Finally, I am about to finish my first semester. It was full of sweat and tears; I would literally spend five continuous hours in the basement trying to find an answer for one question out of my assignments.
So many things happened since I last wrote about how overwhelmed I was, and still I am. But I am still enjoying the pressure.
Here are the lessons learned up till this moment, hoping someone would benefit from them:
- If you are planning to go to graduate school after a long period in industry, try to polish your academic skills. I was so grateful for every hour I spent reading a book or watching a video orienting me to academic world.
- Work on your math; without math you are lost in almost every single subject you might study in Computer Science. Make sure you cover the following areas:
- Linear Algebra
- In addition to the above mathematical skills, you must exercise your analytical proof skills. As long you use math to understand a concept, you are almost always required to prove a certain model or phenomena.
- Reading; The moment you step in grad school, you will read minimum one research paper on weekly basis, you will have to read your text books, check the instructor’s notes and mine for solutions out there in research papers. It is important to learn how to read. I always read about this statement but never understood what it meant; passive reading, like reading the news or reading a novel is nothing compared to reading scientific literature, where you need to maintain focus throughout your reading, but on the other hand you will need to be selective in your reading. You don’t ready everything out there, and you need to learn how to scan within the document for whatever you are seeking.
- Maintain your references: everything you read must be catalogued for future citation. If you read something today, and learned a certain fact or concept, it is a taboo to write about it without giving the author the required credit. It is quite useful to maintain a record of such references in a database you create or you can even use ready databases for the same purpose. I myself am using Easy Bib for the same purpose.
- Writing Style: As much as you read, you must write something related to what you have read. This is something I did not exercise yet extensively (you might figure out from my poor writing style). You need to learn a few skills and standards while writing an essay or a report:
- I am sorry, but you need to work on your grammar and spelling
- You need to master your punctuation. And learn when to use italics, bold and underlines.
- You need to learn how to use LaTeX (it is inappropriate to write a report using Word or Open Office)
- Avoid unnecessary words or phrases. If you can write something in one word rather than 5, go for the one word. As you are typically constrained by the size of your reports or papers.
- Avoid colloquial (slang)
- Learn the style you are expected to use (APA, Chicago, MLA, etc.) and be consistent. (I once lost marks for having two citations in different styles)
- Stamina: You will be under pressure almost throughout the whole semester. Make sure you are ready physically and emotionally for this. There will be moments where you will feel “Crushed” and I am borrowing the word from one of my professors. You will be sleep deprived, you might get bored, you might feel stupid, maybe exhausted and sleepy, and you will always feel isolated and behind. It is a good thing to stay in touch with other students who will share the same concerns, and trust me, suffering in a group is way less painful than suffering alone.
- Time management: what to say here, if you did not learn to prioritize and to know when to let go, you will be trapped in a chain of over dues and near deadlines. You must learn how to plan your far deadline tasks. far deadlines were put that far for a purpose, so you must start working on it NOW.
- Get to know the system: This is something I learned quite late. As a new comer, I was shooting in the dark, did not know what to expect, where to get help from, and what is expected from me. I wasted hours trying to do a simple task because I was looking in the wrong direction. I had to pay for services I already have for free as a student. Example, research papers, I thought I had to subscribe in publishing venues, but it turned out we have a portal for research papers organized in a decent database.
OK, now I feel better for writing something after such long pause.
Oh, by the way, it did snow recently, and it was awesome!
PS: I do not proofread my posts, because I do it one haste while taking breaks from study