Sunday, August 4, 2013

Almost That Time of Year

When the calendar turns to August, many academics start to think "oh sh!te!  I have only a month (+/-) to finish what I can and get to work on prepping classes."  Yes, many of us still like to teach and enjoy our students, but summer is the time to get stuff done, and we usually find ourselves with too much on our "to do" list and not enough on our "done" list. 

I had hoped to finish a book this summer, but it is unlikely that I will complete the first draft (will be 1-2 chapters short).  I am feeling crunched because I have to write a grant app to kick of the semester (due in October) along with teaching a new course and prepping a new course for the winter term.  I keep thinking--after this next project, I will have some breathing room to finish those things that I am way late on.  But I find myself committing to the next thing already.

Anyhow, as we start to begin our end of the summer panic, new grad students are preparing to go off to their first year.  Matt Dickerson has come up with some excellent gift ideas for new graduate students, and I thought I would add to the list:

  • Any stats, figures, charts of the law profession, so that the new graduate student can at least take comfort in the path not taken.
  • A guide to the local restaurants that are cheap but filling--one cannot survive on the free food at the various talks alone.
  • A costume--hey, they are going to be too busy grading to come up with a decent Halloween costume.  
  • An internet blocker to keep the student away from stress-inducing rumor mills.
  • Those things that horses wear that block their vision--you want to keep the new grad student from dating other grad students, or else their career will be forever dominated by the dreaded "two-body problem."  Of course, one can still have that problem with non-academics....

Things not to send along:
  • Any books listing alternative careers.  Unless you want the person to quit.  I stayed in school in part because I had a lousy imagination of what I could do other than poli sci.
  • Any advertisements of luxury items, like nice clothing, great vacations, new cars.  Going to grad school is like taking a vow of poverty--do not tease the new grad student with all of the stuff they will not be able to buy.  However, do provide them with sweatpants and sweatshirts, as these are handy pretty much all the time (red ones served well for a Halloween costume as a red pepper.  Really).
Grad school actually does not have to be a miserable experience.  As long as you go someplace where all of the PhD students are funded, you are likely to find enough supportive folks in the cohort to enjoy the town, to engage in distractions from the work and to get help while preparing for comprehensive exams, dissertation defenses, job talks and whatever else that comes along.

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