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how much (or how little) academic prep do you plan on doing over the summer?


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I'm asking this question in general but also to get some advice.

 

I just graduated with a BS in psychology from a small liberal arts college and will be attending a PhD program in neuroscience at a large state university in the fall. 

I expect to have catching up to but I'm also the type who tends to really over-prepare. 

 

When I spoke with my advisor earlier this semester he said that he thought my background was fine and told me he'd prefer someone a little naive to methodoligies/background literature than someone who had been taught/learned something incorrectly.

 

So, I want to enter the program more knowledgeable than I am now but I don't want to confuse/miseducate myself.

 

So, how are you planning to deal with academics this summer?

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I'm taking it easy this summer -- trying to strike a balance between revving myself up for grad work and burning out by prepping too hard. My main goal is to read some articles and books by professors I've been explicitly told would be interested in working with me so that I have a loose grasp on their background, interests, scholarly style etc. That way, I'll feel more comfortable chatting with them about their projects when I show up in August, and can hopefully begin building relationships with them right away.

 

Beyond that, I'm just poking around JSTOR and skimming articles on things I'm interested in, fields I'm not familiar with, groundwork for potential projects etc. 

 

I really wouldn't worry about showing up unprepared or misinformed -- chances are good that the rest of your cohort is feeling the same way right now. Maybe you could start by reading some stuff by profs working in your field at your university so that you know what kind of work is happening in your department, or if you have an inkling of a future project in mind, skim some background articles to get a feel for the kinds of questions that are being asked. I'm not a social scientist, but I'll bet you'll be taking a methods survey along with the rest of your cohort and you'll fill in gaps in your knowledge pretty organically along the way.

 

EDT: Whomp whomp, I didn't read carefully. You said neuroscience not psychology, but the sentiment still applies.

Edited by TheCleve
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I agree 100% with what The Cleve said. If you have an idea about which lab you'll be working in or who might be your advisor, then do a little background reading if you want. But don't get yourself all stressed out before you even start -- there will be plenty of time for that later. ;)

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I am glad you asked this question! I am in the same position: a psych major who just graduated with a BS from a small school and will be studying neuroscience at a large public school. I was planning on reading some articles that interest me for future ideas, but trying not to overwhelm myself because I am very nervous about getting burnt out. This last semester of undergrad nearly burnt me out, so I want to have enough of a summer break that I can handle the more rigorous graduate work. 

 

Another question: Should I be contacting my advisor often this summer? I don't want to stress myself out with work, but I would also hate to be the one person who hasn't emailed him all summer and doesn't know what is going on when I get there in the fall.

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Another question: Should I be contacting my advisor often this summer? I don't want to stress myself out with work, but I would also hate to be the one person who hasn't emailed him all summer and doesn't know what is going on when I get there in the fall.

 

What would you be asking him about? Honestly, I don't email my advisor that often and I'm currently IN graduate school. I don't think you have anything to worry about. So, I just checked my email archives. I emailed my now-advisor once in mid-to-late April to say that I was coming and to talk briefly about research. Once in June, because I came here then to look for apartments. We met for like an hour, had a coffee, and he showed me around the department. Then, I emailed again in August once I'd moved into my new place. That was to schedule a meeting about fall courses and about my RA, since I was his RA that semester. Does that help any?

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I've been in the work force for 7 years, so I'm just going to keep on working until two weeks before school starts. I do a lot of grant and manuscript writing as part of my job, so I've been able to keep my literature review and writing skills sharp. I'm a little worried about my analytic skills since I haven't really used them since my masters - I technically could place out of a few methodology classes, but will probably take them anyway to have the refresher. I also don't want to miss out on any differences in methology tendencies/preferences between my current insititution (undergrad, masters, and employer all in one) and my new academic home. I have been taking classes as a continuing ed student through my employer, so I've maintained the student mindset somewhat.

