Category Archives: stress management

Job Shadowing: The Do’s and Don’ts ((by Sarah))

DO

Take notes.

Tip:  Please come with notepad and pen ready.

Come with questions.

Tip: Multiple questions, prepared in advance.

Wear business casual attire.

Tip: When it doubt, keep it professional.  Or better yet, ask what attire is preferred.

Handwritten thank you cards.

Tip: Thank you cards are not a dying art, rather an art form.  Your effort will be duly noted.  No matter how terrible your scribbling may be, handwritten always adds that personal touch.   

Pro Tip: Get a business card from the GC.  That way, you have a mailing address.  Keep it in a safe place, as you never know when you may need it!  (Sometimes, it may not be until after graduate school!)

Keep in contact.  

Pro Tip: If you do not go the thank-you card route, try a thank-you email.  Then, send a follow email again once you are accepted to a program (this is always appreciated).  Then, if you want to be a super-duper star, you can even consider sending an even later follow up email once you are halfway through your program or accepted a job.  Who knows, someday you could be coworkers! 

Be highly courteous to those at the front desk.

Tip: Treat the lady (or gentleman) at the front desk the same as you would the genetic counselor.  Introduce yourself.  Thank them for their time too!

 

Don’t

 

Arrive late.

Fix: Hospitals are a challenge to navigate.  Be prepared for it to take longer than anticipated to arrive at your destination.  If you arrive over 20 minutes early, stall and get some coffee.  There is such a thing as being too early as well!

Ask to shadow last minute.

Fix: Ask at least a week in advance.

Write informally in emails.

Fix: Do not use contractions. Keep it professional.  Try using “control find (f)” for the words “like” and “very”.  These are typically fluff and can be eliminated with ease. Keep things short and to the point.     

Surprise the genetic counselors with guests.

Fix:  Even if your best friend or your mother would LOVE to see what a genetic counselor does, this does not mean that you should bring them with you.  You will someday be an independent adult, and shadowing is the first step.  You must do this solo.  Feel free to later call your mom and BFF to dish (without breaking HIPAA, of course).

Interrupt during patient sessions. 

Tip: Remember that you are truly a discreet fly on the wall.  Unless a patient speaks to you specifically, do not talk in the session.  If the genetic counselor leaves the room, follow them like a shadow (pardon the pun).  Feel free to jot some notes so that you can ask all of your questions afterwards.

Shadowing should not be used as a free genetic counseling session.

Tip: If your passion for the genetic counseling profession was sparked by your siblings diagnosis of cystic fibrosis, that is perfectly fine to share.  However, do not use your valuable time face to face with a GC to try to determine if your mother is a risk for hereditary breast cancer or early onset Alzheimer disease.  This is not the place to ask for a risk assessment, stay focused on your future career aspirations.

Getting anxious when a genetic counselor does not remember you.

Tip:  GC’s have TONS of students shadowing them.  If they do not remember you, this does not mean that you did a bad job.  In fact, it likely means that you met or even exceeded expectations.  Many genetic counselors will admit that they only remember the students who left a negative impression.  Conveniently, we have made this list so you do not end up being “bad email girl” or “the guy who brought his mom.”   

 

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M&G FAQ ((Jade M.))

Vintage image of boy raising hand in classroom

So anyway…we checked our m&g email account recently *insert embarrassment emoji*…

Yowzers, apparently we have not responded to email messages in over a year.  And some of you posed some really good, important questions.  We sincerely apologize for our oversight.  Your questions did not deserve the cyber snub treatment.

After reviewing about 50 emails, some common themes emerged.  This is great because it means we can draw some statistically significant FAQs (thesis much?) that can be addressed on this larger platform.  

So thank you for your questions!  Without further ado:

How did you choose which programs to apply to?

To answer this, you have to (1) consider and (2) pick your priorities.  Go ahead: seriously brainstorm all the factors that appertain to graduate shool-ing.  Here are some ideas to get you started: location, number of students accepted, where the rotations occur, cost of program, when you start clinical rotations, whether classes intermix with medical students, option to pursue a concurrent public health degree, whether there are housing options for rotations, public/private university, etc., etc., etc.  

After you brainstorm, step 2 is to prioritize which ones are most meaningful to you. Of course, there is no right answer, and this necessitates some soul-searching on your part.  

A couple pointers….

Before you begin, I would recommend spending time perusing all the program websites and getting a feel for each.  

