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Reading your textbooks over the summer


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So, our professor recently e-mailed my cohort with the names of some of our textbooks for fall and the syllabi. A bunch of the people in my cohort apparently went out and bought the textbooks, and are going to be reading them this summer.

Since this is my last summer of freedom, I can find a lot other more appealing things to do. Did you guys read some of your textbooks to prepare for your program? Am I way off base in thinking this is a little overboard?

It isn't that I'm super excited to start my program...it is just 1.) I am cheap and was planning on buying my books at a discount from the cohort above me and 2.) If I read them now, would probably forget most of it by fall anyways

How do you guys feel about it?

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I have mixed feelings about reading ahead... on one hand - work hard and play hard! and if this summer is the last of play for some time, goodness knows I won't be reading. However, grad school is for me - my education, my growth, my adventure. Being prepared and thus taking away even one percent of the imposter syndrome and the inevitable feeling of "ahh, I don't know what's going on!" is worth it for me.

Once upon a time I worked in Europe, and people told me I should study French before going. But I was swamped with other preparation. Once in France, I was so overwhelmed in the new environment and job that all my existing language skills went out the window for a few months. I admit I'm approaching grad school with that experience in mind... I'm not pre-reading texts, but I bought a second-hand basic text for my discipline and I'm going to be setting aside 'academic-level blog writing evenings' each week to get my mind in the game.

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So, our professor recently e-mailed my cohort with the names of some of our textbooks for fall and the syllabi. A bunch of the people in my cohort apparently went out and bought the textbooks, and are going to be reading them this summer.

Since this is my last summer of freedom, I can find a lot other more appealing things to do. Did you guys read some of your textbooks to prepare for your program? Am I way off base in thinking this is a little overboard?

It isn't that I'm super excited to start my program...it is just 1.) I am cheap and was planning on buying my books at a discount from the cohort above me and 2.) If I read them now, would probably forget most of it by fall anyways

How do you guys feel about it?

Honestly, unless you can find the books for reallll cheap now, I wouldn't bother. I mean if you were doing some radical field change, then I'd suggest doing some background reading but if you don't feel the need for it, then enjoy your summer!

Personally, I will probably not do any background reading. I should since I have to take a bio class and have not taken once since my freshman year of college and had a miserable experience then. But two of the other classes I am taking, I sort of have already taken in a summer program so if I have to devote a little more time to bio, I think I can survive. That being said, I am one of those people who does not like to create work for myself (not lazy, I just already had an experience with burn-out and would not like it to happen again). I also have to figure out a lot of other stuff regarding my move so chilling with some public health textbooks isn't super-appealing at the moment.

I am super-cheap too and had not even thought of buying books from people in my cohort. That is so clever. I would also probably forget the material from them too. =P Like when I started to "study" for the GRE three months in advance but really only learned material a few weeks before that.

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So, our professor recently e-mailed my cohort with the names of some of our textbooks for fall and the syllabi. A bunch of the people in my cohort apparently went out and bought the textbooks, and are going to be reading them this summer.

Since this is my last summer of freedom, I can find a lot other more appealing things to do. Did you guys read some of your textbooks to prepare for your program? Am I way off base in thinking this is a little overboard?

It isn't that I'm super excited to start my program...it is just 1.) I am cheap and was planning on buying my books at a discount from the cohort above me and 2.) If I read them now, would probably forget most of it by fall anyways

How do you guys feel about it?

I'm cheap too. biggrin.gif But if I got assigned a reading list for fall now, I would try my best to get hold of the books for free (from the library) or borrow them from anyone I know. My main issue is that I still feel there are so many things I don't know about the literature, and so many things to learn, that I'm not even waiting for a book list, I'm just going ahead collecting articles related to my field and just reading them...for fun.

I guess it really depends on the person. For me, I didn't work really hard as an undergrad and spent a lot of time doing every other thing I wanted to do, so I guess now is the time for me to catch up on my feelings of not knowing enough. I know that in the business of research it's normal to feel like I don't enough but I just want to decrease those feelings, even by just a little bit. Plus if I can get hold of the reading list, I can work on the parts I will have problems with, which will make the semester much easier for me, coursework-wise, so I can get going faster on research.

But that's just me, because I've had my fun.

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If you bought them online in advance they would probably be cheaper than buying them at your school when the term begins.

During my undergrad years, I would buy my books early and maybe read the first chapter or two before school started. Anything more than that is superfluous IMO.

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I've occasionally read over breaks in preparation for a term that looked particularly busy (I had to overload one term my first year), but I don't think you're a slacker for wanting to, you know, enjoy your last few months of no homework.

Personally, I'd be reticent to read more than one or two week's worth of material, because you're going to forget much of what you've read by the time you get to the fall semester. I'm not sure what your classes are formatted like in your field, but mine are all three-hour seminars largely based on student discussion. If I'd read all the texts over the summer, I'd end up having to re-read them in preparation for each week's discussion anyway.

