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Getting Started With Your Graduate Education

On behalf of Core Programs in the Graduate School, welcome to all our new and returning graduate and professional students! We are thrilled you are at the University of Washington, where you will have a new year of opportunities to strengthen and grow your intellectual and professional skills. This fall, we encourage you to tap into resources that can help you thrive as you navigate graduate student life.

Here are just a few ways to get you started:

Find your ground. Graduate school is about navigating a complex set of academic, professional and social experiences. Whether you are new or returning to campus, this can sometimes feel overwhelming and unwelcoming—especially if you belong to an underrepresented community based on race, gender, sexuality, class, ability or citizenship. One way to counteract this imposter feeling is to say to yourself, “I do belong here.” You are in graduate school to enhance or find your career path, give back to your families and communities, or make important contributions to research and innovation. For even more tips and strategies on how to counteract feelings that you don’t belong, check out these resources: here and here.

Get to know department staff. From organizing orientations, providing a supportive ear to students, or ensuring that you fulfill your degree requirements, Graduate Program Advisors (GPAs) are often your first point of contact into graduate school. They also provide important administrative support for graduate programs. Feel free to reach out to your GPA, as they have a wealth of experience and knowledge of your campus. If they don’t know the answer, they can often connect you with campus resources that serve the needs of graduate students.

Attend department events. Whether they are faculty or peer presentations, departmental meetings, working committees, or peer pub nights, there are numerous opportunities to connect with peers, staff, and faculty throughout the year. These co-curricular spaces provide an opportunity for you to glean information such as how to develop strong presentations, pick up disciplinary lingo (don’t worry if you don’t know all the terms yet), learn the spoken and unspoken culture of your graduate program, and foster collegial relationships with faculty and peers. Remember to pace yourself—you need not attend everything as you are already busy. We know from experienced graduate students that it’s best to attend events that make sense to you and your schedule.

Prepare for graduate seminars. It’s totally natural to feel excited and anxious about attending your first graduate seminar—especially if you don’t know what to expect or are the first person in your family to attend graduate school. Fortunately, Dr. Ralina Joseph, associate professor of communication at UW Seattle, provides useful tips on how to succeed in a graduate seminar.

Find your community. The University of Washington is a big place, with three campuses and multiple off-site research locations. We know that a feeling of belonging on campus is critical to your success as graduate students. It makes a difference to find and connect with people that can support your whole self—and not just your role as a graduate or professional student.

Best Wishes On a New Academic Year,

Kelly Edwards, Jaye Sablan, Ziyan Bai
Core Programs Staff, The Graduate School