Making the Transition

Transitioning to Graduate School

Making the transition to graduate school can be exciting and challenging.  Getting used to the self-directed and unstructured life of a graduate student may take some adjustment.  If you are an international student, this can be doubly true.  The American educational system and university traditions may be unlike anything you’ve experienced.

Graduate students say that some of the most noticeable differences are the increased responsibility for staying on course and overcoming and managing setbacks. 

For research degrees, you will not have a clear road map.  Each field will have different requirements, and within each field, each student’s special committee will have additional requirements.  You will spend a lot of time alone in the laboratory, library or other location honing your research and writing skills.  

One of the Graduate School’s foundational values is academic freedom with responsibility on the part of the student.  At Cornell, you will have great freedom to pursue your academic passion, but you are expected to read policies and understand your degree progression.  Faculty and graduate field assistants will help, but the responsibility to handle course enrollment, deadlines, and other requirements is yours.

Successful students learn what they need to stay on track and develop relationships with faculty, staff, and other students who can help.  Graduate study at Cornell is decentralized, and you are the best person to ensure that you are making adequate progress toward your degree.

Useful resources to help manage your life as a graduate student:

  • Cornell Learning Strategies: Information about time management, stress, procrastination, and more.
  • ISSO: Useful information for international students about living in Ithaca and adjusting to life in the United States.