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Graduating Students Share What’s Next, Advice for New Students

There’s more to being successful than talent, intelligence, and hard work. Another key component of meeting goals—whether they are professional or personal ones—is learning from one’s own experiences, as well as the experiences of others.

With commencement coming up, students from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) and students from the graduate programs in the School of Engineering who are graduating share their plans for the future as well as some advice for this fall’s incoming graduate class.

Talk the Talk

Whether it's by phone, email, twitter, or even carrier pigeon, make sure to communicate often with faculty members about their career-related experiences. Photo by Arztsamui.

It’s never too early for graduate students to speak with faculty members about career-related topics. Faculty members do, after all, know what they are talking about.

“Talk regularly with Tufts faculty members about any and all of their experiences academically, professionally, and personally,” said Matthew Darsney a GSAS mathematics student who will be working as a software development engineer at Microsoft come August. “They all went to graduate school, and since they ended up at Tufts they must have done something right; feel free to get their opinions on what you are doing right and what you could be doing better. Being able to bounce ideas off of professors and get their advice on tough decisions helped me in countless ways both academically and in deciding my next steps for life after graduate school.”

Adds Molly Braswell, a GSAS museum education student who will be a learning and interpretation assistant at Maine’s Portland Museum of Art following graduation.

“Over the course of your time at Tufts, work to establish relationships with your professors and instructors, especially if you want to go into a specialized field. They have experience working in that field and, therefore, their advice is valuable. As a graduate student, you sometimes feel like you should be self-sufficient and independent, but I would encourage everyone to seek advice and guidance from their instructors while they can. Also, if your instructors work in your desired field, it’s great to establish relationships that you can hopefully maintain throughout your career.”

Broaden Your Horizons

The late Steve Jobs—like fellow technological visionary Bill Gates—was famous for, among other things, dropping out of college. But unlike Gates, Steve Jobs continued to take courses at California’s Portland, Oregon’s Reed College after he was no longer a registered student; and Jobs credited a calligraphy class he took during this time with having a profound impact on Apple.

You should be afraid of Jason Voorhees. But you shouldn't fear taking courses outside your area of interest.

“If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts,” said Jobs.

The moral of this story? Never be afraid to take courses outside your area of interest.

“Don’t just take courses related to your thesis,” said Eddie Aftandilian, a computer science graduate student who has been working as a software engineer at Google since defending his thesis in September 2011.

Adds GSAS history student Josh Savala, who will enter Cornell University’s’ Ph.D. program in history this fall.

“My advice to new students would be to take classes offered through the Boston Consortium of Graduate Schools, of which Tufts is a member.”*

There are also opportunities for intellectual growth beyond the courses offered at and outside of Tufts.

“Go to as many seminars and conferences as possible,” said Matthew Darsney. “Some of the most exciting and eye opening things I learned this year took place at colloquia within the math and computer science departments, and at various conferences in Boston and around the United States. Part of being a successful graduate student is understanding the breadth of your subject by hearing other people discuss their research.”

Don’t Go It Alone

That huge pile of books in your room? It isn't going anywhere, so get out there and be social. Photo by Amy Meyer.

It’s easy for graduate students to lock themselves away (both literally and figuratively) and concentrate solely on coursework and research. This would be unwise, notes GSAS music student Rebekah Lobosco.

“One of the most valuable things I feel Tufts has to offer is a sense of community,” said Lobosco, who will be starting a Ph.D. program at the University of Toronto this fall. “The graduate student experience is what you make of it, and your peers will be one of your best assets. No one can understand your stress or your joys like your fellow students. A supportive community is built on the mutual desire for such a thing. My advice is to put effort into such an endeavor. I cannot stress how important having peer-support was to me during my time here.”**

By Robert Bochnak, G07, senior writer/communications manager, Tufts University School of Arts and Sciences

We want to hear from you! Are you graduating and have news to share about your career plans? Do you have advice for new graduate students? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

*Schools which are part of the Boston Consortium of Graduate Schools include Boston  and Brandeis universities; Boston College, Tufts’ Fletcher School, the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy,  and Tufts’ Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences. Courses can also be taken through the Graduate Consortium of Women Studies (GCWS) at MIT. More information on the GCWS can be found at http://web.mit.edu/gcws/.

**Students can become involved with the graduate community at Tufts through the Graduate Student Council and several department-level graduate student groups.

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