Here they are (US and Canada): http://gceducation.org/pages/accredited-programs.aspx

International: http://tagc.med.sc.edu/education.asp

Do not be afraid to write down notes.  Or type up notes.  Or create crazy excel sheets like a super weirdo (you’ll eventually find out that you’re not that weird and everyone does it).

Another trick is to just start applying.  The application process is distinct for each school and therefore grueling.  You will probably subconsciously start with your favorites.  After the process wears you down, and you’re wondering whether you should apply to that last school, any motivation mustered will reflect your true interest in the program.

What happens if I do not get in the first time?

If you do not get in the first time, eat an entire carton of fro-yo, cry/journal/jog, then pick yourself up, and apply again.  Because I promise you that this scenario is not that uncommon.  I don’t have any numbers, but anecdotally, it is just not that uncommon to to not get in the first time.  Ouch, double-negative.  Plain English:  Many people do not get into a program on the first round.

The important thing here is to ensure that the “not getting in” does not drastically harm your sense of self-worth.  You are a smart, good person and this does not mean you shouldn’t be a genetic counselor!  Maybe you had an “off” day of interviewing.  Maybe you had an awful semester and did poorly in a class.  Maybe you need some more experience.  This is all OK.  Roll with the punches.  Take a year off.  You’ll be fine.

More practical advice: Sometimes lack of acceptance is a matter of gaining more solid volunteer/shadow/work experience.  Check out our resources page, but some good ideas include shadowing a GC (find one here: http://nsgc.org/p/cm/ld/fid=164), working for a crisis center, volunteering for a center for individuals with disabilities, working for a laboratory (if qualified), finding a position as a genetic counselor assistant, taking a relevant research positions, and so on.

Chin up and continue to chase your dream.  I promise that a one-year delay is irrelevant in the grand scheme.

I’m confused about the job description of a Genetic Counselor vs. Geneticist…

Ah. yes. OK.

Genetic Counselor and Geneticist are distinct professions.  Different but definitely collaborative.  Let’s begin with training.  GCs hold 2-year masters degrees.  Geneticists are MDs and therefore attend 4 years of medical school, followed by residency and then a fellowship in genetics (often more than one fellowship).  If we use pediatrics as an example, both specialties often work directly with patients to make a diagnosis.  While not always true, GCs tend to do more of the counseling and psychosocial component of the diagnostic process.  MDs are qualified to perform physical exams, treat, and order tests (GCs that are licensed can also order tests).  Sometimes GCs work very closely with Geneticists (like in pediatrics), other times they work separately.  Each can hold non-traditional (non-clinical) roles if that is what is desired.  

As I type this out, I realize it is difficult to paint a really good picture of our different and overlapping roles due to contingency on specialty/facility/location.  So I would recommend two things: (1) Go ‘head and Google your heart out for more specifics (you know, like internet homework) and (2) Spend time shadowing both geneticists and genetic counselors (you know, like real life homework).  That will give you the best sense for each!

How easy is it to spread out your time over different fields of genetic counseling? AKA – are you pigeon-holed or what?

This is a wonderful question.  Because I’m proud to say that No, you’re certainly not pigeon-holed.  It is very possible to make a career out of multiple subspecialties.  Not everyone does this, but there are many GCs who fill their career with focuses in prenatal, pediatrics, cancer, cardiology, laboratory, public health, newborn screening, inborn errors of metabolism, sales/marketing, research, etc. etc. etc.  Many people will hold a job that combines two or three specialties at once.  Others prefer to spend an entire career in one niche area.  

Once you achieve board certification, you’re technically qualified to do it all.  Naturally, work experience plays into this. If you work 30 years as a prenatal counselor and want to make the switch to cancer, you can.  However, you’ll likely have to do major catch-up learning and potentially compete against applicants who have more experience in the cancer realm.  Alternatively, if you work 30 years as a prenatal counselor and then want to take a position for a laboratory that performs research on prenatal testing technology…well, congratulations, you’re hired!

I’m in middle school/high school.  I totally have my act together and know without a doubt that I want to be a genetic counselor.  What’s next?

Ummmmm.  Why you gotta make the rest of us look like our 16-year-old selves were just infants in disarray? But, hey, you go Glen Coco.

