Advice:No prior graduate experience

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Advice for students with no prior graduate coursework experience

  • Don't take more than three courses at once
  • Don't try to take all of the core courses immediately
  • Evaluate your preparation for the core courses with the comprehensive exams and our self-evaluation test
  • Find other people to help with homework and studying - people can be hard to get a hold of, but doing everything alone is next to impossible and will make life miserable

Suggested Timeline

First year:

  • Take one or two core courses per semester, and take the comprehensive exams for each after passing the course
  • Take the two seminar courses separately, sooner than later
  • Don't worry about the graduate lab course, you can put it off if you want to
  • Don't worry too much about joining a research group
    • Do be on the lookout for Summer research, even if it isn't the field you want to join
    • Do talk to professors and see about going to their group meetings to see what kinds of things they do and if you are interested
    • Don't worry about becoming a candidate (passing the oral exam), this can wait until after your third year at least

Second year:

  • Take one or two core courses, you should be done by the end of year two
  • Take all three breadth courses by the end of your second year
  • Take the PHY or AST graduate lab
  • Definitely have Summer research for your second Summer
  • Make an effort to establish Research Assistant (RA) pay from some professor
    • You will not be supported as a TA for the third year
    • You do have to find a professor yourself, there is almost no support from anywhere else in the university to help you with this
    • You should not hesitate to make yourself known and available for professors, even if they do not immediately offer you RA support
    • If you can get a professor to work with you, then you can get recommended by them to work with someone else, and if you make yourself irreplaceable for their research program then they will be much more likely to hire you

Third year and beyond:

  • You should be in a research group and being payed as an RA
  • Whatever it takes to succeed from here should be defined by your advisor and research group
  • Make sure your advisor doesn't take advantage of you, and be sure to utilize your thesis committee as a balance if needed, so that you can graduate and get a better job as soon as possible
  • Some people get hired as post-docs by their advisors, but this is often not a preferable outcome for the student