Skip to:

Deanna Montgomery's blog

Open Letter to a New Grad Student

Dear New Grad Student,

Sorry I didn’t catch your name. We met a few months ago at a poster session during an internal symposium. Though my work is significantly outside your field, you showed an unfettered interest in my project. It didn’t surprise me when I asked if you were a grad student and you answered, “Uh… yeah, I guess” and informed me that you had graduated mere weeks prior to our conversation. I couldn’t help but smile as I remembered times when I too was a sponge for knowledge.

Do your best to hold on to that unbridled enthusiasm for as long as you can. Grad school will steal it from you if you let it. But grad school can also feed it.

Unusual Advice: Take a Class Outside Your Field

As a third-year Ph.D. student, having finished all of my required courses and much to the confusion of many of my friends and colleagues, I decided to take an additional class during a semester when I already had little time to spare. While there were times that my schedule regretted it because of my love-hate relationship with over-commitment, I found this experience of my graduate career to be one that I would not trade.

Here are some of the reasons why I stand by my decision and encourage you to consider doing the same:

I Changed Research Groups and the World Didn't End - Part 2: Limbo

During my first week as a graduate student, I was inundated with resources from about a week of orientation sessions. Among the stacks of papers that I accumulated that week was a hardcopy of this mentoring guide published by Rackham. I remember thinking it looked potentially useful and briefly thumbing through it. But instead of being closely studied, the guide ended up in the middle of a stack of other papers which I had accrued at the same time, and my busy grad student life went on. As a burgeoning Ph.D. student, I had no concept of the real importance of good mentorship.