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Hi everyone. I will be starting my Ph.D. program this Fall, and I was curious if you have any ideas on what I should buy over the summer. I plan on getting a ton of notebooks of course, and I've heard a file cabinet comes in handy, but I was wondering what you wonderful folks thought. Thank you so much!!!

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One thought that comes to mind immediately is resource citation software (Endnote, Bookends, etc). You probably already have one, but worth mentioning just in case.

A neat novelty that I love are "Book Darts." Check www.bookdarts.com to see what I'm talking about. They're really pretty amazing for saving the spot for important passages, etc.

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Hi everyone. I will be starting my Ph.D. program this Fall, and I was curious if you have any ideas on what I should buy over the summer. I plan on getting a ton of notebooks of course, and I've heard a file cabinet comes in handy, but I was wondering what you wonderful folks thought. Thank you so much!!!

Good topic! A lot depends, of course, on what program you are going into. I agree with the file cabinet suggestion. You probably will need at least one floor-to-ceiling bookshelf for textbooks--I haven't bought a single textbook that I plan to sell, since all of my classes are directly related to what I'm going to be doing long-term.

When I started last fall I didn't know what to get so I limited myself to the usual "back-to-school" stuff: binders, notebook paper, pencils (I use mechanical), erasers...

Things I didn't have and ended up buying in a hurry:

*Laptop (I only had a desktop--a nice one, mind, but I really needed something I could take everywhere--home, office, lab)

*Lab coat. (Only for scientists.) I had one years ago but it was trashed. Then I worked for a theoretical chemist and didn't need one. When I started grad school I suddenly remembered how handy lab coats were. I have a cheap one right now but want to get a nicer one later.

*Colored pens. If you're a TA, that is. Grading in black pen just doesn't cut it, as your comments don't really stand out. I prefer the traditional red, but I have friends who grade in green and/or purple.

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I'm watching this thread with interest now too, and not just because I love buying school supplies...

For filing cabinets, they look like they can be pretty pricey but craigslist typically has a lot of people selling them cheap or giving them away for free.

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external hard drive to back up your collection of papers, data, etc.

flash drive - useful for sharing larger files with colleagues, carrying presentations, etc.

a dry erase board and markers - mount it on the wall, it'll make your life wonderful (sort of).

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filing cabinets are good. any sort of filing system.

corkboard and coloured notecards. especially helpful for visually mapping out a long-term research project.

a calendar of some sort. do you write in an agenda? use your computer's calendar? want something on the wall? time management will be key in your life and you'll need this. badly.

external hard-drives and thumb drives. back up everything. save it on your computer and your thumb drive at all times. back it all up on the external HD once every two weeks or whenever you remember. keep updated copies of your work in two or three places. i had a friend who left everything on a thumb drive, and HE LOST IT (he luckily had a month-old version of his work saved in his email). i had another friend who used his laptop and his external HD only, and spilled coffee on both while he was doing a back-up. he promptly quit graduate school and he was ABD. (he claims the decision to quit came two days before the terrible spill, but i don't believe him).

a laptop. if you've already got a desktop, then get one of those little netbooks. they're light and they have long battery life.

several different comfy chairs. you will spend most of your time sitting down. get a variety of "feels" with your chairs. hard and upright, soft and sunken in, good for stretching your legs out straight, something that reclines, an ergonomically correct stool. trust me.

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if you haven't already bought this book, it is a very handy resource, from the application process through completion.

Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning an MA or PhD

Edited by fauxtog

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Keep in mind that I don't think you should buy any of this until you actually arrive at your university because either 1) you don't want to move it or 2) it may be available through your university/department for free, in which case you could save yourself some money.

- Referencing software (check with the university library and the department to see if there are any discounts or if its freely available. Lots of schools have RefWorks or EndNoteWeb for free, the only downside is that you have to be online to use them).

