A World of Opportunities

Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated September 2010

As a grad student, you will be presented with more academic and pre-professional opportunities than you ever imagined. In fact, to an even greater extent than was the case when you were an undergrad, there will be extra-curricular events that will not only greatly supplement your academic work, but also pave the way for professional success.

These moments will not always be obvious. Sometimes, only those students who put themselves in the position to take advantage of the opportunities will have the chance to make the most of them...or even know about them in time.

But of course we wouldn't leave you high and dry and tell you to figure it out on your own. Here is our advice for finding and making the most of opportunities in grad school.

The right place at the right time 

Grad school is a time to make the most out of the academic experience, and take full advantage of the access you have to the professors who have already made an impact in the field you hope to break in to one day. But how do you take make the most of this?

First, make sure you put it out there to your professors that you'd like to go beyond simple academics. This doesn't mean being obnoxious, just vocal about what you'd like to get out of school.

Second, be sure to remain plugged-in with the other students in your classes. Unlike undergrad, people enter grad school from a wide variety of backgrounds-both professional and academic-and the broader your network, the better your chances will be of knowing exactly what's coming up.

Finally, it's imperative you do some leg-work yourself. Whether this means checking faculty bulletin boards, subscribing to professional e-newsletters or reading journals that specifically cater to your field, the important thing is to always stay aware of what's going on.

Because you just never know... 

So what's all this work for? Are there really that many opportunities that are worth all this effort? Absolutely. From conferences to symposia to calls for papers, there are literally more professional events out there for every specific field than you could ever possibly count, much less attend. (If you did, you wouldn't have time for your classes and research!)

Calls for papers are great chances for you to present research you're particularly proud of to a group of your peers. And while this is certainly a lot of work, and often filled with a great deal of pressure, it also potentially holds great rewards.

Why? Because you just never know who's going to be in the audience, impressed with your work, and offer to help you with an aspect of it, thereby making your research even better than it was before. Plus, let's not forget the power of networking when it comes to landing a job after graduation.

Conferences are a wonderful opportunity to attend lectures and presentations by people who are already established in your field. Whether it's sitting in on formal academic events or socializing during cocktail hour, conferences are not only about improving your own academic base of knowledge through professional programs, but again, they also help you expand your network.

Whatever you do, just make sure you keep your eyes and ears open for all the opportunities out there. That includes studying abroad in grad school.

I thought study abroad was for college students? 

For the most part, it is. Study abroad, that semester or year of exploring the world, taking a few classes and generally focusing on rounding out your character in ways you never previously had the opportunity to do, is most certainly aimed at college students. But that does not mean there aren't some wonderful experiences and programs abroad for grad students, too. 

Whether it's studying poetry in Rome or supplementing your theology research with a scholarship to Israel, there are innumerable programs abroad for students who are willing to extend their education to way outside the classroom.

The benefits of doing this are not only the result of the experience itself: You will also make your resume stand out from the mass of other ones that are submitted for consideration to companies and universities for jobs upon graduation. Just imagine how much you will stand out, and how much richer your grad school experience will be, if you spend a part of your time abroad.

If you can't make it abroad through a formal program, summer is the perfect time to travel wherever you deem necessary to supplement your research for your thesis or dissertation.  It's important to remember that it's not just ok, but encouraged, to  continuously think outside the academic box. The opportunities and experiences you'll have could potentially change your academic (and, eventually, professional) life.

There's literally a world of opportunity out there: Make the most of it. You'll be glad you did.

Photo by Let Ideas Compete

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