 

I was able to meet with my advisor back in March, and we really clicked. I haven't felt the need to email him since then - I'm not one to send an email unless I have a specific question, and he seems like the kind of person who will be incredibly helpful when needed but happy to have an independent advisee. I don't make up questions just to have a reason to email/speak (that is seriously one of my biggest pet peeves, people who make up questions just to get participation points).

 

I am going to be in town at the end of the month to look for an apartment, and I'm going to see if the program director will be around so we can meet. I wasn't able to attend the admitted students day, and he wasn't available the day I did visit campus. If it doesn't work out, we'll just meet in August.

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When I spoke with my advisor earlier this semester he said that he thought my background was fine and told me he'd prefer someone a little naive to methodoligies/background literature than someone who had been taught/learned something incorrectly.

 

So, I want to enter the program more knowledgeable than I am now but I don't want to confuse/miseducate myself.

 

So, how are you planning to deal with academics this summer?

 

Honestly, I think you should take your advisor's advice! Don't stress out too much or worry about being more knowledgeable. The first year is basically a crash course that gets you up to speed on the basics of everything you need to know! I always recommend spending the summer doing the fun stuff that you might not have time to do once school starts. Try to start establishing healthy routines, whether that's some sort of exercise, becoming a better cook, getting the hang of 5-10 easy recipes that you can whip up in a hurry or make large batches of on the weekend, etc. Because really, those are the kinds of skills that no one can teach you but that you'll need to survive your first year. Good luck! Hope you have a good summer!

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Simply familiarising myself with the work (past and present) of faculty members who are of interest to me. Also keeping up with general things in my discipline. And working on French. Duolingo is wonderful. 

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I'll be doing an intensive abstract algebra program at Cornell for the 8 weeks before I need to be at grad school.  They will be using the same text as my PhD program, so I'll have a nice jump start on one of my courses this fall.  Best case scenario, we cover enough material this summer that I can pass my algebra comprehensive exam before the year even starts, freeing my schedule for another class.  Even if it's not enough to pass the comp, I'll still be a lot more comfortable with the material this fall.  It would be absolutely worth it just for the coursework alone, but there is also a research component, lots of networking opportunities, and it pays well enough that I'll be able to afford new furniture for my apartment in Baton Rouge.

 

Down time would be nice, but this program is too beneficial to turn down.  Having spoken to a past participant, it's also a lot of fun.

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I recently graduated with my BA, and while I'm thoroughly enjoying letting my brain rest for now, I know I'll want to feel like I'm doing more to prepare in the weeks just before my program starts. Before i left my old campus, I had one of the grad students in my new lab email me the syllabi from the required 1st semester courses, and have pulled several of those articles to start reading this summer. I will likely need to re-read them when they're actually assigned, but I wanted to start getting a feel for the readings and practice using Mendeley since I've never used a citation manager to organize and annotate before. Also, I'm familiar with my advisor's current work, and I'll probably search to see what her students are writing as well. That, at least, is the plan...

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I prepped for my interview weekend by reading articles by the POIs I was interested in at the university. I'm not going to do anything else until I arrive for orientation at school. Instead, this summer, I am relaxing, enjoying my last few months where I live now soaking up my favorite activities and spending time with my friends and family. My PhD program is 8 hours away by car and I rather spend my time enjoying the final permanent moments here before I move into a new city for 6+ years. 

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I just finished my master's a few weeks ago, and am starting a PhD in communications the end of August. My future DA (even though my master's was at a different school) was one of my informal readers for my thesis, so we already have been meeting on a fairly regular basis. I have 21 credits of electives in the first two years of coursework and want to make the most of it - my diss. will likely be in the field of social media and health communication so I have been researching classes that would fill gaps I have - particularly in the social and behavioral health PhD departments and the psychology departments. I am spending much of summer reading up on the field (who has researched what in social media and health comm.?) and will be meeting with my DA next week to discuss my class schedule, what courses to take when, and what admin overrides I will need (and he has offered to help with). I figure the first semester will be pretty intense, so I want to do my familiarizing with the field now :).

