Beginning Well: Advice for New (and Returning) Grad Students

You're back on campus. If your planner is filling up as quickly as mine, it's time to set goals and prioritize before the semester, and the year, gets away from us.

These articles, gathered from the Emerging Scholars Network and from The Well, were written with beginning grad and professional students in mind. But no matter what stage of life you are in, we think you will find the counsel wise and useful.


Monica Greenwood
"But oh, New Graduate Student, don’t give up. I wish I could look you in the eyes so you could see the exhaustion that still hasn’t left my face even though we’ve just had months out of school. I’m always tired. But I am no longer unhappy. I am no longer burdened by my crazy degree or the expectations of my faculty or my colleagues. I have won the fight with the expectations and the feelings of poverty and restlessness that seemed destined to crush me. Jesus did it all."



by Jayme Yeo
“I learned over the course of that first year that graduate school offers a lot of opportunities and obstacles for spiritual, personal, and professional growth. … and so I’d like to offer a few thoughts for anyone entering graduate school for the first time (or those of you who, like me, still need an occasional reminder that you’re not in it alone).”
By Jayme Yeo
"As a graduate student, I often find myself acting as though God simply does not belong in my work. Talking with Christian friends in other disciplines, I realize that I am not the only one facing the problem of integrating work and faith in an academic environment." 

From our mentors at The Well:

by Bob Trube
"The practice of attentiveness not only makes us more aware of the presence of the Lord throughout our day. Prayerful attentiveness can also be a critical element in our scholarship. Many times over the years, we’ve seen the Lord illuminate thorny research problems as we’ve prayed for his insight into his created order."
By Christine Jeske
As Chrissy Jeske prepared to return to graduate school after several years away, she was anxious about all that was new and unknown. Reassurance came in an unexpected way.
by Stephanie Magdalena White
"I’ve started taking about two minutes to answer these questions every time I sit down to work for even an hour, and I’ve been amazed at how useful they are." 
by Christine Jeske
"I can think of at least five impractical pursuits that have guided my education and career. Compared to designing bridges or writing computer software, these might seem non-utilitarian, but I still consider them valuable beyond measure."


by Hannah Eagleson, PhD in English
“…this series of blog posts…tries to summarize things I wish I’d known at the beginning of graduate school, or in some cases things I did know but didn’t implement very well.”
The Scholar’s Compass is a wonderful series of devotionals launched by ESN written by and for academics. Some of these devotionals are particularly relevant to graduate students:
By Bethany Bowen
Rather than abstracting what we might imagine a Christian graduate student to look like, we must depend on God to use our unique gifts to produce thorugh us a unique expression of God’s goodness and glory.
By David Williams
The piece is the first of a series on the spirituality of graduate school. 
By Claudette Ligons
The first in a series by Dr. Claudette Ligons on strength for the journey of the academic life, given at the Black Scholars and Professionals (BSAP) conference this spring. Lots of good advice relevant to any career stage, but great for grad students starting out. 
By Lauri Swann
“At this very moment, you may find yourself at a place where you think you have heard God ask you to walk into the unknown. But because the request seems beyond your capabilities, you vacillate between thinking and going. You begin to question the validity of God’s call for you…"
by Bob Trube
“How does one live well as a Christian graduate student? Bob Trube, GFM campus staff, has stewed over that question with members of the InterVarsity grad fellowship at Ohio State. Here are their recommendations of seven habits that should be incorporated into the life of every Christian grad student.”
by Nicholas Wolterstorff
“What advice can I give to you whose sights are set on becoming Christian scholars? My first piece of advice is that you get clear on what you understand by the project of being a Christian scholar.”
by a longtime ESN member
A recent PhD shares lessons he has learned from his grad school years, as a Christian and an academic. "By God’s help, I have recently finished my PhD and am now transitioning into a faculty position...While many of the points will already be familiar to most of you, I hope that you can derive some helpful benefit or reminder from them."
by Rick Mattson
"In my travels to campuses around the country (40 in the past two years), I meet up with a lot of students who are headed to grad school someday. Here is what I wish I could suggest to each one of them: Begin with the end in mind."
by Michael Stell
"I realized I had to become a scholar if I was going to take seriously the vocation of an academic."
by John Hundley
Our vocation is the specific realm—workplace, department, milieu—into which we bring God’s kingdom.

What helpful advice did you receive when you began graduate school? What advice do you have for those beginning a graduate program? What do you wish you’d known when you began? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Note: If you desire to comment, but the comments feature does not appear below, please email your comments. Thank-you.

(Note: Originally published in The Well, the online presence of Women in the Academy & ProfessionsWe first published a compilation of articles for "Beginning Well" and posted them in September of 2011. This piece is updated with additional articles.)

Photo credit: The campus photo on the home page leading to this article is from flickr.


We value the contribution of writers who are not employed by InterVarsity, some of whom may not necessarily agree with all aspects of InterVarsity's ministry, doctrine, or policies. These writings are the words of the writers and may or may not represent InterVarsity. The same is true of any comments which may be posted about any entries. Submitted comments may or may not be posted at the writer or the editor's discretion.