Honestly though, it is stellar that you have an ideal career path before you even enter college, and you’re certainly a step ahead of the game. I encourage you to both (1) chase this goal and (2) give yourself some wiggle room if you find that perhaps a different career suits you better – you’re so far ahead that it’s even OK if you change your mind. I grant you that magical permission.

At this point, one thing you may want to consider is your major in college/university.  Here’s the fun part:  You can major in anything under the sun, as long as you fulfill prerequisites for graduate school.  

Prerequisite classes = The bare minimum classes that you must take before eligible to apply for GC graduate school.

Each program may have just ever-so-slightly different prerequisites, but for the most part, they are aligned.  You will have to visit each program’s website to know for certain what you need and whether you’re eligible.  But, basically, if you enroll in the following classes, that will get you where you need to go:

  • One year of general biology
  • One year of general chemistry
  • One semester of biochemistry
  • One semester of genetics
  • One semester of statistics

Additional courses may include: Developmental Biology, Counseling Psychology, Developmental Psychology … but don’t beat yourself up if your school does not offer these.

Now, it is certainly easier to fulfill these courses if you are a science major.  I have met many GCs who majored in Biology or Genetics or Psychology….or perhaps double-majored.  Alternatively, you could do a Public Health, Anthropology, or Kinesiology major, or any subspecialities of Psychology that your school offers.  These are just ideas.  All are good.  You can major in Underwater Basket Weaving as long as you fill your prerequisites….and uh, are able to defend your choice of major when asked during interviews.

Here are links to graduate programs: http://gceducation.org/Pages/Accredited-Programs.aspx

I think I sound like a broken record with this suggestion, but you’ll also want to shadow a genetic counselor(s).  Some potential students get anxious about the AMOUNT/TYPE of shadowing that is advisable! This is not one-size-fits-all.  If you live in a city that has no opportunities to shadow a genetic counselor, well, hey, it is a little more difficult for you and also out of your hands.  You may have to think outside the box a little: try contacting genetic counselors and asking to interview them by phone.  In general, strive to obtain at least a few weeks of shadowing, spread across different facilities and subspecialties.  Find opportunities to shadow for a few days over school breaks.

Other resources that you may find helpful:

NSGC for prospective students:

http://nsgc.org/p/cm/ld/fid=43

Day in the Life:

http://allhealthcare.monster.com/training/articles/236-career-profile-genetic-counselor

Robin Bennett MS Interview:

https://www.nwabr.org/sites/default/files/pagefiles/IntroGeneticCounselor.pdf

Vignettes from US News & World Report:

http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/2007/12/19/genetic-counselor-a-day-in-the-life

My grades right now are not so hot (mostly Bs), will that hinder my acceptance into a program?

Probably not!  It is apparent that so many of you are your own worst frenemies.  You’re stressing me out, so I can only imagine how stressed you all must feel!

Remember, you are a whole human, composed of more than just your grades.  You are not a report card.  You are a person with experiences, extracurricular activities, time spent volunteering or coaching or mentoring; you are a person with a compassionate personality and a passion for the field; you are a person that has something to offer that someone else may not; and you also have some grades sprinkled on top.  You are a bolstered applicant.  Again, you are more than just your grades.

What’s that – You want a more concrete answer?  This is what I think:  A grades are super fantastic! A/Bs are really great too!  If you get a C, can you justify why that is the case?  Did you take 20 credits that semester?  Did you have something going on in your personal life that dampened you academically? If the grade is really nagging you, do you have the option to retake the course?

It is worth mentioning: One of the most compelling questions I was asked during a graduate school interview was “How do you practice self-care when you’re stressed/anxious/worn down?”

Let me ask you: How do you practice self-care?

Think hard about this.  Journal your answer, or write a little memo on your phone.  Return to your answer when you’re in need.  Ensure you’re taking care of yourself.  If you’re stressed now, can you handle the continued and concentrated burden of graduate school? I am positive that you can, but you need a plan, man!

Have a plan for self-preservation so that you can enjoy the journey.

I am a last-semester senior OR I have already graduated…and I just decided I want to be a genetic counselor!  Help! Am I too unconventional to apply to GC programs? Does it look bad if I go back now and take prerequisite courses?

I love this question!  Congratulations on deciding you want to be a genetic counselor!  

NO, you are not unconventional.  In fact, you may even be the norm.  And No, you will not look bad – you will look like a person that puts in the extra work/time/money to enter a career you care about.

