Graduate School Essentials | What Do I Need for Grad School?
1/24/2021 by HIGHERGRAD
Success! You have been accepted to a graduate school program and are ready to start. One of the hardest aspects of graduate school is getting in. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort, so well done! Next, you need to prepare to start and work towards finishing your program. One of the obvious first questions many newly accepted students ask is "What do I need for grad school?" To answer that, we have compiled the graduate school essentials you should have.
When we talk about essentials for grad school, they can be broken down into two main categories. Both the tools for graduate school and specific skills are essential to have. Graduate school is college on steroids'. In order to be successful during your first month and beyond, you need to have and be able to use these tools to your advantage.
Graduate school essentials include both tools and skills. Examples of essential tools for grad school include a modern laptop, cloud storage and document space, bag or backpack, and a dedicated workspace. On the skills side, communication, time management, and project management are critical in order to be successful in grad school.
Tools for Grad School
There are important things every grad student needs. These tools are essential to being able to complete course work and manage your requirements for graduating your program on time. The good news is most of these tools you probably had during your undergraduate program. If you are an adult learning or if it has been substantial time since you graduated, then you may have to make some purchases.
Upgrade Your Laptop
One of the best tools for graduate school is a modern laptop. What is considered a modern laptop? Here are a few specifics we recommend for your grad school laptop.
Other considerations for your grad school laptop include screen size, weight, other software, and warranty. Most colleges and universities offer student discount programs where you can save some money. However, expect to pay somewhere between $500 and $1,200 for a quality laptop with these recommended specifications.
Organize Files in the Cloud
The next essential tool is a dedicated cloud storage and document space. There are many choices out there including Google Drive, Box, Office 365 OneDrive, and DropBox. Could storage will allow you to save documents for courses, research, or other graduate school files.
We suggest creating folders for each course, research, and administration files. This will keep things organized and easy to find. The cloud storage option is also important because you can access files anywhere. Whether you need to access something quickly on your phone or from a library computer, your files will always be available. Another important aspect of utilizing cloud storage is that all your documents are always backed up. So if you computer crashes or you loose a storage device, you never have to worry about loosing your important graduate school files.
Nowadays, most cloud storage providers offer free storage. This can be a few gigabytes upwards of 15 gigabytes. Unless you have large files, the free tier is enough to meet your needs. However, these providers do offer additional storage for minimal monthly (or yearly) fees.
What about a flash drive? There are potentially times when you will need to have a flash drive to move data from place or person to another. It is probably not a bad purchase to have one, at least 16 GB, although in most instances you can simple share or upload via your cloud storage.
An Everyday Bag
One of the things every grad student needs is a good bag. It doesn’t matter if you prefer a backpack or prefer a carry bag, but a good bag is a graduate school essential item. Bags for grad school are important because many times you will be commuting to campus for courses and other program requirements. You want a bag that has a laptop storage pocket and other places for books, notepads, and other grad school supplies. A bag with a drink holder is useful as well for those long days on campus or in the lab. In fact, one of the best gifts for starting grad school is a bag!
A Welcoming Workspace
Finally, a dedicated workspace in your home or apartment is critical. You will need a quiet place to concentrate on difficult classes and your program’s research. Make sure the space is functional and inviting. It has to be a place you want to work in for the next several years. Include items like a functioning desk, comfortable chair, and creature comforts such as music and natural lighting. Spending time setting up a good work environment will help you excel especially during the first months of graduate school.
Skills That Are Essential for Grad School
Now that you have the tools for grad school but you need to focus on specific skills. There are far more essential graduate school skills than we can cover in a single article. Let's focus on the top three: communication, time management, and project management.
Communication skills are key in graduate school and more importantly in life. As you begin to prepare for grad school, you need to refine your communication skills. Learn how to communicate with different people such as professors, your graduate committee, and industry professionals. Most programs will require some form of conference presentation or other presentation at your institution. Practice presenting in front of friends and your advisor. The best way to improve your communication skills is to talk with people. Lean on your advisor to help you. They will be able to focus your practice and ultimately improve your techniques around communicating.
Time management is almost as important as communication. Course loads are less than you may be use to, however, courses will involve much more time devoted to them. You will need to manage your time well in order to complete assignments and projects. In addition, there will be less oversight over your time. You will be expected to manage tasks all on your own and meet deadlines with little direction. A planner is one of the best ways to stay organized in grad school. We recommend a digital planner or calendar. The reason being, a digital calendar allows you to set reminders and to-do lists. You can block off time to work on specific tasks and know exactly what you should be focusing on each day, week, and month. Also, you can share your calendar with your advisor or other grad students, which helps with managing time.
With time management comes the next skill, project management. Project management is the process of leading the work of a team to achieve goals and meet success criteria at a specified time. The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals within the given constraints.
While you may be leading a team, most of project management in graduate school will be devoted to your assignments and research. Each course will more than likely have projects within them. You will have to be able to understand the project, sketch out requirements, build milestones, and meet the challenge to complete the project. Again, calendar tools and other software like Asana are good ways to outline specific projects and items required to be completed based on objectives.
What Else Do I Need for Grad School?
Of course, we spoke of specific graduate school essentials. This was by no means a comprehensive guide of things every grad student needs, but rather the most important tools and skills to get you started. After your first year of grad school, you will know what works and what other essentials you need. Personal things like housing, transportation, meal prep, and clothing are also important but are beyond this article. Our assumption is, these things are necessities however most grad students are already planning for these.
In conclusion, there are particular graduate school supplies and skills you need to have going into your first year of a graduate program. Start with these graduate school essentials. Get the tools for grad school to be successful and build up on your skills for a great start to your next phase of your education.