This lesson is one that I got from one of my advisors and mentors at the University of Michigan. He said to me very plainly, “Begin with the End in Mind.” This adage is one that applies to grad school as a whole, but can be useful to any of the many facets of the process. As you enter graduate school, a new year, a new semester, a new project, a new paper, or new paragraph – begin with the end in mind.
Grad school is hard and not for the faint at heart. About 50% of those who begin a PhD do not finish it (attrition article). The process gets rough and sometimes you will wonder why you are still there. The pay is not good, the hours are long, and the work is mentally challenging and emotionally draining. In any given day you will think you know everything and nothing all in a matter of minutes. If you do not go in with a purpose and an end goal, it will be that much more difficult to press through. You can always adjust your end goal as you move through the process. You can refine your end goal based on what you learn, what you like, what you despise, what is important to you, and who you become. But if you begin with the end in mind, you will find it can help you through the grad school journey.