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Having just finished my first year of doctoral study, I agree with a previous poster who stated that the first year is basically a crash course in getting you adjusted to grad school. Last summer, knowing that I would be changing my life in a big way, I spent time doing what I loved and often not much at all. I swear there were days when I was like, "it's already bedtime? What the heck did I do all day?"

 

Having a bit of downtime, whatever that means for you, is perfectly fine before starting grad school.

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I'm working on my programming skills as much as I can without making it too much of a chore and trying to keep up with new papers in my field. Every once in a while I start feeling like I'm not doing enough with all this free time before September, so it's cool to see people are kind of taking it easy as well. 

Edited by sje
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What would you be asking him about? Honestly, I don't email my advisor that often and I'm currently IN graduate school. I don't think you have anything to worry about. So, I just checked my email archives. I emailed my now-advisor once in mid-to-late April to say that I was coming and to talk briefly about research. Once in June, because I came here then to look for apartments. We met for like an hour, had a coffee, and he showed me around the department. Then, I emailed again in August once I'd moved into my new place. That was to schedule a meeting about fall courses and about my RA, since I was his RA that semester. Does that help any?

 

Jumping in here because I have a related question... I'm entering this fall and have been trying to contact my advisor without success.  I sent an email in early May and followed up with one in early June (at least a month later.)  No answer.  How stressed should I be about this? (I know, they are probably on vacation or something.)

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I'd call and check with the secretaries... most of the time they know what's going on... who's in and who's not. Although nowadays it seems like people at least set up automatic replies like "I'm on vacation, and I'll be back on this date." I've been told at my institution that the faculty are officially not working from May 15 to August 15. But... some professors, like mine, work through the summer and answer emails on weekends and at night. But, some choose to set strict hours or days for answering email.

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Ok, let's take this issue in small bites.

 

1) I am an international student and it's winter here. What I am doing is getting rid of my winter clothes and keep the fresh ones for warm weather that expects for me in August. 

 

2) Although I graudated last year, first degrees take longer here because all of us work while studying. It took me three years to research and write my thesis so I am a little older than average. That said, I do not intend to do anything connected to grad school next July. I will finish working in a month or so, after that I will devote myself to friends and family, relaxing A LOT before the big leap to the north.

 

3) I am anxious too, and am a little intimidated by what I am going to find in my cohort/professors. My background seems fine (otherwise, I wouldn't have been admitted, right?) but I understand what you mean my "overprepare". I feel I can do something to be more like American grad students: reading some basic literature, listening/reading conferences. I don't known, something. and then I remember that I was admitted as an international student, that I will be overwhelmed by culture, classes and colleagues and that adding anxiety to this is not productive at all, right? 

 

4) I still have many pegs to do here. Translating transcripts, unsuscribing from utilities, refurbishing notebooks... 

 

5) As far as contacting my advisor, I have already. I asked him about the courses, he understood my hidden question and suggested I don't rush into reading but rather enjoy this time off left. He seems very approachable and he understands we international students are not used to many things of the American system. I am the kind of person who does not feel ashamed by asking. If I don't know, I'll ask. 

 

So, this 'summer', lots of free time to sleep, nap and jog. :)

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Oh noes...I didn't know I was supposed to plan to do something ('cept take care of moving plans, shopping for a new wardrobe, and my health) academic to get ready for graduate school....

 

lol, i just plan on taking it easy...hahaha

Edited by iampheng
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Just the necessary. I'm reading a couple of articles for my POI over the summer and preparing a required 5min presentation for my TA orientation thing. So all in all, maybe a day's worth of work total over the summer, haha.

Since I'm taking a suitcase and a carry-on with me, I'm leaving worrying about packing and other little errands till a couple of weeks before I leave. There's a couple of forms and stuff I still have to fill out and send before but nothing major. Everything else like travel plans, where I'm gonna live, etc. is set.

 

Other than that, I just finished work including some research I was doing with a prof. a couple of weeks ago and plan on doing very little other than going to the beach, reading, hanging out with friends, and basically enjoying my free time :D

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