Basic PhD Tips : Orientation

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Basic PhD Tips : Orientation At the beginning of the current semester I was asked to welcome our new PhD arrivals with a basic orientation to our department’s program. Since those PhDs have been briefed by our faculty and received lots of information about the program, so I thought it would be better to give them a few pointers on how I see the PhD journey. I sat down to write quick tips for PhD which some PhD students aren’t always aware of when they start off the program.


(photo adopted from the wonderful "I did a PhD and did NOT go mad")


So this is what my presentation included…



  • Publications are your top priority for entering the job market, not your thesis (edited : management field, that is).
  • Publications are tough.
  • Publications take a LONG time.
  • You’re likely to fail more than succeed.
  • So…
    • Start thinking about it early.
    • Use your courses to build your submissions.
    • Collaborate with professors, join their projects, discuss authorship. They know their stuff!
    • Connections are important, not only inside the department/university.



  • Important
    • To have one, as early as possible.
    • To be able to communicate and understand each other.
    • It’s meant to help you build up skills, not overload you. Not all students and professors understand that.
  • You can probably change till quals. If you do – do it tactfully.

(side note : our department has a mentoring system encouraging students to work with multiple mentors before settling down on an advisor after quals)



  • There is usually funding for conferences and research, but it could be tricky. Talk to your mentor about it.
  • There is usually a pool UG students available for surveys/experiments every year. If you’re micro OB – use it!



  • Classes are what YOU make of them
    • Prepare for class AND quals.
    • Participate in group discussions.
  • Knowing what professors in your department do is important, especially in your own area.
  • Visiting professors are an asset and an opportunity. Make the most of it.
  • School “gossip” does matter…
    • Talk to other students.
    • Talk to your mentor.


Not everyone graduates

  • Plagiarism.
  • Not passing qualifying exams.
  • Not showing progress in course/research.
  • Quitting due to over-pressure.
  • Deciding research life isn’t for them.
  • Deciding this university isn’t for them.

Better make sure you’re none of those as early as possible.


Absolutely critical for PhD survival

PhD ain’t easy and takes a long time. So…

    • Breath.
    • Eat well.
    • Sleep tight (7+ hours).
    • Find a hobby.
    • Do some sports.
    • Leave campus often.
    • Make friends.
    • Share your life with your loved ones.
  • Most important : HAVE A LIFE THAT’S NOT SCHOOL.



Scared? don’t be…

  • It’s a rewarding journey.
  • You learn a lot.
  • You get to do top work with excellent people.
  • It does get easier with time.


Got any other general tips worth sharing?


Good luck with your studies.

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