5 essentials for your grad school survival kit

Calvin CoolidgeWelcome back all. I hope your past few months were productive and restful. I had a blast.

When I was thinking about easing back into the blogging thing, I thought it good to return to first principles. And what could be more first principlish than a set of fives–the first five things a grad student should add to her psycho-social-survival kit as she walks through those ivy-covered doors. So here goes…

  1. The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People–Success in any enterprise starts with deciding on your strategy. What are your goals, what do you want to accomplish? Stephen R. Covey’s guide is still the best there is toward starting this part of your journey.
  2. Getting Things Done–Once you know your goals, you still need to implement them. We all know folks who think big but never finish anything because they can’t seem to get organized. David Allen’s book is perhaps the best there is in setting you on the mindset toward being effective.
  3. Bird by Bird–To succeed in science you have to write. For most of us, writing is hard. Think of it Anne Lamott’s short book as “Getting Things Done” for writers. It will change your life. Really.
  4. The EEB Dialectic–In the 1970’s, two fellow grad students, Steven Stearns and Ray Huey, produced two documents that live on as the best introductions to the psychodrama that is grad school. Stearn’s “Some modest advice for graduate students” is a bit hard-edged (its first pearl of wisdom, “Always Prepare for the Worst”, sets its tone rather nicely). But all of it rings true. Huey’s “Some acynical advice for graduate students” begins with the not-so-opposite-as-it-may-sound premise “Always Expect the Best” then rolls on from there. This will be the most informative 20 minutes you spend in graduate school. Print this out and put it somewhere where you’ll encounter it every once in a while. I suggest the bathroom.
  5. Your hipster PDA and a nice pen–‘Cause you never know when inspiration will hit and you won’t have a copy of The EEB Dialectic to peruse.

Finally, remember to keep your perspective. Sometimes you have to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

ht Matt Groening


11 Responses to 5 essentials for your grad school survival kit

  1. Katrine says:

    Dr K. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I think I love you. And Stephen and Steven and Ray and Anne.

  2. Matt says:

    Yeah, me too Dr. K.

    I’m still not sure about those other folks though…

  3. Andre says:

    Welcome back, Mike. I forwarded this entry to all the grad students in my philosophy department. I amended two items on writing: Zinsser’s On Writing Well (which has on several occasions inspired me to drop the book, mid chapter, and write–even at 1am), and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style (for quick bursts of mimicry).

  4. engtech says:

    Don’t forget your moleskin…

    Elements of Style should be required as well.

  5. Gideon says:

    Glad to see you back!

    Here’s a little something I wrote, though with a bit more practical aim, that you may be interested in.

    The 5 Unusual Things That Will Make Your College Life Easier

  6. Adrian says:

    I’m afraid that I now cringe when I hear people direct others towards Strunk and White’s “Elements
    of Style”. I find it a terrible book that has the propensity to produce writers who write by rule rather
    than write for clarity. There are books that, rather than present a set of rules to follow, give people the tools to learn how to write clearly and well – examples include Earnest Gowers’ “The Complete Plain Words” and Robert Graves’ “The Use and Abuse of the English Language”. If you would like to read scathing abuse of Stunk and White, then wander over to the Language Log blog where they periodically eviscerate that odious little tome.

  7. […] 5 essentials for your grad school survival kit […]

  8. Great list. “The Wealthy Barber” by David Chilton is a good one too. It’s really short and easy to read, but provides some great insights on saving, managing, and growing your money for future.

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  11. […] goals is one thing, you need to work out a plan and take the steps to reach them. As Mike Kaspari says “We all know folks who think big but never finish anything because they can’t seem to get […]

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