This “non-traditional” path includes myself.  I graduated from college  and then spent a year taking chemistry, biochemistry, and genetics at a local college.  I totally moved back in with my parents and worked part-time at Target as a coupon-passer-outter while having awkward run-ins with former high school classmates (ahh, the glamor of working towards a goal, am I right?).  I felt lonely and behind the eight ball as I watched friends enter professional careers or graduate programs.  But here I am, years later, working as a GC and smiling fondly to myself when I shop in Target.

As I said above, I sincerely promise that a one or two year delay in “getting where you want to go” is completely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

Use the resources above and on our resource page to make yourself the most bomb.com applicant you can be, and go get ‘em!  BOOM SHAKALAKA

Mid-Interview Soul Searching ((by Olivia))

By now, interview season for genetic counseling programs is in full swing.   Many of you  likely have one interview under your belt (if not, then it’s coming up shortly; as if you needed reminding!). This time of year can give a new meaning to “March Madness,” so here are some tips from myself and the other M&G bloggers to help you stay sane and on your game:

Pre-Interview Prep

GC program interview questions can cover a wide range of topics, including general genetics, the genetic counseling profession, legal and ethical dilemmas in genetics/genetic counseling, current events in genetics, as well as some of the more typical questions that help interviewers learn about you and your personality.  Each program puts their own unique twist on the interview process, so anticipate that there may be surprises both in type of questions as well as the way interviews are conducted.  Thinking on your feet is good practice for being a real genetic counselor!

So how do you prepare?

1. Practice, practice, practice. As Jade C. puts it “professionals practice for interviews.” And she is SO right.  In no way is it nerdy, lame, or overkill to work through your answers to interview questions, even if that means writing out word-for-word responses.  Have a friend ask you random questions or talk to yourself in the mirror; this type of “out loud” practice can help ensure clarity when you respond, with less distracting “um’s” and “likes.” Having solid responses to common questions will also help calm your nerves when the big day arrives, because you’ll feel ready and confident.

2. Know how to share your story – concisely. The “elevator speech” is a 1 minute spiel that everyone should have up their sleeve as a way to introduce themselves and break the ice on interview day. Carla suggests working in your hometown, educational background, relevant experience, accomplishments, and finish with hobbies or personal interests.  Think about what drew you into the genetic counseling career and find a unique way to answer this question that will almost certainly be asked. Side note: I still use the 1 liner I developed for my GC interviews to answer patients who ask me how I got interested in genetic counseling.

3. Own your strengths & your weaknesses. While it’s important to play up your strongest assets and proudest moments on your resume, programs will also be on the look out for areas of past difficulty.  Everyone has a few skeletons in the transcript closet, and I think it’s reasonable to anticipate questions about why those areas were challenging and how you have worked to improve. Keep your answer short and end on a high note: explain how the experience has helped you succeed in a future endeavor. This will show that you understand failure happens, you are mature enough to reflect on the situation, and brave enough to try again!

4. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself to your favorite things during this time of stress and vulnerability. As the week of/night before your interview approaches, make sure you are doing lots of things that allows your mind to clear and makes your soul smile.  A few suggestions: get good sleep, buy some great music, Jade T. suggests deep breathing or yoga- whatever works for you! On the day of the interview, strike up a conversation with the other interviewees; they are probably just as nervous as you are.  Who knows, you might even make friends (that’s how Jade C. and I met all those years ago)!

Post-Interview Wrap Up

The hard part of the interview process may end once you answer your last question and head back home, but assessing each program is equally important as them assessing you!  It’s best to do this soon after your visit, while the details are still fresh in your memory. How this program mesh with you as an individual and as a student?  Sometimes developing a visual aid to compare and contrast is useful.  You could also develop your own ranking system and make a spreadsheet to keep track. NSGC has a spreadsheet here to get you started (scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page). Carla recommends creating a short list of questions that would influence your decision and pose them to each program during your interview day.

Points to consider:

  • What’s most important to you in a program? Emotional support, innovation, reputation, sense of closeness between faculty and students?
  • Do you have any long-term career goals (work in a university, start a company? specialize?) How does this program fit into that goal?
  • What financial pros/cons are there about this program? What financial aid exists for GC grad students (like scholarships)?
  • Which program did you like best overall and why?
  • Still have final questions? Most programs have a current students or alumni that you can ask about day-to-day campus life and area living.  Send the program an email to ask; it will show your interest and give you a chance to thank them after your interview.
  • Don’t be afraid to listen to your gut instinct!

