your professors to ask them for advice on your assignments or ongoing research efforts.
The faculty and staff members working around you comprise just one of the resources you have access to as a grad student. There are quite a few resources, if you haven’t noticed. And if you have noticed, you’ve probably fretted over this question – what resources do I need to know?
Your Own Graduate Program
All the resources we’re about to give you are general resources for the larger graduate student population. They’ll give you plenty of help, but they’ll only give you general help. And because you’ll encounter specific issues, you’ll have to look for the specific resources in your own graduate program.
- Your Graduate Handbook: This light package of heavy reading has probably answered all the questions you might ask about academic procedures, funding opportunities, and degree requirements. If you’re unclear about how your degree plan operates, start here and see what you can clear up.
- Your Graduate Office: Here’s where you’ll probably find more specific and human faces for your questions. A handbook is standard-issue for all students, while the staff in the graduate office will address your particular needs.
- Your Graduate Advisor: Your advisor will likely be the most important faculty connection you have as a graduate student. They might not be as accessible as the graduate office staff, but they’ll know more about research and employment concerns. And this connection gives room for a good relationship: the sooner and more often you make time to meet with your faculty member, the better your relationship can become.
- Your Nearest Library: When you begin your research, you’ll need all the help you can find. That includes all the help you can find about finding help. Your library’s database isn’t always as user-friendly as it might appear. A librarian will know how to help you guide and specify your searches, which will in turn streamline how you support your research with existing literature. Visit the library’s website or drop by in person to see if there are any upcoming tutorials, or just email a librarian directly. Librarians do more than just glare at the students who speak too loudly in the stacks.
- Your Graduate Emails: It doesn’t make sense to list those mass-send emails we all receive, does it? We barely read them. But skimming them might help you out. After all, they hold the information on coming lectures, seminars, and experts that’ll visit campus soon, which you’d be hard-pressed to find more easily. Not every mass email is worthwhile to you specifically, but a few of them will present new opportunities you might’ve wanted to know more about. And if you’re not receiving any of these emails, contact your graduate office to make sure that’s fixed.
National Association of Graduate-Professional Students
This organization compiles dozens of useful graduate student resources within a single website, all because its members want to help their fellow graduate students any way they can (since 1987, as a matter of fact). They’ve created a pool of resources available to both its members and non-members:
- Financial information (where to find grants, scholarships, fellowships, and loans)
- Thesis assistance (advice on the writing, the citations, and the revisions)
Career assistance (tips on resume-writing and access to current job postings)
This resource page will expose you to dozens of websites, articles, and guides which we don’t have the room to cover here. You might not find the exact answers to your specific problem, but this overview will put you in the best direction. The NAGPS also lobbies for legislative change on behalf of American graduate students, and their advocacy positions include employment security, campus safety and social justice.
The Grad Resources website offers more personalized resources that grad students might need in their lives apart from classes and research. Its founders understood in 1998 that graduate life could take a heavy toll on grad students, and in 1998 they launched the Grad Crisis Line. In our flurry of work and academic pressures, we can ignore mounting stress to unhealthy levels. That’s why Grad Resources designed its crisis line and waiting counselors to help anyone who calls.
Grad Resources is a faith-based organization, with its own Christian Grads Fellowship. But its mission to “enable graduate students to flourish personally and professionally” means that anyone who calls the line is welcome. And beyond the crisis center, Grad Resources offers two more graduate supports:
- Grad life articles (detailing work-life balance, financial security, and other areas)
- On-call mentors (registered students can get in-touch with current and former grad students for advice and encouragement)
A graduate workshop looks just a little misleading with its word choice. There’s plenty of work, but shop suggests a clean and easy purchase. So think instead of the middle school shop class you might’ve taken, where you brought in a few skills and learned to wrangle different parts into something presentable.
That metaphor is the outline for graduate workshops, and the exact details will vary. Create a rough calendar from whatever those listserv emails, grad school fliers and advisor recommendations include. As with many graduate school resources, the variety can seem overwhelming. Here are a few topics you can expect to find:
- Stress management
- Resume preparation
- Citation practice
- Time management
- New technologies
Keep an eye out for the topics that could help your development. If you find one online, make sure to check its description, since these events often require you to RSVP, or to bring something (a resume, a copy of a thesis) to work on during the workshop. These events often crop up through career service or counseling centers, and so if you’re worried you’re missing out on grad-specific events, contact these offices on your campus.
Remember that these resources are designed especially for you as a graduate student. The amount can seem overwhelming, but there’s always a way in. And the sooner you begin to see what’s out there, the sooner you’ll be able to find and implement what’s useful to you.
As tempting as it might be, don’t withdraw from those around you--graduate advisors, graduate staff and established graduate students will likely be happy to help you if you reach out. And you should reach out; all these supports only support you when you take the first step in using them.