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5 ways to get ready for grad school

From note-taking to goal-setting, these techniques will jumpstart your Concordia journey

Feeling nervous about starting grad school at Concordia?

Don’t sweat it. With a little preparation, you’ll be able to transition into the next stage of your academic journey smoothly.

Kristy Clarke is the manager of academic programs and development in Concordia’s School of Graduate Studies. She oversees GradProSkills, a program that provides free academic and professional development workshops available only to Concordia’s graduate students.

Here are the activities Clarke recommends to get ahead of the graduate learning curve:

1. Academic integrity is fundamental

First things first: become aware of your academic responsibilities at Concordia by completing the mandatory academic success and integrity module.

This online web tutorial informs graduate students of their responsibilities under the academic code of conduct and points to university resources. It provides information on how to properly cite sources, use copyright-protected works and collaborate ethically with peers.

2. Make a plan to achieve your goals

Many pursue grad school to take their careers to the next level. Before digging deep into your coursework, dedicate a few hours to reflect on your professional objectives and do a self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.

Preparing an individual development plan can help you map your grad school experience by identifying small goals — and the resources to help you reach them — for each stage of your program.

Clarke recommends individual development plan templates from MyIDP, for natural science and engineering students, and ImaginePhD, for social science and humanities students.

3. Take your academic skills to the next level

Graduate courses have much higher reading, writing and critical-thinking requirements than undergraduate ones. Some academic texts can be very dense, especially if you are not reading in your first language. Googling a topic and reading an article page by page is not an effective way to prepare for graduate-level classes.

Make sure you don’t miss out on important content by taking time to get familiar with reading, note-taking and critical thinking techniques. Take advantage of the Concordia Library’s multitude of online resources to identify credible research.

“It can be helpful to review academic writing techniques before the start of your graduate studies,” notes Clarke, who suggests students browse the Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Academic writing help is also offered by the learning specialists at Concordia’s Student Success Centre and GradProSkills Success in Grad School workshops.

4. Prepare to navigate Concordia’s online learning environment

Our remote, online learning environment is still very new for most Concordians and undoubtedly an added layer of stress for new students. Don’t try to navigate your new environment alone. Get paired with a Welcome Crew mentor. Create a weekly online meet-up with your classmates or join one of the GradProSkills meet-ups.

Of course, you’ll need to get familiar with the Student HubZoom and Moodle, as well as your Office365 account. We also suggest reviewing the helpful tips found in the GradProBlog and Learning Services online learning tip sheets.

5. Organize your time effectively to limit stress

Adding grad school to your life is exciting but also stressful. It’s crucial to establish a routine and a dedicated workspace.

Before starting classes, take time to set your priorities and map out a regular and realistic weekly schedule. Don’t forget the fun stuff — such as playing music, working out or chatting with a friend. “Time for fun activities that de-stress us is just as important in your weekly schedule as a class or a job,” Clarke adds.

It is equally important to communicate your plan to your friends, family and peers. Being accountable to others and letting them know what to expect of you will help you stay on track.

And if you ever feel overwhelmed or isolated, don’t hesitate to drop into Concordia’s (virtual) Zen Den for an opportunity to disconnect from your stressors and connect with other students.

Check out
Winter Orientation.

For more information on how to excel in grad school, visit Concordia’s GradProSkills.

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