Your Relationship with Other Students

4.  Your relationship with other students:
Many discussions of the social side of graduate study center around students' relationships with faculty, especially advisors. Without a doubt, faculty are important to your success in graduate school. However, many graduate students are surprised to learn that relationships with other students also predict success in graduate school and beyond. Friendships and good working relationships with other students, in your year as well as more junior students and especially more senior students, are a source of support, advice, and opportunities.

Information about faculty:

  • Which professors should you take?
  • Which should you avoid?
  • Which professors have room in their lab or research program to add another student.
  • What it is like to do research with a professor.
  • What a professor is like as a supervisor, as a teaching or research assistant, for example
  • What each professor might bring to a dissertation or thesis committee. For example, some professors are known for providing excellent advice on research methodology. Others are known for being especially critical.

Department politics, such as how professors relate to each other, who get along and who don't.

Information about classes:

  • Which to take
  • Advice for particular classes with particular faculty. Who gives extraordinarily difficult tests or who gives ambiguous paper assignments
  • Which books you need to buy (some professors never assign all of the books on their syllabi)

Academic and Social Support:

  • Many students form study groups
  • Many students enrolled in courses with heavy reading loads work together and divide the reading among themselves. Everyone skims all of the reading but each student is responsible for preparing a detailed summary of their section.
  • Help with particular classes or subjects
  • Feedback on papers.
  • Friends to complain to and commiserate with

Information and Career Opportunities:

  • It is a small world. Student colleagues are important sources of job opportunities.
  • After graduation your colleagues will sit on the committees that hire faculty as well as hold important professional roles (e.g., serve as journal reviewers, grant reviewers, and eventually journal editors, etc.) Your colleagues may be in positions to help your own students obtain slots in graduate programs or jobs.
  • Your colleagues may serve as references.

These are just some of the things you get out of having good relationships with other students. Perhaps the most important, though, is friendship -- people to have fun with on good days and seek support from on bad days.