I plan to enter graduate school (MA+PhD) in September 2018, which means I have something of a ‘gap year situation’ ahead of me [not in a strict sense, as I’ve been working for a number of years now]. I want to use this unstructured time ahead the best way I can.

If you were in my position, how would you spend these spare 12 months before grad school officially begins and the clock starts ticking? How would you prepare for what’s ahead, what would you focus on?

It goes without saying that I have already given these questions a lot of careful consideration, but I’m very curious to learn how others would approach this topic; especially, current PhD candidates, postdocs, and lecturers/professors. Knowing what you now know, if you could go back, how would you spend a spare year like that?

Some background:

  • My field is social/cultural anthropology.
  • My ultimate goal (grad school and beyond) is to prepare a CV and a research portfolio, which will aid me in launching an academic career in Europe.
  • I have a BA in anthropology and an unrelated MA,
  • I currently freelance (unrelated field); I have plenty of spare time, and can arrange my schedule in whatever way I see fit.
  • I live in a mid-size European city (not a capital); can’t move anywhere this year, but can likely do some limited traveling.
  • There’s a small anthropology department here, but I’m not affiliated with it, and never was. My degree is from the US.
  • I can speak the local language fairly well.
  • The grad school (next year) will be in a different county, and learning the new language will be one of my key objectives this year. The language of instruction will be English, however.

Note: Not sure if I made this clear, but I’m not looking for suggestions such as “travel for fun,” or “get a new hobby.” I want to use these 12 months in the most productive way possible.

In response to feedback from comments: I would like the advice focused on: setting myself up to do outstanding work in grad school and beyond (postdocs, etc). I am not concerned with the “getting into grad school” part here.

I am Computer Science 2nd year student. I am undergoing an internship where I am learning stuff like LaTeX and exploring different soft-wares. I have to prepare for internship interviews which are going to start after the vacations. Also I am not able to get much time to prepare for it.
Should I leave my internship?

I’m from India and I’m talking about the National Standard Examination in Physics (NSEP) which is a stepping stone for the International Physics Olympiad (IPhO).

I’m also doing a coaching for IIT JEE, so I’m super confused on how to prepare for the olympiad in a manner to add to my JEE preparations.

I barely get anytime to do extensive research plus I don’t understand the structure of these websites(HBCSE), it doesn’t load half of the time.

Is I.E. IRODOV a good book to prepare with?

What steps should I take?

This will be my first year attending university after obtaining an advanced diploma from a local college. I will be going into first year Computer Science in September and graduated this year with a diploma for Computer Systems Technology.

I am concerned about the first year courses however. First year Computer Science requires Chemistry 1, Algebra 1, Calculus 1, Discrete Mathematics 1 as well as the comp sci courses. It’s been 3 years since I’ve had to do any higher level math and chemistry and I’m not sure how I’ll adapt to the different learning style and intensity of university.

How can I prepare myself for these courses and university over the summer?

In my school sometimes the graduate students have to give a talk on what they are up to, i.e. present their ongoing research. Often at this stage the work is not published yet. This is an internal event within the school, within the department. The audience are mainly other graduate students, and professors.

Are there any tips to give such a talk? More specifically, how to reduce the risk (if any) of getting scooped, and ideas stolen? The context is in the subject of mathematics/ mathematical sciences.

Thanks a lot.

French higher education system is quite singular: besides traditional universities (following Bologna Process scheme with Bachelor (3 years), Master (2 years) and PhD (3 years)), there are so-called grandes écoles – mostly in the business and engineering fields. To enter a grande école, one must traditionally attend classes préparatoires.

One distinctive feature of these classes prépa is the significance of frequent colles (1 every two weeks per student and discipline – sometimes also written khôlles), which generally consist of 1 hour oral examination, where a couple of undergrads solve a problem in front of an examiner – the so-colled colleur.

Colleurs are mostly professors teaching in classe prépa. However they can also be university assistant professors, high-school teachers, PhD-candidates, or post-doc lecturing on their part time.

Question: What is the most appropriate translation of “colleur” into English?

(“TA” or “tutor” both seem too broad in my opinion.)

I am planning to retake my TOEFL iBT within a month as I am asked to send an improved score for graduate admission (PhD graduate program in Biological sciences). Previous score was 80/120 (exam taken in 2014), required score is 100 or 105. I am really confused on choosing right preparatory materials. Can anyone suggest good online prep tools to increase my score.


I’m returning to college next semester after about 5 years of a break from school. I took Calculus AB about 6-7 years ago in high school and will be taking BC next semester, which I need to transfer for Computer science.

In this case, I don’t feel that retaking AB would be particularly helpful because I’m rusty on that content as well, and if I’m being honest here, it just doesn’t fit with my transfer timeline.

My question is – how can I effectively come back to a difficult subject after a long break of not working with the materials?