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Graduate Student Corner- Summer 2016

Making Summer Break a Productive Time-  Janne Gaub and Kyl Myers

The end of the semester (and school year) brings with it a whirlwind of activities: Final exams, a massive pile of grading, and perhaps graduations and saying goodbye to good friends. Then the lull dies down, you take a breath, and you might be left wondering, what do I do next? Here are our suggestions for how to take back your summer break and be able to both be productive and rejuvenate for the coming fall semester, regardless of where you are in your graduate career.

New graduate students. For newly minted graduate students (those entering a master’s or doctoral program the coming semester), take some time to breathe. You have achieved something important (you graduated with a degree!) and you deserve some time to relax before you start a new phase in your life. Then look at your new program and take some time to map out what you’ll need to do. Understand the requirements for graduation. Do you need to find an internship? What do comprehensive exams in your program look like? How many credits are needed for graduation, and how does that translate to the number of classes you need to take each semester? If you have a roadmap, you can be well prepared when you start up in the fall.

Junior graduate students. This is targeted towards doctoral students who have not yet taken their comprehensive exams. Find one manuscript you would like to work on. Maybe that is a co-authored piece with a faculty member, or that idea you’ve had in your back pocket for three months. Dust it off, walk through it, and start the next phase – that could be putting together a survey, collecting data, or writing results. Maybe a manuscript has sat neglected for some time; take this opportunity to look at it with fresh eyes and bring it new life. If you are taking comprehensive exams in the fall, take time to plan what you need to study and be diligent. Don’t let it slip, thinking you can make it up in August. It only gets more complicated once school restarts.

Senior graduate students. For those who have completed comprehensive exams, I hardly need to tell you what to do: Work on your dissertation. This can be difficult in the summer because you have so much time that it can be overwhelming, so take it in chunks. Outline the whole chapter, and then tackle particular sections. These can be a few paragraphs or a few pages at a time. This is even more important if you have other obligations competing for your time (family, teaching, etc.).

Graduates. First, CONGRATULATIONS! You have accomplished what very few manage to do. First piece of advice: Don’t read your thesis or dissertation for at least 4-6 months following your defense. When you separate yourself from it and then come back, you find all kinds of things that you want to change, adjust, or add/subtract when converting it to publications or a book. After staring at it for a year, two years, or longer, you want to come back to it with fresh eyes. Instead, spend the summer working on other projects such as a new manuscript or prepping classes for the fall semester.

Finally, for all graduate students, take some time for yourself. Read a book that has nothing to do with your dissertation or a class you took or your research interest. Go on a vacation, even if it’s just a vacation from email and you stay at your house! Spend time with friends you may not see often during the school year or go home to see your family. Taking time to step away is imperative to being able to come back focused and ready to tackle new challenges.