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If you bought them online in advance they would probably be cheaper than buying them at your school when the term begins.

Yes. This.

I usually buy ~2 months in advance, if possible, then skim the book to get a feel for what's covered. I don't read in depth until the term starts.

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I have been out of the academic world for a while now so I figured I should get myself going a bit before grad school (PhD in Finance)...one of my professors recommended keeping up with a couple of blogs and financial news as well as reading some review papers in the field. I'm also preparing for some intense math by using MIT's OpenCourseWare to brush up on a few concepts I'm going to need. I've also started reading some of the books related to the recent financial crisis to get into finance/econ mode!

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I'm going to read texts for the Fall semester later on in the summer (perhaps a couple weeks before classes start). Right now I'm more concerned with reading papers and other material related to my intended area of research, so I won't be starting from scratch in the Fall while I have to juggle classes and possible TA duties.

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1) if the books you're reading are going to be on your comps, the cohort above you will probably not sell you their old copies. i'm in a reading-intensive field and grad students in my program don't buy a book unless they're planning on keeping it forever. we tend to just use interlibrary loans. since you've got textbooks, and not individual monographs, i can see your fellow students hanging onto those books long-term. just saying, it might be hard to buy a used copy off of your colleagues.

2) it is totally reasonable to read those books now, and take excellent notes on them, if you know for sure that they'll still be on the syllabus in the fall. in the summer before i started my grad program, i got a bunch of books on my research topic and started reading. once i met with my advisor, a month before classes started, she gave me a list of 20 books to read, and i made it through about 10 or 12 of them. i know plenty of students who will request syllabi over the summer so they can read for the fall in advance. they're not eager to start the year. they're eager to have 8 hours of sleep during the fall, which means actually working ahead during the summer.

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1) if the books you're reading are going to be on your comps, the cohort above you will probably not sell you their old copies. i'm in a reading-intensive field and grad students in my program don't buy a book unless they're planning on keeping it forever. we tend to just use interlibrary loans. since you've got textbooks, and not individual monographs, i can see your fellow students hanging onto those books long-term. just saying, it might be hard to buy a used copy off of your colleagues.

2) it is totally reasonable to read those books now, and take excellent notes on them, if you know for sure that they'll still be on the syllabus in the fall. in the summer before i started my grad program, i got a bunch of books on my research topic and started reading. once i met with my advisor, a month before classes started, she gave me a list of 20 books to read, and i made it through about 10 or 12 of them. i know plenty of students who will request syllabi over the summer so they can read for the fall in advance. they're not eager to start the year. they're eager to have 8 hours of sleep during the fall, which means actually working ahead during the summer.

Actually, I've recently procured textbooks from the grad who hosted me during grad visits! We don't have to worry about comps :)

And I would like to share with you an exact quote from my cohort's Facebook page, " I feel like a nerd for ordering my book this early, but I'm just pumped to start school." The quote is only followed by 6 comments from other classmates saying they can't wait til fall, and have already ordered books on Amazon etc...so yeah, I would say in the case of my cohort, they are eager to start the year.

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On the one hand the more you know coming into school, the easier it'll be for you once you're in school. On the other hand, there is an ocean of things that you (and I) don't know and it's impossible to learn it all, or even know that you need to. So I would maybe skim the books just for good measure, but really I think it's a much better use of your time to get some rest and have a vacation in the summer before grad school. From my experience, good programs take into account that people come from different systems and have different backgrounds; if they do their job right, by the end of a few semesters most gaps in people's knowledge are made up for. I don't think it's worth your trouble to start a couple months early.

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And I would like to share with you an exact quote from my cohort's Facebook page, " I feel like a nerd for ordering my book this early, but I'm just pumped to start school." The quote is only followed by 6 comments from other classmates saying they can't wait til fall, and have already ordered books on Amazon etc...so yeah, I would say in the case of my cohort, they are eager to start the year.

Yeaaaah.... I can join your cohort in that excitement! Nothing like a fresh school year in the crisp, bright fall... and being surrounded by a few dozen fellow nerds who, like me, chose to go to this level of schooling and are also excited to start! Reading ahead has helped me note what in my field excites me and what is a bore. Helpful - and encouraging - to know there is something to look forward to learning, even in theory and stats classes!

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Yeaaaah.... I can join your cohort in that excitement! Nothing like a fresh school year in the crisp, bright fall... and being surrounded by a few dozen fellow nerds who, like me, chose to go to this level of schooling and are also excited to start! Reading ahead has helped me note what in my field excites me and what is a bore. Helpful - and encouraging - to know there is something to look forward to learning, even in theory and stats classes!

I share your sentiments, especially after a year off! I miss learning something new and interesting everyday after working in a cubicle from 9-5. Maybe I will go to the library and skim over some of the textbooks to see the general topics of discussions. Sounds like a number of people do this, and I don't have to spend a lot of time reading them word per word.

