Guide to Graduate Life

Table of Contents

Starting Out | Academic Tips | Professionalization | Dealing with Stress

Starting Out

First of all, welcome to graduate studies in English!  In our experience, the first year of any graduate program involves an assortment of exciting new possibilities that are as intellectually stimulating as they can be stressful. It is our hope that by demistifying at least some parts of the first year experience, we can help prepare you for success over the duration of our program. 

In addition to the resources on this page, including general academic tips, professionalization advice, and ideas for dealing with stress, please also check out our new student to-do list, our Columbus and Campus Area Guides, our list of additional resources, and the Ph.D. Program FAQs.

We hope you will find your experience in OSU's Department of English as rewarding as it is challenging.

Students study at the Ohio Union.

Academic Tips

Your first term--even your first year--may feel overwhelming, and you might not know where or how to start planning your academic career at OSU.

  • Make sure you know the degree requirements for your particular track.
  • Make an appointment early on whith your faculty advisor--even if it's only to introduce yourself in person.
  • Keep in touch with your graduate mentor, and don't be afraid to contact him or her if you have specific questions or concerns about your academic work or life in Columbus.
  • Get to know the OSU Library Facilities, including the general research collections and the special collections. Make an appointment to introduce yourself to Jennifer Schnabel (, our subject librarian.
  • When planning your coursework, make sure you consider course offerings in other disciplines. English graduate students have, in the past, taken advantage of course offerings in Cultural Studies, Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies, Philosophy, Education, History, and Art History. The course offerings are nearly endless--take advantage of them when you can.


It is important to think of your time in graduate school--your graduate career--in career terms, particularly if you are planning to pursue a position in the academy upon graduation. Professionalization includes seeking out new teaching and administrative opportunities, applying for fellowships, presenting papers at conferences, submitting papers for publication, and networking. It is best to begin professionalization early, so that you can show off an impressive Vita when you go on the job market. While you probably won't be ready to submit papers for publication during your first year in graduate school, you will still have quite a few opportunities for professionalization and building your Vita. You might consider:

For more information, please see the graduate program's guide to Professionalization & Opportunities within and external to the Department of English.

Dealing with Stress

A few words about beginning graduate school: The first term, especially, can be as stressful as it is exciting. As a student, you will be bombarded with critical theory and lengthy reading lists; as a teacher, especially if this is your first time, you will have to deal with all of the fears and anxieties that come with teaching. And while there’s no avoiding the stress, there are ways to handle it.

  • Get involved in department life. Whether you are a new TA on fellowhsip, or a new TA who is teaching, you will want to become involved in department and graduate school life as soon as possible. As those new TAs teaching first-year composition will have already realized, perhaps the greatest resouces available to you are the people in program: faculty, experienced graduate students, and your peers. Take the time to introduce yourself to faculty members in your field, as well as those teaching your classes, and participate in departmental and university reading groups.
  • Create a network among your cohort. In addition to focusing on your academic studies and teaching responsibilities (if you have them), make sure you are taking time to make friends among your peer group. Those people will be your support network for the duration of the graduate program, and your ability to create a strong social network will to some degree predict your success in a challenging academic program. So, make time in your busy work schedule to spend time with your new cohort--have lunch or dinner, drinks in the Short North, or take a road trip to the Hocking Hills for fall hiking.
  • Meet people outside of the department. Both the OUAB Grad/Prof Committee and CGS offer a variety of free events for graduate and professional students. Many of these events involve free food, and all of them are opportunities to meet graduate students from other departments as well as our own. Take a free cooking class or dance class, attend a barbeque, or participate in the annual professionalization workshops.
  • Take an undergraduate-level course. While you will want to consult with your advisor before adding to your graduate work load, many undergraduate courses may offer creative and stress-relieving outlets, with the costs covered by your tuition. The Department of Dance offers a number of non-major courses, including Yoga, Pilates, Tap, and Ballet. TheDepartment of Art offers beginner studio classes in a range of subjects, including ceramics and glass blowing. In the past graduate students have taken classes in everything from salsa dancing to beekeeping.
  • Take advantage of the counseling and wellness services offered by the Student Wellness Center and the Office of Student Life: Counseling and Consultation Services.
  • If you are teaching for the first time, take advantage of the services offered by UCAT and the First-Year Composition staff. The Faculty and Staff of the First Year Writing Program are there to help you to balance your roles as teacher and grad student. The Writing Program Administrators and Peer Mentors of new teachers are experienced graduate students whose job is to assist you as peers in making this transition. You might also want to look at the teaching section on our Frequently Asked Questions page.