Today graduate students' lives are more tightly scheduled than ever before, which can make it difficult to find time to attend conventional orientation sessions on campus. Illinois State's online Graduate School orientation is designed to provide an overview of campus and community resources at any hour that is convenient to you. We recommend that you read this online orientation before the start of your first term of study. For further information about any of the services or resources mentioned here, please see their individual pages at the university's web site.
The general orientation to Graduate School doesn't replace the program orientation in your own department. If you haven't yet received information about an orientation in your department, please contact your graduate coordinator.
There is no one formula for success in Graduate School. Each student is unique; each program is different. Nevertheless, successful graduates share common attitudes and actions. Beyond obvious advice like managing your time carefully and working hard, outstanding graduate students usually have three other traits in common: confidence, curiosity, and an enthusiasm for conversation about their chosen fields.
Be confident. By admitting you to their graduate program, your department or school is betting on your success. This does not mean that things will always go smoothly; in fact, you should expect nothing more certain than the unexpected. But confident students are more willing to ask questions and seek help whenever they need it. Confident students view questions as a normal part of the learning process and not as a sign of trouble. They ask right away and get the answers they need so they can go on to do well on their academic work. In contrast, students who lack confidence tend to avoid asking questions until after their question has become a problem, or worse.
Be curious. Don't limit yourself to your required reading or course assignments. Ask your instructors and subject librarians for recommendations on key journals and then read them. Learn more about your field. Stay well informed on current events by reading national papers online and listening to daily newscasts (WGLT, the campus radio station, is a great start.)
Talk with others. Spend time talking with your professors and other students outside of class about topics related to your field of study or interest. You're taking a big first step into your profession. This is the time to learn from them, to organize and articulate your knowledge before you sit down to write an assignment or of your profession before you making a professional presentation off-campus.