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Being a good graduate student

There's a world of difference between undergraduates and postgraduate/graduates. It's difficult to believe because there's only a difference of a year between them, but it's true. While showing up for 50% of lectures and completing 80% of the assignments may have earned high marks in undergraduate papers, doing so for an honours paper won't likely pass muster with the lecturer. Also, please don't show up for lecture hungover or strungout; the lecturer takes notice. There are high expectations and professional standards to be met in the work completed for honours papers.

Your arguments mustn't have serious flaws. You must be constantly on the lookout for talking about what is most interesting for a contemporary audience.

Here are a few further guidelines to follow throughout the course of study:

1. Attend Seminars and other on-campus events connected with one's area of research speciality. Being a graduate student is defined by engagement with scholarly material. If there is an on-campus event, whether it's in your area or not, the expectation is that you attend the event. As a postgraduate, you should understand that you're still a novice and that academic staff don't see you as their equal so much as they see you as an apprentice. Apprenticeships assume that you attend all events in your area. That you have other obligations, familial or vocational, doesn't matter. Not attending an event seriously jeopardises your standing in the programme and provides academic staff with reason not to trust your dedication to your profession.

2. Talk with your postgraduate colleagues and academic staff. Fellow postgraduates and academic staff in the department are highly motivated independent workers who appreciate that you've taken an interest in work that closely intersects their own. Take advantage of this! Set up a time to meet with academic staff and talk with them about their own work or about an idea that you had about work in the field. Remaining aloof and out of touch with academic staff suggests a lack of dedication that might impede one's progress toward the degree.

3. Expect disagreement and criticism. Graduate study earning professional qualifications isn't good for building self-esteem because scholars are constantly disagreeing with one another about theses, the veracity or relevance of evidence, and argumentative structure. Very rarely does a colleague say, "good job" or "that was excellent." Be prepared for this. What one should expect to hear is: "Here are three reasons why we ought not take up the view you've presented" or "If we take up your view, then doesn't x follow. No one actually wants to take x seriously." For a scholar to say these things about a work should be understood as a compliment.

4. Apply for fellowships, assistantships, and scholarships at the University and elsewhere. There's a great deal of money floating around, and postgraduates should take advantage of that fact. Apply for anything that is available. You're likely broke, as is everyone at the age of 20-something. Understand that and embrace it. Do what can be done to mitigate the effects of having no money. The sooner one realises that mommy and daddy won't provide you with a bailout, the sooner living broke becomes easy. 

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