5 Things Most People Get Wrong About Grad School

This guest post comes from Zachary Shore, author of Grad School Essentials: A Crash Course in Scholarly Skills, who debunks 5 myths about attending grad school.

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1) You are supposed to read every word of your assignments.

This approach works fine if you never eat or sleep and give up on any semblance of a life worth living. The reality is that no one reads everything. Instead, they learn to read strategically, gutting texts for their key questions, premises, and arguments.

Solution: Skim for thesis and meaning. One surprising tip: read the last section first! (Chapter 1)

2) Critiquing a text means saying whether you liked it or not.

In elementary school your book reports came back with smiley stickers when you did well. In grad school, a critique is a rigorous analysis of the author’s argument: its strengths as well as its weaknesses. And there are no smiley stickers. But sometimes there are jobs when it’s all over.

Solution: Spot an argument’s weakest links–and break them! One surprising tip: the title of a book/article gives you key clues to the author’s intent! (Chapter 2)

3) It’s okay to give presentations by reading from a script.

This may cure your professors’ insomnia by putting them to sleep, but you won’t get strong recommendation letters from the people you bored to death in grad school.

Solution: Speak in public with verve, humor and substance! One surprising tip: end your presentation with a twist! (Chapter 4)

4) Professors are there solely to help you.

This is a heart-warming belief that makes me want to coo as if in the presence of a baby deer. The harsh reality is that most professors are also concerned with advancing their careers. Some of them will definitely help you, but many will also wonder what you can do for them.

Solution: Be the best apprentice possible. One surprising tip: learn to smile when being criticized! (Chapter 5)

5) Doing research means writing about a topic.

Remember that you are actually writing about a question, rather than vaguely circling a topic. Scholarship aims at advancing our understanding of difficult puzzles. Your goal is to locate those puzzles and solve them.

Solution: Formulate an original thesis. One surprising tip: compress your research question into 8 words or fewer! (Chapter 6) 


Learn how to do all of the above—and more—to succeed in grad school! Grad School Essentials: A Crash Course in Scholarly Skills by Zachary Shore teaches you how to read, write, speak, act, and research at a higher level – saving you time and upping your game. This succinct guide–jam-packed with key information–contains practical, ‘essential’ tips that will help make your learning experience both productive and fun.