It's very likely that as you read this article you're in the throes of starting another school year. Personally, I always enjoyed the fall semester, as it seemed like a new beginning no matter what I was working on previously. Everyone seems to have a renewed energy each fall. The excitement of new research projects, clinical placements and courses seem to fill the department during this time of year.
The fall semester is also full of transitions. Recent graduates are faced with making the transition from student to roles as academics, researchers and practitioners. Many students face the transition of taking a more active leadership role in their department or balancing academic requirements with clinical and research requirements. With most transitions come challenges and opportunities. It is important to note when experiencing transitions, that there are resources available to help guide you.
One challenge faced by many graduate students is finding the financial resources for tuition and living expenses. That being the case, there are a wide variety of options to secure funding outside of traditional loans. For example, many universities and organizations offer fellowships that provide financial aid without a major work commitment. Similarly, grants are available nationally, regionally and locally to fund research. Good places to look for funding include your universities financial aid and graduate school office, the office of research and sponsored programs, and the library. More resources are at http://gradpsych.apags.org/apr04/debt.cfm.
Beginning graduate school can lead to mixed emotions for many students; there's uncertainty related with starting any new venture. Many of your new psychologygraduate student peers are having the same experience of wondering about what lies ahead. One method to deal with the unknown is to get information. Seek out a senior student in the program to provide mentoring and guidance to help you navigate the ambivalence. Further, asking questions of your adviser is an important way to get much needed information. Beginning graduate school is something you don't have to do inisolation. You can find more tips on the first year of graduate school on page 14.
One of the fun opportunities provided during graduate school is figuring out what you can do with your degree. A graduate degree in psychology opens up many new avenues for career paths. As you embark on this exciting journey, I encourage you to think about the career routes that follow a nontraditional course. As you will see in this issue of gradPSYCH, many psychologists have found exciting and fruitful careers outside of traditional careers in psychology (see pages 36-44). Be sure to research, talk with psychologists and attend presentations that introduce you to alternate careers in psychology or special niche areas.
Graduate study in psychology also provides the opportunity to develop a strong set of research, interpersonal and behavior-change skills that help us to be well-rounded and highly qualified individuals with strong skill sets that can be applied in a variety of personal and professional settings. The new school year provides a great chance to reflect on what new skills you have developed, how your skills were refined over the past year and what skills need further development. A great way to develop and enhance skills is through feedback. Being open to and accepting feedback that is solicited or unsolicited--whether in your clinical and research work or related to your interpersonal style--will be to your advantage as a developing psychologist.
Although the challenges associated with beginning a new school year can be difficult, opportunities often arise for new learning and enhancing your core skills. This issue of gradPSYCH offers excellent information about ways to address challenges and consider new opportunities. Happy reading!