- portable hard drive of at least 160GB

- flash drive of at least 2GB

- calendars, both weekly agenda style and monthly

- bookshelf

- large binders

- file folders

- looseleaf notebook paper

- a few spiral notebooks (not for classes but for keeping projects organized)

- netbook

- digital camera of decent quality

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Something else that occurs to me is to look into a Dropbox account (www.dropbox.com). It's basically online storage, but rather advanced (and 2Gb for free). It'll keep all your computers synced if you install the software, but I find it indispensable for grad work for two reasons: (1) It keeps versions of papers up to 30 days, which is great for going back to older revisions, and (2) you can access it from any internet-enabled computer. It basically eliminates the need for a flash drive and you can't lose it, etc. 2Gb might seems small, but there are ways to get it up to 5Gb for free pretty easily.

I know, maybe not what you were originally thinking, but I figured there's no harm in putting it out there.

Edited by Postbib Yeshuist

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What was valuable to me:

-1TB hard drive to back up to

-Bookcase (you accrue a crap ton of books)

-Scanner (why have a filing cabinet when you can have a digital one that takes up no space at all)

-Google Docs account (20GB for $5 a year ain't bad when you can access it anywhere)

-Laptop (unless you are really stationary or you need the extra power of a desktop)

-Alcohol (lots of it)

-Specific hardbound notebooks (I use Black 'n' Reds) individually for taking notes in seminars and notes from meeting with the boss. It helps for refering back to stuff.

-Digital recorder for class

-Dry erase/combo corkboard (I leave myself profanity-laced messages in the morning so at least I'll smile when I get back home)

-Sleeping Bag (one day shall come when you are working O/N at school so be prepared for it shall come and it shall come quickly)

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if you haven't already bought this book, it is a very handy resource, from the application process through completion.

Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning an MA or PhD

funny that you mentioned this book. Just finished reading this, and I agree. Fantastic resource!!!

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These are all fantastic ideas. I just checked the school's site, and they offer EndNote for students. Never knew about Google Docs, that sounds great. Will pick up a file cabinet definitely. Thank you all again!!!!

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ok, this may sound ridiculous, but what about clothing? as a TA, will i be expected to look semi-sharp? i went to a small undergrad-only school so i'm clueless here...

This may not be universally the case, but back in september, I was asked to come to class in full business attire. Had to shop for new smart clothes in one afternoon!

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ok, this may sound ridiculous, but what about clothing? as a TA, will i be expected to look semi-sharp? i went to a small undergrad-only school so i'm clueless here...

My take is, dress up for classes that you are teaching, and wait and see for classes that you are attending. I think that it kind of depends on the school as to how dressy your classes are, but you should probably dress in a way that distinguishes you from your students when you are actually teaching.

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This thread has been really helpful in terms of what I'm going to need for the fall. Thanks, guys!

I do have a question about the external hard drives, though: what would be the best one to have that is BOTH Mac and PC compatible? Is it worth it to shell out that $300 for a 1TB Time Capsule, or is there a better/cheaper alternative? Any suggestions would be great.

Edited by VUbrat08

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This thread has been really helpful in terms of what I'm going to need for the fall. Thanks, guys!

I do have a question about the external hard drives, though: what would be the best one to have that is BOTH Mac and PC compatible? Is it worth it to shell out that $300 for a 1TB Time Capsule, or is there a better/cheaper alternative? Any suggestions would be great.

Hm. I only use Western Digital externals and I think they are absolutely the best (I just bought myself a new one for Christmas, but my last one suffered a great deal of abuse--including a dismantlement at one point in time--for over four years and never gave me a problem). They have dropped drastically in price over the past few years as well. Here's a 1 TB WD HD for $150 Amazon - Western Digital 1 TB External Hard Drive.

I personally wouldn't get the Time Capsule, I don't think it's as affordable or easily transportable (though I'm honestly not familiar with the exact size). Plus, from what I've heard, a lot of them die within two years.

You can set up any external HD with Time Machine (I use about 300 GB of 500 GB WD External for my Time Machine and I've partitioned off the rest storing films and other files I don't access that often). That being said, my hard drive is now configured for use with a Mac and if I plug it in to my PC at work it doesn't show up...maybe it's a problem with my own settings, but my partner had the same issue. The reverse order seems to work though, externals used with PCs are able to be recognized on Macs.

