10 Graduate School Rules For Student Success!

Photo Courtesy of The University of Colorado at Boulder – where I did my Master’s Degree. GO CU!

Hey! I know some of you are anxiously waiting to hear on admission and financial aid from graduate schools for the coming fall. [I know how tough it can be: Hang In There!] Others of you are considering graduate school soon to enhance your career. Still others are currently in graduate school and want to improve the quality of your experience. Well, ClarinetMike is thinking about YOU!

Below are some tips that will help you be more successful in graduate school. They are from an article I published in the NACWPI Journal a few years ago. Many of these tips will also be helpful to new faculty.  ClarinetMike says, “Follow the Rules.”

10 Graduate School Rules For Student Success!
by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

A few years ago I spent some time pondering the graduate school experience and what advice I could offer my students. Below are ten tips that can help a graduate student successfully navigate the waters of graduate study. Most of these tips would also be useful to new faculty members. (NOTE: I was very fortunate in grad school to have had a number of excellent teachers and mentors, so not all of the tips below are based on my own experience.)

  1. Be Calm and Patient. Graduate school is generally less of a “grind” than undergraduate study. It is more of a “roller coaster ride” with high stakes exams, hearings, recitals, etc. Remain calm and enjoy the process. Remember that ” Good things take time” (John Wooden).
  2. Practice Good Habits NOW because “Life is a Habit.” Always be working to improve habits of personal organization (especially time management) and self-discipline. [See my articles and posts on John Wooden.]
  3. Take Care of Your Body. Mom was right – exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep.
  4. Prepare for Culture Shock. This is especially true if you go to grad school in another part of the country – for example, going from the Midwest to the West Coast. Prepare yourself by looking up information on the Internet. Generally, it is true that “It’s not weird, It’s just different.”
  5. Know Rules. Every organization has written and unwritten rules – learn them. Carefully study your university’s Graduate Music Handbook, if available.
  6. Be Courteous. Treat others as you want to be treated. Remember, professors are people too. Thesis/dissertation advisors are among the unsung heroes of academe.
  7. Keep Head Down and Mouth Shut. Don’t try to show off in class. The best way to make a positive impression is to be early to class, well-prepared, and have a positive attitude.
  8. Trust No One. “The walls have ears.” So be careful what you say and to whom. Letters of recommendation can be ruined, so watch out! Follow the advice of John Wooden’s father, “Don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses, just do the best you can.”
  9. Write Everything Down. When your advisor, committee members, etc. tell you important information, take good notes and make memos to yourself. Develop your own standardized memo form – be sure it has a date on it.
  10. Perseverance is Everything. Stay at it! Keep learning and making adjustments. You will win if you keep going and don’t give up.

© by The National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors NACWPI Journal, Volume LVIII, Number 2, Winter 2009-10.

NOTE: This article can also be found on the excellent new NACWPI website HERE.

NOTE: I made an adjustment to the original title and a few very small revisions to the text of the original article.

About ClarinetMike

American Clarinetist Michael Dean “ClarinetMike” performs and teaches internationally and across the USA to consistent praise such as, “world-class clarinetist and pedagogue,” “consummate performer,” “inspirational,” “outstanding teacher,” “super,” “brilliant performer,” and “one of the best clinicians I have ever seen.” Dr. Dean’s career is headlined by appearances at Carnegie Hall, ClarinetFest, NACWPI, Royal Northern College of Music, and Eastman School of Music, with recent recitals and master classes in Italy, Spain, Canada, Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, Iowa, Louisiana, and Texas. He recently returned for a fourth summer to the beautiful Italian Alps of Vipiteno, Italy as Clarinet Artist Faculty in Residence at the international Orfeo Music Festival. He is featured on 6 commercial CD’s including his soon-to-be-released new CD, Postcards from Silver Lake. He is also prominent on New Media, such as YouTube. He was clarinetist with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra for 11 years and he’s also performed with the Southwest Symphony, Nevada Symphony, Abilene Philharmonic, Southeast Chamber Players, Red Mesa Trio, and Duo 35. He has given more than 500 master classes, clinics and performances at universities, conservatories, conferences, festivals, high schools, junior high schools, and a diverse array of venues. As “ClarinetMike,” he writes for his noted and widely-read ClarinetMike Blog – viewed in 150 countries on 6 continents, clarinetmike.wordpress.com. His blog is the #1 clarinet blog on the Internet according to Google Search and a recent ranking on Feedspot. His articles also appear in professional journals such as the Southwestern Musician, The Bandmasters’ Review, WINDPLAYER, and NACWPI Journal. He is a past president and former officer on the National Board of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors (NACWPI). After a successful 20 years of teaching clarinet at the university level, he relocated to his native Texas due to family concerns. He is currently an active clarinet and woodwind performer, teacher, clinician, blogger, and consultant based in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Michael Dean studied clarinet performance at Texas Tech University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Colorado at Boulder, and University of Texas at Arlington. His teachers include Robert Walzel, Phil Aaholm, Carol Jessup, Bob Ackerman, and Jess Youngblood. He is a BG France Performing Artist and his professional website is clarinetmike.com. Mike and his family live in Hurst, Texas. His family’s new Golden Retriever, Nimbus, is a relative of Andy.
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