What To Do The Summer Before Grad School

4 minute read


Recently, I received a lot of query from the incoming students of the Ph.D. program on how to prepare for the grad school before school officially starts. The followings are some of my thoughts.

Before starting with my advice, I would like to congratulate you on getting in to a Ph.D. program. Regardless if you are in your dream program now, I want to say you worked hard, and give yourself a round of applause.

Last thing before starting my advice, I would make a disclaimer. My advice only reflects my personal experience. I will try to generalized to accomodate all students from different background. But I acknowledge limitations exist.

, and likely does not generalize well to other discipline or people from other background. But I still have faith that some points in these advice would help you. And also, all my perspectives are based on my own career goal, which is staying in academia, and interest in semi-theoretical biostatistics. If you have different goals, I can give you other hints otherwise.

The advice start here:

First of all and most importantly, ENJOY YOU LIFE. For most of time, preparing grad school is a labor intensive work, and it is also mentally exhausting. Similar to any sports activity, after a major event, athelete needs some time to recover from the fatigue. You can decide how long you need to recover, couple days to couple monthes. it differs from individual to individual. So take the time you need. There are at least another four year of hard working ahead of you. And you want to be physically and mentally ready for it.

After you have enough break, lets get back to some conceptually easy but important mind rehab exercise, planning. I am a firm believer of planning. I think a descent plan can navigate through difficulties easier than no plan. The plan doesn’t have to be perfect, rather provide you an opportunity to think thoroughly. Before planning, you want to set up some objectives for your graduate study. Here are some question you can ask yourself.

  • In how many years you want to graduate?
  • What do you want to do after your graduation? What type of jobs are you looking for
  • What are the quality that you have already had for the job requirement, what are the quality that you don’t have? in term of hard limits: # of publications, programming skills, etc.
  • Is there any soft skills that you would like to improve during your graduate training? Public speech skills, leadership skills, scientific writing.

Another way to think this is to do a SWAT analysis to yourself.

With all these SWAT lay out, you can start to draft some action plan and details

Another thing.

  1. Advices to how to prepare to start a. ENJOY YOUR SUMMER BREAK!!! Yout have worked hard to get to this step(, even if UAB is not your dream school). You should be proud of yourself, and reward yourself with some leisure time. b. Setting up a semi-detailed 3/4/5-year plan for yourself. Imagining what you would like to do after your graduation, and plan backwards. The more detail the plan is, the better. (You can share with me if you want) c. Go over the faulty list here to find a person/persons whose research interests align with yours if you have one d. (Optional) If you enjoy reading, you can actually find this book(Graduate Research : A Guide for Students in the Sciences) and read e. (Optional) Read papers that interests you (Brainstorm ideas for your dissertation)
  2. Comps(if you mean qualifying exam): considering you have a MS degree in statistics, the comp should not be very hard. But be respectful, spend part of your time preparing when you are taking it.
  3. Thesis advisors: any body here is super friendly and treat you as an adult, which I mean treat you well. So their research interests should be the thing you should really focus on. Do you have your research interest established?

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