In addition to mentoring programs, simply participating in student groups can help people adjust to the demands of graduate school life, according to research by Eric VandeVoorde, a counseling psychology doctoral student at Purdue University.
VandeVoorde surveyed students about the school's Counseling and Development Student Group, and found that members enjoy the camaraderie and socialization. They also appreciated the chance to connect through group-sponsored activities, such as a book club and community service projects.
"Students are happy with the...opportunity to get out of the academic setting now and then," VandeVoorde says.
The Counseling and Development Student Group is open to students in Purdue's counseling psychology program and master's students in the school counseling program. After his pilot study, VandeVoorde wants to extend his survey to other counseling psychology departments and examine how organized associations benefit students.
Such programs are a common part of the graduate school landscape. For instance, the Graduate Student Association for clinical psychology students at RutgersUniversity in New Brunswick, N.J., offers students both an academic and social outlet.
Students in the clinical psychology program attend a Friday afternoon meeting held once a month, says student Katie Bannon.
The meeting opens with a meal and then moves to the agenda, which often features a guest speaker. Afterward, students sometimes present preliminary data from studies and get feedback from their colleagues.
Other meetings feature a forum to discuss relevant clinical issues, such as tips on getting an internship, Bannon says.
The program's 35 students are dispersed across two of New Brunswick's campuses, so getting everyone together once a month helps students feel connected, Bannon says.
"I think it's a great opportunity to bond and spend time with people in your program that you otherwise wouldn't see," she says.