Finding Success in Grad School: 6 Tips From Alumni That Have ‘Been There and Done That’

Alumni advice to new students
Alumni offer advice to new students

By Chelsea Trautman

Summer is coming to an end, and the school year is just getting under way. For some, it has only been a few months since you last sat in a classroom while many others will be returning after years spent out of school. Here at DePaul University, classes resumed this week, and the College of Communication invited alumni, Lindsey Barber, Maggie Christ, Michael Lassiter, and Patrick Wilmot, to return for an evening of mingling and hors d’oeuvres to provide current students with a bundle of useful tips to find success throughout their graduate career. With their outstanding success as evidence, their advice definitely seems worth taking.

Don’t be afraid to jump in.
When returning to grad school, Michael encouraged current students to drop their inhibitions on the university steps. Staying involved in class is a sure fire way to stand out to your professors and any guest speakers that may be present. In a learning environment, there are no bad questions or stupid answers, so you may as well get involved and speak up. This tip even stretches beyond the classroom. Do not be afraid to open up to your classmates. Now is the time to bond with your peers, and group study sessions are great for learning about new perspectives. (Having friends to hang out with on the weekends when the stress becomes overwhelming is a plus as well!)

Stay alert to opportunities.
Maggie, one of this year’s winners of the Jack Koten Page Principles Case Study Award, advised current students to listen to professors about the many opportunities, such as contests and internships, available throughout the school year. Professors are already in the know and can open many doors for students to find success. Competitions provide students with the chance to push themselves to reach high expectations. Who knows? You may win a trip to New York like Maggie!

Network, network, network!
In graduate school there is an entire web of networks at your fingertips. Introduce yourself to any guest speakers or professors that you meet throughout your years in school. Join LinkedIn and don’t be afraid to connect. If you have less than 100 connections, you are missing out on valuable opportunities to get your name out there. The power of networking with your fellow students cannot be forgotten either. One of Lindsey’s classmates recommended her for an internship, and now she is a full time assistant account executive at one of Chicago’s prestigious Public Relations firms.

Get to know your professors.
Patrick was aware of the gold that is your instructor. Most likely, your professor has been in your shoes, whether it is deciding on attire for an interview or having to choose between two job offers. They can give impeccable advice both in and out of class, and when it comes to finding a job, they may be even more helpful. Experts in their chosen field, your professors are in the loop when it comes to job opportunities and may even write you a recommendation letter. Don’t let the opportunity slip through your fingers; a quick chat after class or an invitation to the Starbucks down the street will be worth it in the end.

Challenge yourself.
Maggie warned that if there is a class that scares you, you should probably take it. You are in school to learn. When the course work is frighteningly unfamiliar, accept the challenge and push yourself beyond your current capabilities. You’ll avoid a lot of anxiety when you have to put your new skills to work at your new nine-to-five.

Whether it’s learning a new skill or creating friendships, graduate school is a place for growth. If you stay open to the many opportunities available to you through your graduate program, you will be sure to find success in the end.

Chelsea Trautman Chelsea Trautman is currently a Public Relations and Advertising graduate student at DePaul University. Although she is a native of Mississippi, she received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri.

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