Step 4: Communication & Initiative

5 Apr

In graduate school “effective communication” and demonstrating “initiative” are more than mere personality traits driving successful academic completion.  These particular traits, developed, can save a student from unnecessary stress and workload – and goodness knows graduate students have enough stress/work as it is.  How can doing more work actually make for less work?  Sounds like an oxymoron at first, but let me provide an example.

The school I’m attending is making some changes to their Professional Portfolio requirement and Residency curricula – they are going from a hard copy portfolio that was supposed to be turned in at the next residency to a digital portfolio that will be completed after residency. Moreover, they apparently forgot to tell the students.  Our class was still under the impression that they were completing a hard copy portfolio.  So we were all getting ready to work on it.

If I had not called to double check requirements for the portfolio we would have (1) never realized there were changes we needed to prepare for, (2) had to re-do all the work on the portfolios – we’re talking hours and hours of work, and (3) not completed the work that was actually required.

Communication in graduate school is more than communication with one’s teachers.  It involves taking the initiative to keep up with course/curricula requirements, and maintaining contact with one’s advising center (whether you go to school online or in a traditional setting).  Never ASSUME you know something.  If your curious, ask.  Now I know it can seem petty to ask for every “little” thing.  Some things, seem more important than others….it’s tempting to think “well it will all work out” or “the school would let me know if…”

Never assume a school/adviser will let you know anything.  If the question(s) seem petty, make a list of 2-3 questions and call/schedule an appointment to ask them all at once.  If an advising session (meeting with a counselor face-to-face) seems like overkill for the situation, try just calling.  The original question I had was about a form that was listed as a requirement for the hard copy portfolio.  I called about that “form” and instead discovered the whole portfolio had been scrapped.

Summary:

  1. know your course/program requirements – is there other components to the program outside of coursework or are there courses that will require work as part of their curricula
  2. if you have a question, ask
  3. make a list of minor questions and curious concerns – call and ask about them all at one time to minimize having to call back repeatedly
  4. colleges are businesses, they won’t hold your hand especially in graduate school – never assume an important email will go out to update appropriate information
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