The 5 Most Important Friends You Can Make in Grad School

by
Former Attorney; Graduate Student; Writer and Tutor, Grockit.com

Sep   2011

Tue

27

Maybe you’re going into a graduate program because you don’t really know what else to do with your life; maybe you’re going because you have a clear plan for your future career. Either way, it’s likely that you’re hoping to make the most of your grad school experience and then get a job after graduation. Here are five people who can help you do that.

1. Your favorite professor

In the short term, going to your professor’s office hours, participating in class, and otherwise making a connection outside the classroom can enrich your educational experience, bringing you to a new understanding of the material. In the long run, you will hopefully get a recommender for scholarships, grants, and jobs, as well as a valuable networking contact, and maybe even—gasp!—a friend. The relationships between student and teacher are more informal in grad school than in undergrad, and it’s absolutely worth reaching out to a professor whose interests and teaching style really inspire you.

2. Your academic advisor

If you’re lucky, this will be your favorite professor. But even if you don’t have much in common with this person, you will need him/her at some point, so play nice. Make appointments each semester to discuss your progress, take any advice you get, and follow up with your sincere thanks.

3. A career services advisor

Again, making an appointment each semester to speak to someone in career services—ideally, the same person each time—is smart. Review your resume together, discuss your career plans, ask for advice on potential mentors and contacts in your field. The career services advisor is well-placed to know alumni from your program who have gone into the same professional areas that you are considering.

4. A financial aid employee

You never know when your student loan distribution is going to get botched, your expected financial contribution is going to be unexpectedly high (reducing your aid eligibility), or a personal emergency is going to necessitate a short-term loan. Being on good terms with a financial aid worker who can help smooth over these problems (and believe me, they’re not uncommon; all three of those things have happened to me in the past three semesters) is priceless.

5. Secretaries. All of them.

I cannot stress this enough: befriend the secretaries! Maybe you’ve heard Napoleon’s famous statement that “an army marches on its stomach,” meaning that the logistics of an operation, such as making sure that soldiers are fed, are of paramount importance. Similarly, an academic department’s operations are absolutely dependent on the administrative professionals. Make friends with them and you’ll have access to all sorts of assistance that you might miss out on otherwise.

Which kinds of contacts have benefited you the most? Share your stories in the comments!

At Grockit, we’re all about education and getting you ready to move on to the next stage in your life. But we’re not just teachers; we’re all former and/or current students, too, and we’ve got more than just test preparation tips to share with you!

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About Andrea Alexander

Andrea Alexander

Andrea Alexander is a former attorney and a current graduate student at the University of Michigan School of Information, where she is studying library and information services and information policy. She has also been teaching, tutoring, and writing content for standardized test preparation for almost ten years, most recently for the online test prep company Grockit, which focuses on making standardized test preparation affordable and accessible for students around the world. At Grockit, we’re all about education and getting you ready to move on to the next stage in your life. But we’re not just teachers; we’re all former and/or current students, too, and we’ve got more than just test preparation tips to share with you!

 
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