Concordia University

5 ways to get ready for grad school

From note-taking to goal-setting, these techniques will jumpstart your Concordia journey
November 20, 2019
By Meagan Boisse and Rachel Andren


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 she recommends to get ahead of the graduate learning curve:

1.  Academic integrity is key

First things first: become aware of your academic responsibilities at Concordia by completing the mandatory academic 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 an individualized plan to achieve your goals  

Many of us pursue grad school to take our careers to the next level. Doing so requires thinking about our professional objectives and how to leverage our education, before even cracking open a textbook. 

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 a couple of individual development plan templates from McGill University and the University of Alberta, which can help you map out your grad school strategy. You can also browse the suggested GradProSkills workshops by program stage.

Registration for GradProSkills workshops opens on December 6.

3.  Find the right technique to tackle your reading load

Graduate courses have much higher reading requirements than undergraduate ones, and some academic texts can be very dense, especially if you are not reading in your first language. Sitting down with a highlighter and attempting to get through each chapter page by page is no longer a feasible strategy. There are more effective methods to use your time and increase your understanding.

Make sure you don’t miss out on important content by taking time to get familiar with alternative reading and note-taking techniques. Find out what works best for you!

4.  Brush up on the rules of academic writing

“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.

If your program requires you to write a thesis, you might also want to pick up one of these books:

Academic reading and writing help is also available through Concordia's Student Success Centre. Make an appointment with a learning specialist who can help you develop in other areas as well, such as problem solving, oral presentations, preparing for and taking all types of exams, and time management.

5.  Identify your de-stresser

Adding grad school, and maybe even a new city, to your life is exciting but also stressful. It’s important to know what helps you de-stress — be it listening to music, going to the gym or chatting with a friend. Unfortunately, when life gets busy, these are usually the first activities we push to the side. But that’s when they are most vital! 

Before starting classes, take a moment to create a favourite playlist, sign up for a fitness class or make a commitment to talk to a friend regularly.  

“Time for fun activities is just as important in your weekly schedule as a class or a job,” Clarke says.

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

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