Take home Message: it’s important to make the effort to prepare before your interview, organize your thoughts and emotions after,  and to take time for yourself in between so you can continue to be your most confident, happy self during the interview mania.  Good luck!

Today is the day!

Today marks the start of the decision period for Genetic Counseling programs and GC applicants.  We all wish you the best of luck today and throughout the remainder of the week!

Hope things are going smoothly– or at the very least you are taking steps to stay sane through this process.  Here are three last words of wisdom for you all:

1. Do not give up on your dreams.

Will get in

2. Take time from your day to do something fun.  Take a break– go to dinner– get some ice cream– anything to take your mind off a crazy day ((or to CELEBRATE a crazy day)).

3. Make the best decision for YOU.  Only you know how you truly feel– follow your gut instincts.

z freewallpaperjulia

Genetic Counseling Thesis: An Interview with Olivia ((Interviewed by Jade))

Tweeted... document from X-Men: Days of Future Past (Copyright: Twitter/@bryansinger)

Tweeted… document from X-Men: Days of Future Past (Copyright: Twitter/@bryansinger)

A whole lotta blood, sweat, and tears goes into graduate school, but, to a certain extent, the workload is relatable.  We have been accustomed to exams for ages now.  We know how to work a library. We are not afraid of extracurricular opportunities, and even PubMed searches are becoming like an old friend.
However, at least for those of us earning our first master’s degree, Thesis is uncharted territory. It is not required by all GC programs, but it is by most, and finished projects range from 50 to well over 100 pages of scientific goodstuff. I decided to interview Olivia to provide some insight into the process, as well as a better understanding of the immense amount of work and re-work that the project demands.
1. Olivia, summarize your thesis in 3 sentences or less.
Fertility technologies such as sperm, oocyte, or embryo cryopreservation have recently been applied to assist cancer patients at risk of infertility due to cancer treatment or for gene positive individuals for whom removal of reproductive organs is indicated (think: BRCA carriers).  Because genetic counselors often see patients who are of reproductive age who may be candidates for these procedures, termed fertility preservation, I surveyed counselors for their interest and education needs regarding this topic. Overall, counselors were open to incorporating this subject into their sessions and wanted to learn more so they can be prepared to help guide an interested patient.
2. Why did this topic interest you?
 I really am intrigued by the application of new technology in the clinical setting. I used to work in a translational lab where the goal was to carry bench science findings into  eventual development as drug therapies for cancer patients and the curiosity has continued!
3. Were your results significant/What was learned?
Oncofertility is entering the realm of treatment and management of cancer care, the oncologist’s zone usually, so I wasn’t sure how open counselors would be to incorporating this discussion into their sessions. However, they were incredibly curious and eager to learn more, especially regarding subtopics that would help them identify who was most at risk and where to find resources. Developing an educational tool for any counselor to access when needed would be the next step in the project but it would also be interesting to hear the patient’s perspectives as well.
4. What part of thesis-writing made you want to pull your hair out?
I think thesis is difficult because it requires that you are aware of not only details (citations, making coherent sentences) but that you don’t lose sight of the big picture (goal of the thesis/hypothesis, take home message). It can be tiring zooming in and out again. Plus, it’s like a marathon. I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a project that long, ever.
5. What part of thesis-writing made you think maybe it was worth pulling your hair out?
 It felt really great to hear the responses to my survey and to my final paper. I’m a newbie to the field but I really am eager to show that I can contribute in some small way. It was a great introduction to research and to professional issues.  I look forward to continuing this project and doing a pilot of an educational tool in the (near) future.
6.  Impart some words of wisdom for future thesis writers.
 Be dedicated and try not to be discouraged. Set a writing schedule and a no-writing schedule (aka time to recharge) and STICK TO IT. Also, get someone who knows stats programs really well and become best friends.
Get more info here and here and, hey, here, here, here.  {These links provide examples of past student works from different programs.}
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Appreciating ‘The Pause’ ((by Olivia))

(cc) via Flickr user Downtown Traveler

For the last two weeks my life has been a series of traffic jams, waiting in line/on hold, putting together purchases, and breaking down cardboard boxes. In a word, hectic. I must shamefully admit that I’ve felt much too busy to acknowledge the emails, texts, and voicemails accumulating from curious friends checking in after my move.

