17th Grade: What We Wish We Had KnownOpinion ·
Edited by Maedbh King
A new cohort has recently joined the psychology graduate program and it has all of us reminiscing about our first day in 17th grade. We asked the current graduate students to offer their pearls of wisdom on staying afloat and succeeding over the coming years. They had a lot to say!
FYI: While some of this information is specific to the program at UC Berkeley, a lot of the advice is pertinent to all graduate students, regardless of university or discipline.
- Your health is #1. Period. We all struggle with guilt around productivity, but this is your life! And life doesn’t stop in grad school! Learn to practice self-care.
- Take time to exercise and sleep (at least 8 hours). You can think a lot faster and won’t need those 10 cups of coffee.
- If you do happen to need that 10 cups of coffee, go on some coffee breaks with friends/lab mates. It’s good to get a few minutes of human interaction in the middle of a stressful day.
- Workload ebbs and flows use the ebbs to grow your life and try not to worry about the oncoming flow.
- Have a general idea beforehand of the work/life balance you intend to have (especially for most weekends)
- Take time to organize events outside of lab with other students and make it a rule NOT to talk about research during them - the bonds you make with people here make life much better and the human connections you make will be every bit as important as those with advisors, faculty, etc.
- Remember that grad school isn’t pre-life, you will go through many life transitions over the next few years and it’s important to dedicate time to those as well.
Relationship with your PI:
- Set expectations early with your PI about how much is required for a dissertation (e.g. 2 papers, 3 projects, etc.)
- Every project you take on will be with you for much, much longer than you initially anticipated. Pick your project wisely, if you’re not super excited about it now, you will hate it by the end.
- You should seek out advice (maybe even collaborations) with other PIs and labs. It is good to have other faculty members on your team especially if your PI is not giving you the support that you need. For example, if there is a lab whose research interests you, ask to attend their weekly lab meetings or journal clubs. Eventually you may be able to present your work to them.
Relationship with your Research Assistant (RA):
- Before you hire an RA, make a plan with them about expectations, workload, time commitment. For example, what are the conditions that would merit co-authorship on a paper? Expectations may differ depending on whether the RA is a post-bac student, a thesis student etc.
- Set up a learning contract with your RA so that expectations are set very early on.
- Be aware of the power that you hold as a mentor. Even if you don’t feel that you are in a position of power (fyi: you are), it is the perception of power that matters.
Good practices (suggested):
- Take the first year to get acclimated to the program and READ - it gets harder and harder to find time to read as your research progresses.
- Your time is precious. Learn to say no. Don’t set a precedent as the person who will always pick up the slack.
- Keep everything organized and documented! Keep a running logbook if you can, and organize how you will store data, analysis, etc.
- If you find yourself doing too much admin, STOP, and consult with your PI (i.e. ask them to help out).
- Get in the habit of finishing things. Prioritize whatever is closest to being done. You will feel so much better.
- Before you sign-up to GSI, ask around about the workload and the professor’s reputation of working with GSIs. For example, does the professor provide section notes? Are you expected to attend all the lectures? How will the duties be split across the different GSIs? Make sure to work with the professor and your fellow GSIs to get this in writing before you start teaching.
- On a GSI salary you are eligible for food stamps (but it can be a long and confusing process)
- Most all of these classes have been taught before, which means that someone, somewhere should have material that you can use. Try not to reinvent the wheel. You can also check on Psychology Teaching Resources bCourses site for materials; check-in with Head GSI to get added if you have not already been given access.
- Don’t sign up for summer classes! Otherwise, you will be charged $$$. Only in very rare circumstances do people take these classes (i.e. if they need to graduate).
- Take classes in any department you want. You can almost always use them for a seminar/proseminar replacement
- Check out non-academic classes as well. There are language classes, PE classes, art classes and so on and they are free. Those are especially helpful for keeping you healthy (both mentally and physically) and motivated. Sometimes research can become frustrating.
- Some proseminars are offered less frequently than others. If there is one that is of particular interest to you, take it, as it may not be offered for another few years.
- Sign up for many listservs to receive notifications about talks. Early in grad school, you should occasionally go to some that are not immediately related to what you are doing to broaden your scope (it doesn’t have to be in psychology). It is one of the big benefits of being at an institution like Berkeley
- Speak to others who have already taken them to help have a general timeline for preparation. They are a stressful process. Speaking to others who have had mutual committee members is very helpful to get an idea of their questioning/discussion style. Meet with your QC members a few times to have a good idea of their expectations as this will make a big difference.
- Ask your committee members what questions they plan on asking. Some might be tight-lipped, but most should give you some idea.
- If professors have a reputation for being slow at responding to emails or difficult to meet, then maybe they are not the best choice for QE. You want members who are responsive and available (in person/over email).
Advice specific to Berkeley:
- Moffit library is open 24 hours if you want to do late night work without being alone in lab. It also has really comfortable couches if you want to take a nap → same with student union.
- Yoga to the People is great. They are donation based.
- Bangkok and Saigon Express are the best places to get quality food for cheap. Saigon has $3.95 bahn mi’s, and Bangkok has $7.99 lunch specials that include an entree, soup, egg roll, and satay. They also have a $2.50 beer happy hour. Bangkok also has a 10% student discount on your bill if you show them your student ID beforehand
- Trader Joe’s has $2 frozen meals. They are amazing.
- Berkeley has a ton of amazing places to hike right nearby - you can walk up the Fire Trails from campus.
- Biking is a great way to get around Berkeley/Oakland. If you want to avoid main roads (e.g. Shattuck and Telegraph), then make use of the bicycle boulevards.
- If boardgames are your thing, check-out victory point cafe. It’s located very close to the building.
- Check out the housing options in University Village, Albany. It is affordable and great if you are living with children or partners.
- Travel to Yosemite and Tahoe on some weekends. The view is just breathtaking and it’s the best way to destress.
- Use the unlimited AC transit bus pass that’s included as part of your tuition, to discover new places around the area!
- Use https://sf.funcheap.com/ to discover cheap, fun new events around you (everything is in the range of FREE to $5)