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How to Survive Grad School. Pedro A. Alviola IV, PhD Program Associate Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness University of Arkansas. Topical Outline. Academic Preparation Qualifier and Prelim Exams Picking an Adviser and Forming your Committee

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how to survive grad school

How to Survive Grad School

Pedro A. Alviola IV, PhD

Program Associate

Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness

University of Arkansas

topical outline
Topical Outline
  • Academic Preparation
  • Qualifier and Prelim Exams
  • Picking an Adviser and Forming your Committee
  • Finishing the Dissertation/Thesis
  • References
a academic preparation
A. Academic Preparation
  • Math pre-requisites: Take calculus, linear algebra and others or sit in the lectures.
  • Statistics preparation: Take theory of inference and estimation courses and other stat topics that interest you like multivariate analysis, non- parametric estimation, time series analysis and others.
  • Economics: aside from the usual Graduate Microeconomics load of 2-3 courses, go deeper on theory by taking advanced economics courses.
b qualifier and prelim exams
B. Qualifier and Prelim Exams
  • Talk to the exam chair about the exam coverage and then take a look at the old exams to get an idea of the questions being asked.
  • Take advantage of a study group (3-4 persons/group) approach. This is usually formed during the first year and by the time you take the field exams, you are more or less familiar with your groupmates.
  • Graduate students are masters of applying the Folk theorem…roughly stated… If you deviate from expected behavior (like not doing your part in carrying the load) you are going to be penalized.
b qualifier and prelim exams1
B. Qualifier and Prelim Exams
  • Do your work before going to study groups. If you cannot contribute then you’ll find yourself being left behind the discussion. If you do this repeatedly, your classmates will likely not invite you to future sessions.
  • Prepare early…When the spring semester opens, start reviewing by allotting at least 30 minutes/day for review of core topics (Pearson, 2005).
b qualifier and prelim exams2
B. Qualifier and Prelim Exams
  • If you study hard…rest hard too…That means for example spending time with family, friends and loved ones -your support structure (Pearson, 2005).
  • Successful examinees usually plan ahead in terms of executing their study schedule so that when the big day is fast approaching, they start to slowly stand down from studying.
b qualifier and prelim exams3
B. Qualifier and Prelim Exams
  • If a particular topic is relatively difficult to grasp, kindly ask a faculty member/advance graduate student to lecture on this topic. Maybe the GSA can organize a one day session so that other students can attend.
  • Get enough sleep and read the questions carefully before taking on the offensive… Spending a few minutes understanding what a question requires saves a lot of time and effort…no joke..really…
c picking an adviser
C. Picking an Adviser
  • It’s always good practice to get top grades from professors in your chosen field. That way you get to familiarize yourself with the faculty and vice versa.
  • Choose an adviser who’s actively publishing in your chosen field.
  • Pick an adviser who would motivate and push you to break new ground and cause you to deepen your understanding of your topic and field of expertise (McCarl, 2003).
c picking an adviser1
C. Picking an Adviser
  • Choose committee members who would actively encourage you to develop rigor and depth. Actively involve them in your research and bear in mind that each of them is a likely collaborator in your future researches.
  • Remember that your Major Professor/Adviser is your ALLY. Maintain a good, healthy and professional working relationship with your Adviser. Extend this to your committee and to the faculty as well.
d finishing the dissertation thesis
D. Finishing the Dissertation/Thesis
  • The dissertation usually concludes your PhD journey and will likely involve all the skills, techniques and material you have learned in grad school.
  • If you and your adviser have already decided what dissertation topic you are going to pursue, take advantage of advanced courses that require you to present a research paper in class.
  • This way you’ll be forced to start researching on your topic and of course you get to receive feedback from your professor and classmates.
d finishing the dissertation thesis1
D. Finishing the Dissertation/Thesis
  • Start talking to your Seminar Chair for the possibility of presenting your work so that you’ll get comments from the faculty and students (especially the advance students).
  • Also, present your paper in meetings and conferences to get additional feedback.
  • Then if your adviser gives the go signal, go ahead and submit your paper for publication (Shively, Woodward and Stanley, 1999).
d finishing the dissertation thesis2
D. Finishing the Dissertation/Thesis
  • Of course implicit in writing your research paper is the requirement that you are at least familiar with the requisite theoretical and quantitative tools.
  • And most likely you have learned this from the courses you have taken in the past. DO NOT SHIRK YOUR RESPONSIBILTY OF LEARNING THESE TOOLS….If you do and if you let your group mates do the work, you will pay a heavy price in the end.
d finishing the dissertation thesis3
D. Finishing the Dissertation/Thesis
  • If you get stuck, do not suffer in silence, talk to your adviser so that he/she may give you an advice on coming up with a potential solution.
  • Reward yourself for every breakthrough that you’ve accomplished… Take a break for example by spending time with your family (play catch or go fishing with that precocious eldest son of yours), loved ones and friends.
  • McCarl, B.A. 2003. Preparing yourself for PhD Level Employment. Research Paper. Dept. of Agricultural Economics, Texas A & M University.
  • Shively, G., R. Woodward, and D. Stanley. 1999. Strategy and Etiquette for Graduate Students Entering the Academic Market. Applied Economic Perspective and Policy, Volume 21 (2): 513-526.
  • Pearson, M. 2005. How to Survive your First Year of Graduate School in Economics. Paper Developed for the Mentor program for first year graduate students in UC Davis.


And Remember to Keep Moving Forward!!!