Navigating Grad School: When to Ask for Help

Navigating Grad School: When to ask for Help

            When we graduated from college, we learned how to hold ourselves accountable, become a responsible, young adult, and be independent. While it’s important to be able to do things on your own, it’s also important to know when you’re struggling with something and need to reach out to someone who can give you proper guidance. However, as a student in grad school, it’s important to understand that sometimes the help you receive may not seem incredibly helpful at first.

Throughout one’s undergraduate career, there are times when you’ve reached a point in your course work, whether it’s related to your major or an elective, that there is a problem or concept you are having trouble understanding and can’t solve on your own. This is when you should go to a fellow classmate, the professor, or a tutor to get help in gaining a better understanding of the concept. Fully grasping concepts in grad school is important, because the material you learn in your courses will be not only be needed to conduct research projects or write papers, but also will be critical to the career path you choose following graduation. That is why it’s imperative you have thorough knowledge of the material covered in your courses. So when you do seek help with a class, it’s important that you’ve not only paid attention in class, but you’ve also reviewed the material on your own time. You can’t expect the professor to just give you the answer. The profession can give you hints or a general idea of the necessary steps to solve the problem. Unlike reaching out to a professor, your classmates can be more helpful when getting insight about a particular concept you are struggling with.

Getting help with a class from a classmate can be more beneficial than getting help from the professor for various reasons. If the classmate has already taken the course or has studied the subject in question, he or she can give you better insight on how to understand the course material. In my first year at IU, I got help from a second year PhD student in order to get a better understanding of the material in my partial differential equations class. Thanks to him, I not only got an A as my final grade, but I also gained a better understanding of the material. If you ask for help from a classmate who is in the same class as you, it too can be beneficial as long as you put the same amount of work in the learning process. Teamwork and collaboration is necessity not only in academics, but life as well. Although teamwork is positive, each individual must be able to contribute. I say that because while classmates will want to help you, whether it is studying or doing homework, when it comes to completing the work you shouldn’t expect to mindlessly copy their answers and consider that to be “getting help.” One reason that’s bad is because it can make the other student feel like he or she is doing the homework for two people. Another reason that is unacceptable is because you cheat yourself by copying the problem without understanding the mechanics behind it. As I stated before, this is material you’ll need to complete your PhD program and even in your career after graduation. So the help you get from the classmates may not seem like the help you want, but it’s the kind of help you need.

At some point in a person’s graduate student career, getting help from someone else will be required. It’s not just about getting the answer but understanding the material and knowledge needed to get the answer. Lastly, in order to succeed in grad school, you have to help yourself and to do that, you have to have the drive and desire to learn the material in your classes.