Books on Graduate School

Students are pretty much on their own for figuring things out after undergrad (I definitely don’t miss high school guidance counselors, though). Grad school is a confusing topic – I find that everyone talks about it, but some people don’t really know what to expect if they commit the next 5 years of their life to getting another degree. Asking students in your lab, professors and graduating seniors is a great way to get information, but it’s still hard to get a good picture of what the whole process is like. Over winter break this year I found a few good books that summarize what you can expect at a graduate program in the sciences.

  • The Ph.D Grind by Philip Guo
    This short memoir details Philip’s time at Stanford from 2006 to 2012 while he worked toward a Ph.D in computer science. His story is filled with countless ups and downs, tips to get work published and lessons about working efficiently and maintaining sanity during stressful times. It’s a free ebook, quick read, and definitely recommended (even if you’re not considering computer science).
  • Getting What You Came For by Robert Peters
    The second edition of this book was published in 1992 so it’s a little outdated (it references word processors like they’re the next big thing, for example). It is still a good general account of the entire graduate school process, though. Getting What You Came For covers everything you should be doing in undergrad, how to pick a graduate school that’s a good fit for you, how to navigate your first years in the program while finding an advisor and taking quals, how to get the thesis done, and much more. It’s definitely not a quick read, but I’m keeping a copy for reference.
  • The Ph.D Process by Dale Bloom, Jonathan Karp and Nicholas Cohen
    Another book that lays out each step in the process of getting a Ph.D. Kind of outdated, but it has anecdotes and advice from students that I thing are still relevant and useful. The ebook was free through the library so I gave it a read.
  • A Guide to Academia by Prosanta Chakrabarty
    This one covers the entirety of grad school and also has information for postdocs and people looking for their first job. It’s a pretty solid overview. I think it’s was important to read ahead to learn about life after grad school and what to expect for the job market in academia. Also free through the library at Brown.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list! If you have any suggestions on other books, or books that compare academia to industry, leave me a comment below.