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What to do before the school year starts?


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So I have quite a bit of free time until school starts.

 

What should I be going?

 

I live in the same city where I'm going to school. I've thought about traveling, but should I be getting a leg up on research this summer? Going to conferences?

 

Any advice would be appreciated!

 

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I have two months off. I am actually planning to try and stay at my undergrad institution to do some more research. Is that an option for you? Stay with your current supervisor, for instance? Assuming that you just graduated from another course.

 

EDIT: So I am not planning on following Maleficent's advice. I usually prefer to have something to do. Traveling would be great (I will be traveling for 4-6 weeks this summer), but I at least need some occupation.

Edited by Kleene
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I think you should try to take some time for yourself, but its always a good idea to get to know your classics a little better...what about reading Marx's The German Ideology, or From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology? Or perhaps Durkheim's The Division of Labor (even though it sucks, you're still made to read the damn thing).

But definitely listen to maleficent... you need to enjoy this last summer of freedom.

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Note: I work full-time so I'm not necessarily saying you should sit around all summer doing nothing. My point was that we will probably not have another summer where we aren't required to be doing research/teaching/etc for another 5-8 years so we shouldn't be stressing out trying to get a leg up. I was told to "keep an eye on the relevant literature but for the most part, try to enjoy your friends and family."

Edited by Maleficent999
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Work to save up some money, just in case. For example, the first payment for the apartment you might lease could be due before you start getting your stipend, if you're funded. It will also keep you busy and productive.

Spend time with all the folks you couldn't spend time with due to your crazy undergrad workload!

Start exercising or exercise more... It'll help build your endurance for all the walking you'll do when finding your way around campus (my campus is on a mountain...So I am definitely hitting the gym now! Before, I could get winded from going up two flights of steps!)

Learn to cook if you don't know how. I've always either lived at home or have been on a meal plan at school! If you have your own apartment for grad school, learning to cook will save you some money!

Do all the pleasure reading you didn't get to do before! This is tough to do when you love the Internet, but it is wonderful to read!!

Get to know your cohort, if possible. The DGS sent out an email to the entire cohort with our names and email addresses!

That's all I've got... I'm a December graduate, so I've been doing the "wth do I do now?" routine for five months now...

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Start exercising or exercise more...

 

This is great advice. It's easier to start the habit now than when you're in school. If you can make it a habit, maybe you'll keep up with it in the semester. And it's not just for climbing stairs. Mental health, concentration, confidence, etc. These are things you will be in short supply of in grad school, and exercise is good for all of it. There's new research on the mental health status of grad students, and it's not a rosy picture. Plus, everyone is different, but I've noticed that the people who can get into a routine are the most productive workers. A daily workout can be an anchor around which to build a routine. 

 

Other than that, I would say relax. Read for pleasure. Maybe brush up on your basic Excel skills (I believe this is a good scaffold for learning data management and statistical software later on), learn a bit of the basic stats terminology (what is a distribution? what is variance? what is standard deviation?). Even if you plan on being an qual down the line, that will make your first couple of weeks of intro stats less stressful. Just watch some Youtube tutorials on it.

Don't bother reading sociology; you'll be doing plenty of that real soon. If you're hankering for academic stuff, read things that interest you outside of sociology (economics, psychology, business, philosophy, whatever). Then once you get a grounding in sociology, you can make thought projects out of "how would I improve this or that book with sociology?" 

 

If you have hobbies or interests, pursue them. It will make you more interesting at the inevitable awkward moments at department social functions or happy hours when you're sick of talking about work.

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You may want to think about potential research projects you could propose for the NSF GRFP. The deadline is quite early in the fall and there was tremendous pressure from my department to apply for it. I was eligible to apply twice as I came into the program straight out of undergrad, so I decided to forego applying this year and I'm glad I did. I now have a decent research proposal that I can adopt for the application. That said, had I really put time in thinking about it over the summer, I may have had something I could use and would have had the added advantage of applying twice. 

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The advice given to me by pretty much every POI I met: Chill out and enjoy your last summer of freedom.

 

I don't think this was meant to suggest do nothing; do things you enjoy/want to do (don't do them just because you think you need to).

 

Getting a part-time job and saving money is never a bad idea. As you already mentioned going to some conferences is also a good use of your time (networking opportunities, research inspiration, etc.). You've already been accepted and while more research experience couldn't hurt, I don't think its necessary.

 

I think all of the above suggestions are great. Catch up with family or friends, spend some time reading things for enjoyment, explore some areas in town (find a cool new coffee shop or place where you can go to relax when you're stressed out in future semesters). Traveling also isn't a bad idea. You probably won't be able to travel much once you're completing coursework and doing research (unless you're presenting at conferences). I also agree with the advice of pursuing an outside hobby. You will inevitably encounter awkward conversations; it is nice to find common ground with another cohort member or to discuss something else with your professors other than just work and school. 

 

I also think xdarthveganx makes an excellent point. Grant-writing and proposals are essential skills that can always be refined. Maybe explore some grants you may be eligible for and come up with a game plan for applying to them? 

Edited by harrisonfjord
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I am slowly working through Statistics for Dummies. I'll watch some tutorial vids maybe on that. I'm also trying to learn the very basics of programming on code academy so I can eventually get into R, just in case I want to do heavy quant based/statistical work down the line. I have 0 stats background so I feel this preparation is necessary, and if anyone else is on a similar boat I suggest doing the same.

 

Other than that basically a lot of binge-watching Netflix is going to take place. I don't see a point in the near future when I can do this guilt-free again.

