Information to Promote Grad Student Success

Please find this post at:

Last week I posed the question “What information, tools, tasks, and activities could we provide to promote our graduate students’ learning, intellectual development, and achievement of their post-graduate school goals?” So, let’s start with the first part of that question – what information could we provide to promote our graduate students’ learning, intellectual development, and achievement of their post-graduate school goals?

There are several pieces of information, as well as ways to disseminate that information, that can promote graduate student success.

photo credit: seeveeaar via photopin cc

photo credit: seeveeaar via photopin cc


The first piece of information that comes to mind is the grad handbook. Our handbook now has several “tips” sections for students. We have 1) tips for success (i.e. meet with your advisor often; get to know your fellow grad students), 2) application tips (i.e. be yourself; proofread), and 3) tips for registering for courses (i.e. talk with your advisor; make it count).  We also have advising best practices (from the OSU graduate school), including both graduate student responsibilities and graduate advisor responsibilities.  Finally, the handbook includes guidelines for making reasonable progress through the program, including information about what reasonable progress may look like each year (i.e. first-year students will want to be involved in research and have a minimum 3.0 GPA; fourth-year students will want to have a first-authored conference presentation and complete their required coursework).

By having a detailed handbook with advice and tips, students can 1) plan a course of study that is going to foster success, and 2) use reasonable progress standards to set annual and long-term goals for themselves.


Another way to disseminate information is in an introductory graduate seminar. Previous to this year, our proseminar mostly consisted of faculty taking turns talking about themselves to the first year grad students. I teach this class now [syllabus here], and I redesigned it to be sort of a “How to Succeed in Graduate School” course.  Topics I cover are: What is HDFS?; How do I take a graduate class? How do I know what classes to take? What are minors and graduate interdisciplinary specializations?; What is a professional organization? Which ones should I be in? How do I network within an organization?; What is a conference and what happens at them?  What is a conference presentation? How do I submit to a conference? How do I get travel paid for?; How do I find funding? What are the different types of funding? What is a fellowship? What is a graduate research assistantship? What is a graduate teaching assistantship? How does funding work over the summer?; What is a publication? What different kinds are there? How do you decide what journal to submit to? What does peer-review mean? What should I do if I get an email soliciting my work? Are all publications created equally? How do you decide who is an author? How is the authorship order decided?; What is a grant? What kinds of grants are there for graduate students? Are there scholarships for graduate students?; What is a CV?  What goes on a CV? What does not go on a CV?; What is an annual report? What goes in an annual report? What is service?  How much service, and what kinds, should I do?; How does the advisor/graduate student relationship work? How do I distinguish what I research from my advisor?  What should I research?; When and what should I teach? How do I stop teaching from taking over my time?; How do I balance graduate work and my personal life?; What should I spend the majority of my time doing?; Looking ahead.

The proseminar syllabus was crowdsourced with my current graduate students, and the course was really successful and useful. I believe that these first year students are going to have a head start in being successful in graduate school because we spent a semester exploring often implicit information on graduate school. If they are smart, they will use the information throughout the next four to five years to create significant learning experiences that will lead them to their ultimate goals.


We have a brownbag in our department. I asked the coordinator if I could have a few slots each semester for professional development seminars. This is a great way to disseminate information. I did seminars on how to have a productive semester, how to write a revision letter, how to write and improve writing, how to manage one’s digital presence, and I also gave a seminar on networking to another graduate student group. The sessions went really well, and were a great way to give the students more information on how to succeed in academia, particularly information that is not often formally conveyed.

Other ways of sharing information could include a grad student wiki, emails, blogs, etcetera. All of these methods of sharing information can support graduate student learning, intellectual development, and achievement of their post-graduate school goals. What information do/did you want as a graduate student? What information have you found most helpful? What dissemination methods did you find most useful?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *