Michael's CSU Stan

The Musings of a Graduate Student of English: Rhetoric & Composition

Five Things I Wish I’d Done In Grad School

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Top Five Things  I Wished I’d Done In Grad School

Alexia’s recent list of the top  movies and songs from the 80’s inspired me to do a list of a different sort  to help prospective or current  graduate students.


A big part of what you are doing in graduate school is building your academic resume (CV). Conferencing isn’t required, but professors (or would be professors) are expected to both research within the discipline and present that research in conference. This is more or less a glaring omission from my CV that I put off because of my own personal hang ups with crowds and public speaking.

Applying for a Graduate Assistantship Award

The Center for Excellence in Graduate Education offers a competitive grant for individuals to perform research with a sponsoring professor. It is fairly competitive, with only about 1/3 to 1/2 of applicants receiving the award. It’s another thing I wish I’d applied for, although I’m not really sure how I would have managed it with my other responsibilities.

Written a Thesis

One of the reasons I went to graduate school is because I thought I would have to write a thesis. Sounds strange, I know, but I wanted the mandate so I would be forced to set aside the time to write. Only problem, RTW doesn’t require a thesis, and there is no way I can make myself do something extra just for the heck of it. I simply don’t have the time. Still, it’s something I wish I had to my credit when finishing school.

Stayed Longer

Come May, I will have finished the program in two years. If I would have opted for three years (which was actually my original plan), I would have likely been able to teach more classes, enter more contests, apply for a Graduate Assistantship, conference, etc. Two years isn’t that long. Not really, and my first year was spent simply getting accustomed to the discipline and understanding what exactly you are actually supposed to do in  graduate school. If I had another year, I could do more of those things that actually count toward finding a job. And, technically, I could stay another year, but I’m not really at a point in my life where I can just work another  year (largely for free or at an expense) to build a resume. Which brings me to my final point.

Gone Earlier

Perhaps my biggest regret is simply being so damn old–at least by student standards. Off hand, I’d say about 80 percent of my cohort  are in their early or mid 20s. I’m 32. Those six or seven years might not seem like much, but a lot happens in six or seven years. Houses happen, spouses happen, kids happen. Many (though not all) of the other students aren’t married, don’t have kids, and have lives much more conducive to graduate study and the lack of resources such study is usually synonymous with.  Don’t get me wrong–I’m glad I went, but I should have gone earlier.

One Comment

  1. I think if you ask any grad student what their list is, they would give you one. I definitely have mine! I realized though, that I did everything I was supposed to do in my program and it helped me grow as an individual, which is invaluable.

    I think that while these things you listed are important, you have also done so many things to be proud of while you were in your program, for starters, you have taught, which is awesome! That’s one of the things on my list, I wish I had taught more during the program.

    You can always conference when you start teaching as a faculty member :)

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