So, IMO, get a large capacity WD external hard drive to use with your Time Machine for backups and extra storage space. And, since I'm assuming your prime computer is a Mac, just have a 2GB Thumb Drive that you use on your PC and synch up with your Mac once your home. Another option would be Dropbox to synch up your files on both computers and offer the extra security of having them backed up on a server somewhere.

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It's probably a good idea to start out a bit more professional, but by the end of the semester I'm in jeans, a t-shirt and a cardigan.

My take is, dress up for classes that you are teaching, and wait and see for classes that you are attending. I think that it kind of depends on the school as to how dressy your classes are, but you should probably dress in a way that distinguishes you from your students when you are actually teaching.

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Hm. I only use Western Digital externals and I think they are absolutely the best (I just bought myself a new one for Christmas, but my last one suffered a great deal of abuse--including a dismantlement at one point in time--for over four years and never gave me a problem). They have dropped drastically in price over the past few years as well. Here's a 1 TB WD HD for $150 Amazon - Western Digital 1 TB External Hard Drive.

I personally wouldn't get the Time Capsule, I don't think it's as affordable or easily transportable (though I'm honestly not familiar with the exact size). Plus, from what I've heard, a lot of them die within two years.

You can set up any external HD with Time Machine (I use about 300 GB of 500 GB WD External for my Time Machine and I've partitioned off the rest storing films and other files I don't access that often). That being said, my hard drive is now configured for use with a Mac and if I plug it in to my PC at work it doesn't show up...maybe it's a problem with my own settings, but my partner had the same issue. The reverse order seems to work though, externals used with PCs are able to be recognized on Macs.

So, IMO, get a large capacity WD external hard drive to use with your Time Machine for backups and extra storage space. And, since I'm assuming your prime computer is a Mac, just have a 2GB Thumb Drive that you use on your PC and synch up with your Mac once your home. Another option would be Dropbox to synch up your files on both computers and offer the extra security of having them backed up on a server somewhere.

Thank you so much for the info! :)

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ok, this may sound ridiculous, but what about clothing? as a TA, will i be expected to look semi-sharp? i went to a small undergrad-only school so i'm clueless here...

I suppose it depends on your subject. I'm graduating from a well-known research university and all my TAs just wore jeans/shorts and tees, basically what everyone else wears (maybe sneakers if it was something like Organic Chemistry). The only time I ever saw my TAs dressed up was if they had something else to do later that required nicer attire. I do however plan on dressing up a tad just because I look young to begin with and I want to set myself apart from my students....but that's mostly to satisfy my "OMG I don't look old enough!" issue.

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Something else that occurs to me is to look into a Dropbox account (www.dropbox.com). It's basically online storage, but rather advanced (and 2Gb for free). It'll keep all your computers synced if you install the software, but I find it indispensable for grad work for two reasons: (1) It keeps versions of papers up to 30 days, which is great for going back to older revisions, and (2) you can access it from any internet-enabled computer. It basically eliminates the need for a flash drive and you can't lose it, etc. 2Gb might seems small, but there are ways to get it up to 5Gb for free pretty easily.

I know, maybe not what you were originally thinking, but I figured there's no harm in putting it out there.

I like this idea. Thanks for posting it.

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A scanner is a great idea. I already have been scanning everything into my computer but I was lucky enough that my undergrad had great scanners readily available for student use. However now it might be time to invest in my own... unfortunately everything either seems to be too expensive for a graduate student budget, or not good enough to really get the job done. Any thoughts/advice?

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See if your department has a scanner you can use? I typically just use the one on our copy machine, since I can scan an entire book chapter, then email it as a PDF to myself. Or, sometimes, I can get the work-study student to do it if he doesn't have other work to do.

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This thread is awesome..I just made a list of things that I need. Lifetime student....get one of those all-in-one printers..scans copies and prints. mines not very good for high resolution but ok for personal regular stuff. They go for $50.00 or less

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Just wanted to add my thanks for all the suggestions above! Thinking about buying a bookshelf for all my new books gives me a strange thrill! I'm getting more excited by the minute!

I also agree with the Western Digital hard drive. I own a few of them, and they are great! I suggest buying big, as the prices have really come down in the past couple years. If you buy small, you'll be buying a second one in no time!

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