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10 Tips for Incoming Graduate Students

The undergraduate student I mentored for the last 1.5 years just graduated this past spring and is going on to begin graduate school this fall. He asked me what are some tips for things he should know before entering graduate school…probably not realizing exactly how loaded of a question that was. I got the same question from the undergraduate student I’ve been mentoring this summer, so I thought I’d list a few of the things that came to mind. A lot of it I think is based on the science-related graduate school experience, and it may be different in other fields of study.

Setting Your Own Goals for Graduate School

Here is a problem: attrition rates in graduate school are high and are increasing per year. The percentage of students who don’t complete graduate school can be anywhere from 20% to 60% of the cohort size (depending on which study you read). That’s 20% to 60% of college graduates not reaching their original career aspirations.

So the question is, why do these students, who have excelled in their studies throughout their lives, suddenly decide to quit? Could it be that they were wrong? Maybe not wrong, but that they needed to take a step back for some perspective? Will some of them return to graduate school? Will they spurn higher education? What’s next for this well-educated and overqualified population?

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