Tips on graduate life from our former grad student Mike Koss:

We have a lot of intramural sports teams, and this is a great way to meet many of the graduate students, especially the older ones since they don't have classes. Many of the grad students also attend basketball or football games. Grad students also have a number of people who play Risk-like strategy games online or do choir or orchestra etc., so this is a great way to meet people too.

Attending conferences/summer schools is a great way to network/develop an understanding of a field. Almost all of these summer schools offer funding too if you apply. Example NVO, Kitt Peak, Chandra, Statistics at Penn State etc.

There are a number of scholarships out there that are worth applying for. Even if you don't get them, it forces you to focus on what your goals are and what you have accomplished. I am thinking of NSF, planetary, Hertz, COSMO or state scholarships if you are a state resident like Senatorial and Delegates. Maryland also has a number of good workshops throughout the year on applying for them.

Filling out the FAFSA for financial for student aid is a good idea even if you don't take out aid. There is a box to apply for state/national scholarships you can check and they send you info on scholarships you may be able to apply for. Also, if you have some financial situation come up unexpectedly you can take out a Stafford loan at a low interest rate rather than put interest on your credit card or take out a bank loan at much higher rates.

Graduate school classes have differences from undergrad that need to be taken into account and require different strategies to succeed:

The Co-op downstairs in the union has great food. For some reason it took me months to realize where this place was. The quickie mart in between Astronomy and the rec center is the closest place for food from astronomy and is open until 1 am during school. It took me a semester to figure this out. There is a snack machine on the third floor of the astronomy department.

If you are stressed out because you feel you aren't cut out for grad school/got the lowest grade on an exam/think the HW is impossible/don't understand anything the speaker said during colloquium/took a class outside the department you had to drop/feel like you keep saying things that emphasize how you don't understand any of the basic vocabulary in astronomy etc., talk to one of the older grad students about it. You will be surprised to find out how everyone has struggled quite a bit.

Make sure to sign up for health insurance. There are sign up periods at the beginning of the semester. The insurance is heavily subsidized and it is really dangerous and foolish to not have it.

Your activities fee entitles you use of a state of the art gym at the rec center, outdoor pool, climbing wall, basketball, yoga, cycling classes etc. make sure you use it.

Take advantage of being a student in the nation's capitol. Go to incredible plays at the Shakespeare theatre, Kennedy Center for discounted rates, lobby with your congressperson about issues in astronomy/science, enjoy the national monuments, museums, bike around, run through the parks. Get your friends to visit you because you live in a cool place. Start using the metro earlier, it is a great way for transportation if you want to go to downtown DC.

Send me to:

Cole's home page

astro home page