Tips for Success for Graduate and Transfer Students
By Julia Faherty august 16, 2018
While transfer and graduate students represent a smaller portion of Tech's new student population, they are a great addition to campus and bring a unique perspective to the community.
With the start of a new academic year, it is important to remember that even though these students have past college experience, they may be nervous about their first year on campus.
Fortunately, students at Tech are happy to share their wisdom, and listening to their recommendations will make the first year as a transfer or graduate student a breeze. Welcome, new Yellow Jackets!
Electrical engineering graduate student Skanda Prasad came to Tech in Fall 2014 from Bangalore, India, where he completed his undergraduate studies. He is a former president of the Graduate Student Government Association and has a few recommendations for incoming graduate students.
“Grad students don’t have FASET or an extensive orientation, so joining Tech can be an intimidating experience,” said Prasad. “As an international student, I spent my first semester trying to make the transition to grad school while adapting to a new country and culture. Luckily, life at Tech got a lot easier in my second semester when I was able to figure out the system and plan my time better, which gave me more time to explore the city, do new things, and join Grad SGA.”
Tech offers Orientation and GradExpo to help new students transition to life on campus. Fall 2018 Graduate Orientation sessions are approximately one hour and will be held at multiple times through Aug. 21. Advanced registration is required. Graduate students will also be welcomed to campus with a new event this fall, Graduate Student Welcome, on Wednesday, Aug. 29. The event features a convocation ceremony, followed by a free picnic hosted by Graduate SGA.
A few other bits of advice from fellow graduate students:
1. Connect with other graduate students.
Graduate students may find it difficult to identify and schedule time for extracurricular activities, but should be aware that there are many campus organizations open and welcoming to them. Prasad first found his place on campus through the India Club.
“I was able to connect with other graduate students soon after I received my admit, and they walked me through all aspects of life at Tech — right from course suggestions, housing, and even something as minor as what spices to bring from India.”
Student groups set up tables early in the semester to recruit new members, so keep an eye out for tables, flyers, emails, and events. Graduate students can also use Tech’s Orgsync page for more information about active campus organizations.
The Office of Graduate Studies organizes Grad Groups, which give students a group not tied to a specific academic or social interest.
“They’re a great way to find fellow grads outside of your lab and college, and provide an accessible way to get to know what’s available on campus,” said Renee Shelby, vice president for Grad SGA. Shelby led a group for two years and still maintains friends from the experience. “New grads get inundated with information that can be difficult to retain when you’re still trying to figure out where your classes are, how to navigate the department hierarchy, or even just unpacking your life in a new city. Grad Groups can help.”
2. Don't let the workload overwhelm you.
Graduate school at Tech can be intense, but the benefits of finishing the program are extensive. Prasad recommends that students make time to care for themselves.
“Take breaks, explore the city, try new things, and stay healthy,” he said. “Often, it’s more productive to put your feet up and take a break so you can get back to work rejuvenated and with higher productivity.”
Prasad has found a vibrant community in Atlanta. “I’ve enjoyed visiting the museums near Tech, watching plays, poetry, stand-up comedy, and live music, hiking and camping, trying new foods, among other things," he said. By spending time in the city, Prasad is able to take his mind off his studies and get a well-deserved break.
3. Prioritize your health.
Graduate students are usually comfortable cooking meals for themselves, but a busy schedule often means less time in the kitchen. Prasad said he mostly cooked for himself during his first year, but not always.
“Given how hectic the first semester was, cooking all three meals was out of the question,” he said. “For the most part, I’d have lunch on campus and sometimes dinner.”
Prasad found that graduate students didn’t use the dining halls frequently, so a full meal plan was unnecessary, but he found value in Dining Points, which can be used at all Community Restaurants and Georgia Tech Dining Services on-campus locations.
“When using Dining Points, not only do you save on tax, but you also get 10 percent of bonus credits, so it’s effectively a big discount on food.”
Remember that as a student you also have access to the Campus Recreation Center for workouts, and can purchase a semester-long pass for group fitness classes. Group fitness classes are free from Aug. 20–25.
4. Know that you belong.
Before classes even began this semester, Renee Shelby has heard new graduate students talk about experiencing impostor syndrome — saying things such as, “I still can’t believe Tech let me in!”
“I think impostor syndrome is something that many people in academic spaces feel, but especially women and people of color,” said Shelby, who studies history and sociology. “This can add more anxiety on top of the already stressful grad student experience, and make folks afraid to talk or ask for help because you don’t want to look like you don’t know what you’re doing. But honestly, most people in grad school don’t.”
Shelby’s advice: Reach out, don’t freak out. “There are people all over this campus who are rooting for you and want you to succeed — fellow students, faculty, and staff. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or just want to talk, people are here.”
From assisting with communication skills to health-related issues, Georgia Tech offers many resources to help graduate students through their studies and careers. Learn more here.