Grad School Tips/FAQ


  • Use calendar for friendly calendar stalking. This makes it easy to schedule time with your peers
  • If you’re doing this, also put your classes on your calendar
  • Explicitly schedule research time on your calendar, particularly for later in the semester when classes pick up speed
  • Create a “backup only/not useful now” sub-inbox in bMail to sort the mails
  • Select the activities/events/lectures to go because time is limited. 
  • Non-English native speakers should enroll in LAN PRO 380, install Grammarly for email/Facebook language correction, and double-check everything before you send/submit.
  • Ask peers/professors if they prefer in-person/email/slack/etc. for communication, since respecting this will generally get you faster responses
  • Don’t expect a standard/comprehensive on-boarding experience
  • Proactively reach out to professors, particularly potential advisors. Ask to schedule a regular time with them if appropriate.
  • Some things to generally ask about: Fellowships/funding, conferences, class recommendations, prioritizing classes vs. research
  • Paper reading strategies; many classes and papers have suggestions on this, the following were from my 1st semester classes
  • Jot down notes as you read the paper (highlight, bullet points, etc.)
  • Write a 1-2 sentence summary of the paper IN YOUR OWN WORDS after reading it
  • Come up with at least one interesting question/thought that you’d like to theoretically discuss with someone else that read the paper
  • Staying in campus during the winter break and Christmas can lead to serious loneliness. Suggest first-year students to book the airline ticket home for winter break ASAP. Note: most professors are also traveling during the winter break and Christmas. There is limited benefit to stay in campus, even if you want to do research. 


  • What should I do for reading/storing papers?
  • Option 1: Print them out, highlight/annotate them, and keep them in roughly organized folders (e.g. by class)
  • Option 2: Use some software like Mendeley to store, highlight, annotate, and organize them. This can be done on tablet or laptop.
  • Option 3: Some hybrid of the above (e.g. store them digitally but read them physically)

Suggested books

How to screw up in grad school - Notes

Real examples from Berkeley grad students, roughly based off 57 Ways to Screw Up in Grad School
Video Recording: (email any Grad Student Services staff for username and password)
  • Going it alone, do everything yourself, and staying quiet
  • Fear of revealing ignorance/imperfection
  • Being afraid of asking for help from other professors because it’s not worth their time
  • Not communicating with advisor
  • Advisor asks student to learn stuff, but student doesn’t know where it’s going, just keeps learning
  • After 2 months, student realized the problem they were tackling but wasn’t excited about it
  • Fear of pushing back on advisor/giving input on projects
  • Not utilizing staff advisor
  • Ignoring degree requirements
  • Don’t wait too long to satisfy GSI requirement (get done by 3rd/4th year)
  • Can ask stuff like: How to apply for fellowship? How can I meet people? How can I broach a conversation with my advisor? And more!
  • Working too much/too hard
  • Assuming it’s expected to work very hard and that’s what everyone else does
  • Assuming more time in the office means getting more done
  • Burning out
  • Socializing only with your clique
  • Only talking to your labmates
  • Stressed because you’re overworked and just went through prelims, talking with peers that are overworked and just wen through prelims, and all you talk about is challenges
  • Not having any hobbies that weren’t related to school/not having any things that force you to take breaks
  • Comparing yourself to others