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Prepping for Fall


NavyMom
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I got my official admittance and I accepted, so I start after labor day.  

I have already pulled the syllabi for both classes of my first semester (they are living so the only thing that has changed is the dates of class meetings -  The books have remained the same).  I have started to purchase said books, because for two classes, there are 16 of them.

 

What has your experience been dealing with so much reading material.  I have somewhat been given a taste in my senior year of my undergrad, but it doesn't come close to these graduate level classes.  I do have to read at least one book over the summer in order to complete an assignment before class starts.  

Can anyone provide advice on how to keep up with the reading when you still have somewhat of a life *chuckle*?  My life consists of working and dealing with family... I have already cut off my outside social life.

Edited by NavyMom
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In my experience classes with that many books usually don't expect you to read the entire books. Do the syllabi list chapters or is it really the whole books? I suppose it depends on the field you're in (sorry - I can't tell in mobile view).

I don't know if you go on public transit at all but I find that you can actually get a substantial amount done just commuting or going out and running errands. An hour here and there adds up!

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Be reading whenever you can. Transit, lunch breaks, any time you can get a couple minutes to read. Figure out what are the books you really need to know through and through, and which are the ones where you just have to have a general sense of what they're about, so you can focus on the ones you really have to know, and read much quicker through what you don't need to know so much. I can't imagine you'll have to be an expert on all 16 volumes, nor that you would have to have them all finished by the start of the term.

 

Judging from your username I assume you have kids, so if you can distribute some of the responsibility for looking after them to your partner/family/friends, that could also free up some time to read.

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If at all possible, get to know people who have already taken the classes. Ask them about their experiences, including about the teachers. You may not be able to do this so easily until you're already there in the fall.

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I am going to simply cut and paste what one of my letter writers (a recently tenured professor who graduated with his PhD within five years) advised me on the reading load: 

 

 

 

Yes, the reading is overwhelming at first. It helps to have a clear purpose in reading, something other than to just "know the material." You read better and faster if you've got something you're looking for in particular. It sounds pathetic, but I also used to time myself as I read in grad school, and would only allow myself up to two minutes per page. And, of course, there are times you can't read everything, so you need to be strategic (and contribute to seminar discussion early in a class meeting on the things you do know, so it doesn't look weird when you're quieter later).

I have found this advice immensely helpful. I focus my energy and attention on the reading that relates to my interests, and I do a directed skim (looking for the main idea and maybe one interesting passage) on the reading that doesn't. I have started to treat my coursework as work. It sounds obvious, but it's a huge change in mindset: I am not approaching my coursework and research like I'm a student who wants a good grade, but like I'm a professional who is focused on a long-term project (my dissertation). This means I keep regular hours, and I prioritize my work based on my goals. If, on a Tuesday, I have to choose between reading all four articles for my night seminar or only three articles but spend time revising a paper for an article, I'll choose the latter. 

 

Just wondering, is it normal to do coursework before classes start? I don't even know how to choose classes yet....

In my experience, yes. Some professors will email you a week or two before classes start and ask you to do some reading, so the first seminar meeting can really get going. Don't worry-- the professors will make it clear if they expect you to complete any work before the first meeting. 

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