When I discovered that Mother Nature was providing us a not-so-subtle reason to slow down, I felt grouchy. New York  is known for snowstorms not hurricanes! And I have way too much to do before Orientation begins!

Sitting down in a huff, it dawned on me: I was experiencing, as Alice Walker coined it , a “pause.” I had successfully completed a goal (moving my worldly possessions from South to North) that I had been working towards for months. Instead of grumbling about delays, now was a the perfect moment sit back, relax, and to reply to those messages, especially since many of my friends were in the projected path of Hurricane Irene.

Though I would never wish for a natural disaster to provide a much needed ‘pause’ in my life, I must say it has been a positive reminder to put aside petty worries and focus on the needs of others. It has been very eerie to see storm pictures posted of home and the flooded boroughs of the NY in the NYTimes and on Facebook. I feel so useless stuck in my apartment!

Stumbling my way through the net in pursuit of information on the aftermath and ways to help, I found this neat blog called zen habits by Leo Babauta. He has a great post about small ways to inject compassion into your day-to-day and break the cycle of self-absorption.

I love the quote from Shakespeare he uses at the end: How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.  I might just have to add that to my inspiration board!

Keeping all of these things in mind, I’ll be searching what contributions I can make here locally, making the most of where I am and what I have to offer, hoping that the rest of Hurricane Season remains quiet.

August: A month of new beginnings! ((by Olivia))

To the Western world, the month of January marks the beginning of a fresh new year.  I, however, have always felt that the first of August was the start of my personal ‘new year.’ An admitted school supplies geek, I probably embrace this time of the year more heartily than others as it’s a good excuse to splurge on no-smudge hi-liters and pretty, functional notebooks.

Now that I am about to start school again after a two year hiatus, I’ve been considering my undergraduate experience and wondering what might help me continue to be successful in the more rigorous academic environment of graduate school. Classes don’t officially start for another month and I am already feeling a tad stressed with my current job ending, settling my upcoming move, and believe it or not, completing pending assignments  for the first week of classes.

At fist glance, these tips might seem basic and old news. However, we all know that complicated details will just make us more annoyed/stressed and less likely to follow through during crunch time. Here are a few simple rules, in hopes that we can adhere to these Top 3 School Year Resolutions and keep our sanity and healthy immune system intact while maintaining those good grades that got us here in the first place!

1. Planning/Prioritizing

Oh man, I love To Do lists. However, sometimes I end up making a list about my lists so I can keep track of them! Keeping a list neat, organized and in one place will be key to success. Any good suggestions for a great brand of planners/notebooks/schedulers?

Prioritizing is more challenging but extremely necessary. I’ll admit it- I struggle. I currently use a ranking system of numbers (1- high, 2-medium, 3- low urgency) but find that hardly satisfies my desire to tackle everything on the list in one day. I try to pay attention to what task is making me the most concerned, and devote some time to work on it each day, even if it’s just reviewing the assignment or class notes. This way I can calm down, accomplish a little somethin’ in regards to that particular item, and go on to focus on (and complete!) the other tasks I need to complete.

Sometimes I just have to write down all of the things that I have accomplished in that day to remind myself that although the ‘Inbox’ might be casting a shadow over my proverbial desk top, I have visual proof that I got something accomplished that day.

2. Fit Body, Fit Mind

In undergrad, exercise was always the first thing to get dropped from above-mentioned ‘To Do’ List when times were tough. After experiencing the wonders of an exercise-induced productivity and mood uplift during my application process last year, I will definitely be bumping exercise up in the priority numbering system during my graduate school years. Once a schedule is established for class, insert blocks of 30-45 min of activity as if it were a study session. Having a pattern will make it easier to adhere to this Resolution.

3. Make Friends

You may be thinking, shouldn’t this say “make notecards” or something? Not quite. Most programs encourage co-mingling of different levels of students to help retain the newbies (ie you & me) and ease their transition and you should take advantage of these semi-required outings.

Getting to know people in your year and program will give you contacts that you can approach with novice questions or serious ones like how they developed their thesis or passed that demanding year one class. So instead of getting carpal tunnel from making stacks of study guides your first week, take advantage of those orientation sessions and start shaking some hands! You might just find an invaluable resource and friend for your professional career.

So there you have it: the  School Year Resolutions  for the graduate school 2011-2012. Have any tips for a better prioritizing system or an addendum to the Resolution list? Please post your comments below!

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