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I'm starting my first year in the fall and fully intend to start reading when I know what classes I'm taking. I'm nervous, and I'm sure I'll feel more comfortable if I have some idea regarding course topics going in! I have an otherwise chilled-out summer, so it wouldn't be to difficult for me to at least review my test books.

In a similar vein: should I contacted my future advisers and find out if there is anything they recommend me doing this summer? I will also be a TA, is there something I should do about that over the summer?

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In a similar vein: should I contacted my future advisers and find out if there is anything they recommend me doing this summer? I will also be a TA, is there something I should do about that over the summer?

Usually schools/departments have some kind of TA orientation before the start of the year, but it can't hurt to try to get a hold of curriculum materials, etc.

Don't spend your own money on student textbooks, though; you'll get free copies, as an instructor.

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In a similar vein: should I contacted my future advisers and find out if there is anything they recommend me doing this summer?

I'm curious about this, as well. I keep toying with the idea of emailing my likely adviser, but don't want to annoy/pester unnecessarily.

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I'm curious about this, as well. I keep toying with the idea of emailing my likely adviser, but don't want to annoy/pester unnecessarily.

I think it's a good idea to at least ask - I've been in contact with mine and he has given me stuff to read. You never know how the adviser would respond unless you ask, so go for it.

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  • 1 month later...

I personally bought one of my books and have been reading it. The course considered to be "harder." I had already read a huge chunk of an intro style book to one of my other classes. I'm excited for school so why wouldn't I start early? I'm already working this summer...

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I am on the fence about this one... just as many others seem to be! While I LOVE trying to read ahead, it is summer! Plus... we have a busy few months+ ahead of us - enjoy the free time, right? Then again... I like getting a little bit ahead. I always read my books a month in advance as an undergrad. Now I know the stakes are higher - but I want to enjoy my last summer too!

What I am doing this summer: I found most of my books digitally (most were found on coursesmart.com; some others via. Google books). CourseSmart.com provides previews (as does Google plus some other websites) - The content displayed varies: one textbook @ CourseSmart shows full pages in their entirety for 3-4 chapters while another textbook is only 1/2 pages displayed -- but the entire book). I am reading a little from each book and actually started taking notes for one class (just to get my feet wet on the topics being covered). I don't want to get too far ahead but I want a nice background of knowledge for the first week (or two). I am looking to find cheap (print) books to buy. Otherwise, I MAY go digital this semester.. (entirely different subject - I am undecided as I may miss holding a textbook and highlighting - even though you can digitally highlight, another story..).

Back to your question... I think it is nice to get your feet wet - but don't put time aside to study. If you have a free 20-60 minutes and feel like it - pick a book up (or check digital versions for now).

Another thing I do to prepare is brush-up on what is going on in the world (aka. reading the news!). Yes, I read the news daily but I am trying to go deeper and more extensively invest time into reading the news. I am an MBA student so I am checking the financial news, business section, markets, etc. rather than the front page stuff I read while sipping my coffee. I don't want to bog my summer down but just brush-up and warm myself up to what is about to happen to my brain. The other day I was able to find a case study online and had the time (and patience, and sanity?) to actually put together a lil' analysis/assignment as "practice". It was nice reassurance that I still "got it" (only been out since graduating in December..) and knew what I was doing.

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I'm already reading enough papers for my summer research project, I don't think I could stand reading papers relating to my Master's. Maybe if I get really bored at work one day I'll pull up a paper or two, but for now I am just going to enjoy my summer. I've never prepared in the summer. Except when I found out a week before grade 6 starting that I had to switch schools and reacted by panicking because I didn't know how to long divide....

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I had an adviser in undergrad who thought that this was absolutely necessary. When I met with one of his colleagues to think about strategizing for a summer internship between gradschool and graduation, he barged in on the meeting. Demanded to know what I was doing. Got in a fight with the guy since "serious grad students need to seriously bone up during the summer." When I later thanked my adviser's colleague who I had only met the one time for his advice but noted that I would be taking my summer in a different direction, this charming gentlemen thought it was okay to tell as an undergrad: "The reason you're not going to get into Harvard is because you've done nothing of distinction in your life." Needless to say it turned into major department drama.

What did I actually do with my summer? I came to the conclusion they were both dicks and ignored them both. I took my major's advice (third professor in this story) to have fun with my summer. He told me that the number one issue with going from direct from undergrad was burn out and that recharging before hand was really important. From what I've seen, burn out can have an effect regardless of your gradschool trajectory so even if you aren't from undergrad taking a break is not a bad idea. That said, I definitely read. But it wasn't textbooks. And I can tell you that I've been no worse for the wear in gradschool as a result.

Why did I mention reading during my summer? Well, if you are in a reading intensive program this might be your last opportunity for a while to read for pleasure. While I have had the time to read for pleasure in grad school, after reading several thousand pages in a week I generally lack the motivation then pick up an outside reading book.

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