 

I do wanna get into the habit of exercising, though. And read more. Gingin had great advice! I am ridiculously lazy and I'll have short periods of motivation where I end up doing a ton of HIIT and then nothing for weeks, months. That can't happen in Grad School if I want to keep my sanity. So if anyone has good, realistic advice on how to exercise and learn to love it (I am surprised by just how many people out there do) within the next couple of months, I'd greatly appreciate it.

 

All in all Maleficent is quite on point about the last summer of freedom, I think. 

Edited by SocGirl2013
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So if anyone has good, realistic advice on how to exercise and learn to love it (I am surprised by just how many people out there do) within the next couple of months, I'd greatly appreciate it.

 

Absolutely. Take up one thing and commit to doing it everyday for at least a few months. You'll start realizing tangible progress and then you'll get hooked on pushing yourself and then you'll love it. For me it was getting into a yoga routine that sent me over the edge a few years ago. I've also gone through similar phases with hiking and surfing. Good luck!

 

Also... what language are you learning on code academy?

Edited by turbodream
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Absolutely. Take up one thing and commit to doing it everyday for at least a few months. You'll start realizing tangible progress and then you'll get hooked on pushing yourself and then you'll love it. For me it was getting into a yoga routine that sent me over the edge a few years ago. I've also gone through similar phases with hiking and surfing. Good luck!

 

Also... what language are you learning on code academy?

Thanks, I think making sure I do it every day even if it's a few minutes will be the key. 

 

I am learning the very basics of Python because my boyfriend who is a programmer suggested it's a good gateway and also apparently viable for statistical analysis. It's also supposedly not that difficult (and so far I see that but I also anticipate it getting very complicated). I want to learn R though, eventually, but I suspect having some knowledge of some other kind of programming ought to help.

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I am slowly working through Statistics for Dummies. I'll watch some tutorial vids maybe on that. I'm also trying to learn the very basics of programming on code academy so I can eventually get into R, just in case I want to do heavy quant based/statistical work down the line. I have 0 stats background so I feel this preparation is necessary, and if anyone else is on a similar boat I suggest doing the same.

Other than that basically a lot of binge-watching Netflix is going to take place. I don't see a point in the near future when I can do this guilt-free again.

I do wanna get into the habit of exercising, though. And read more. Gingin had great advice! I am ridiculously lazy and I'll have short periods of motivation where I end up doing a ton of HIIT and then nothing for weeks, months. That can't happen in Grad School if I want to keep my sanity. So if anyone has good, realistic advice on how to exercise and learn to love it (I am surprised by just how many people out there do) within the next couple of months, I'd greatly appreciate it.

All in all Maleficent is quite on point about the last summer of freedom, I think.

I'm curious, why R? Do the majority of soc programs use this program? I've always found SPSS, SAS, or STATA to be the standard. I'm trained in SPSS myself, and have never had to learn a new stats program in order to work with a research organization.

I only ask this question because it may be better to train yourself on the usual suspects instead of R. If you plan to work in the university or the private sector (this distinction is collapsing, of course), you will be asked if you are proficient in SPSS, SAS, or STATA.

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Guest criminologist

I am refreshing my skills on statistical programs like SPSS, Stata, etc. so I will have a much easier time when I am going to use it in school. a lot of people are using R now but its not worth the trouble, they only do it because you can get it for free legally

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What makes you think that SPSS isn't used much anymore?

Because most graduate stats programs don't teach with it. It's generally used in undergrad courses because it's considered "easier." Many of the quant people I know don't consider SPSS sufficient for serious quant work. I don't really agree with that assessment, I learned on SPSS first and it works fine, but I do prefer STATA these days. 

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Because most graduate stats programs don't teach with it. It's generally used in undergrad courses because it's considered "easier." Many of the quant people I know don't consider SPSS sufficient for serious quant work. I don't really agree with that assessment, I learned on SPSS first and it works fine, but I do prefer STATA these days.

I think SPSS is the same as the other popular programs if you know how to function through syntax. I haven't used the SPSS GUI for ages...I agree though, if you're new and looking for training wheels, the SPSS GUI is great, but is limited in its functionality.

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@Socgirl, I know that just going to the gym with my sister is what keeps me on track.  There have been times I really haven't felt like going, but she'll say "Let's go to the gym," and I don't want to disappoint her, so I go, and it is really energizing!  I also didn't start out with anything too crazy.  For example, I could only do 20 minutes on the elliptical machine (I don't think it's actually an elliptical, but it is similar!), but I worked my way up the past few months to doing 35 minutes!  Stay in your comfort zone AT FIRST, then work your way out of it.

 

I also found that eating healthier went hand-in-hand with exercising; the former always helped me stay motivated for the latter, and vice-versa.  That doesn't entail simply counting calories ... it means making sure you have a balance of carbs, fat, and protein, for example.  MyFitnessPal is, unfortunately, often used ONLY as a calorie counter!! Counting calories alone without checking your nutrition can be problematic. So, I've been using the Nutrition tab on the side to check that carb-fat-protein balance, along with just how much vitamins, sugars, fats, etc, I've consumed for the day =)

 

It also keeps my mind busy because, you know, even life at home when you're not in school is stressful X_X

 

@Darth: I don't know anything about STATA!!! I guess I'll be learning about it during my first grad school-level semester since I'll be taking stats!!

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  • 4 weeks later...

School holidays different things for different students or family. If you like to travel then you can travel some where for few days. As it breaks the daily routine of your life, you must utilize the time which you will enjoy much. That may be related to traveling, playing,reading story book, spending time with friends which your mind will enjoy.

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