Graduate student guide to success

Student

Early

  • Attend the New Graduate Student Welcome. Meet new students and attend the resource fair. Many departments also organize orientation days for incoming students, usually the week before classes.
  • Take responsibility for your graduate career. Know the rules and what is expected of you. Familiarize yourself with graduate policies and procedures in the Graduate Bulletin. Familiarize yourself with policies for course requirements, preliminary/qualifying exams and admission to candidacy. Learn deadlines.
  • Get connected.

Middle

  • Serve on a departmental committee.
  • Serve on the executive committee of your department's graduate student organization.

Late

  • Establish or join a dissertation support group. As you write your dissertation, some of the best support will come from students who are in the middle of their dissertation as well. If your department does not offer a dissertation support group, start one.
  • Serve on the UNL Graduate Student Association executive committee.

Teacher

Early

Middle

  • Participate in the Teaching Documentation Program. Consultants can help you assess and improve teaching practices, plan and develop a teaching portfolio, and craft your teaching philosophy statement for academic job applications.
  • Consult the online Handbook for Graduate Teaching Assistants.
  • Mentor an undergraduate researcher. Inquire with the undergraduate advisor in your department or seek out opportunities through the UCARE and McNair programs.
  • Build your teaching portfolio as a collection of evidence that gives direction for growth and documents changes in your teaching.
  • Seek teaching opportunities. If you are not offered a teaching position in your department, seek out other opportunities in after school programs and local community colleges. Get involved in your department's undergraduate research efforts.

Late

Researcher

Early

  • Find a faculty mentor. Review the Mentoring Guidebook. Set short term and long term goals. Decide what you plan to accomplish during your first semester and what you want to accomplish before you graduate.
  • Develop your research interests/ideas. Take part in departmental research colloquia. Attend the UNL Research Fair.
  • Develop your public speaking and writing skills.
    • Join the local chapter of Toastmasters International.
    • Take a public speaking course.
    • Write well and publish early. Always write as if your article will be published. Seek out advice on potentially publishable articles from multiple faculty members. Don't give up if your paper is rejected; continue revising and submitting your article to journals for publication.
    • Visit the Writing Center, a free, confidential service available to all students at UNL.
    • Meet with the Library Liaison for your department to learn more about the services available to graduate students.
  • Explore internal funding opportunities. Fellowships dollars are free money that may give you more time for research or studying instead of working.

Middle

  • Take a course in the responsible conduct of research.
  • Participate in UNL's Research Fair.
  • Research grant opportunities.
  • Attend a grant writing workshop sponsored by the Office of Research. The ability to write a successful grant proposal will be an important component of your job search as you approach the end of your graduate career.
  • Apply for dissertation fellowships. At the dissertation stage of your graduate program, a fellowship can be a critical resource, especially if your research requires money for travel, equipment, supplies, and time to collect data and write.

Late

  • Write a grant proposal.
  • Apply for postdoc fellowships. Postdoctoral opportunities provide beneficial experience for recent graduates. Postdocs have the opportunity to participate in collaborative, funded research which often leads to publication.

Professional

Early

  • Explore various career paths. Seek advice from the Graduate Student Development Team on writing job-related documents and applications, academic or non-academic. We'll work with other campus offices to offer resource materials and workshops, which include the basics of an effective cover letter, delivering the "job talk" and job search strategies. Attend career development workshops and seminars.
  • Take action early. Begin building your application packet immediately by documenting your teaching experiences, identifying appropriate mentors and advisors and starting the first stages of your curriculum vita. Keep in mind that during your future job search, you will not be marketing your skills as a graduate student; you will be marketing your ability to perform as an assistant professor.
  • Develop your curriculum vita (CV). Search committees use the CV as an initial screening device to determine your "fit" with the available position, so your CV should highlight the educational and professional experiences that match the position for which you are applying.
  • Attend professional conferences. Begin networking with professionals in your field--regionally, nationally, or internationally. Travel funds may be available in some departments.
  • Develop an Individual Professional Development Plan and update it as you move through your program.

Middle

  • Join a professional association in your field.
  • Present at a professional conference. This allows you to be seen and heard by professionals in your field and may provide networking situations that will be beneficial as you search for a position after graduation.
  • Continue building your curriculum vita. Doctoral granting institutions are looking for future faculty members who publish as graduate students. Continue seeking out publication opportunities to add to your curriculum vita as you work your way through your graduate program. Candidates seeking faculty positions at non doctoral degree granting institution will need to provide evidence of teaching experience on their curriculum vita.
  • Participate in the Preparing Future Faculty program.

Late

  • Begin to finalize your application packet. As you begin seeking post graduate school employment, you will be required to submit and application typically including: cover letter, curriculum vita, sealed letters of recommendation, transcripts and other materials that will vary depending on the position. At this stage, you should be contacting your recommenders and finalizing your cover letter and curriculum vita.
  • Participate in the Preparing Future Faculty program.
  • Organize and practice job talks and arrange for a mock job interview. During the interview process, every encounter you have with faculty should be a quality encounter. Use practice job talks and mock interviews as a way to practice talking about your research and teaching experiences in variety of different time frames. Before your mock interview, meet with your advisor to discuss which questions are most common for your field and the type of institutions that have asked you for an interview.
  • Volunteer to serve on your department's faculty search committee.