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 Volume 14, Number 10
December 2001 

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Student Notebook
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Previous Issue
Psychological Scientists in the Private Sector

Book Review
Through the Fire Swamp

Student Notebook

Rhiannon Ellis
Notebook Editor

To many students, both those considering graduate school and those already enrolled, graduate school seems like an uncharted land with strange customs, experiences, and unclear expectations. You would, of course, take a map to such uncharted territory. If you're an undergraduate, you may think you have seen such territory before, but not like this. If you're already wandering this strange land, you've started charting your own map. But, if you're like most people, much of that map is implicit, and what you are aware of is often distorted by your particular experiences of this land. The map provided by Succeeding in Graduate School, on the other hand, is the product of critical reflection on the graduate school process by more than 30 professors and students.

This edited volume takes a panoramic scope in describing the terrain of graduate education. Guidance is available for the neophyte considering an expedition: Section I of the book is devoted to topics such as choosing to focus on psychology, career options for the undergraduate, and choosing among and applying for the available psychology graduate degrees. These chapters comprise slightly under a quarter of the book. The majority of the material is aimed at detailing common situations and facilitating difficult decisions many students in a graduate program will face. This consists of chapters on departmental politics, faculty and mentor relationships, stressors all students encounter and particular stressors for minority, international, and married students. Also relevant to graduate students are sections on developing career skills such as ethical, research, teaching, assessment, therapy, consultation, prevention, nonacademic, and thesis writing skills. Finally, the book comes full circle and gives guidance to those finishing graduate school, attempting to map out the next phase of their professional career. Applying to and completing internships, obtaining credentials, practical applications of psychology, and general career development are all given attention in the final sixth of the book.

In scope and in detail, the map provided by this book is a success. It also does an exemplary job of taking on the perspective of students as well as professors in probing its topics, several of which can be controversial and thus require acknowledgment of multiple viewpoints. Specifically, the chapter on political aspects of graduate education is not very encouraging, but is fairly realistic in its advice. Sometimes, one is advised to choose one's battles in office politics; the point of view here, however, is that a graduate student is fundamentally powerless and should choose no battles. Their focus is on choosing a program with beneficent attitudes and policies (in our opinion, this is too difficult to adequately assess for most applicants) and on surviving the rest of graduate education with minimal conflict. This is useful advice, but the chapter could have been supplemented by transforming the initial war metaphor into one of diplomacy. Graduate students can accomplish many goals through departmental-political means if they learn to be subtle, and appropriate forms of rhetoric to use in certain situations. But it is again key to learn to recognize what is not negotiable (a lot, depending on one's status) and who cannot be negotiated with. War should generally be out of the question from the start.

An important aspect of graduate education that is discussed well in the book is the development of relationships. Maintaining relationships with a mentor, other faculty, and future colleagues is crucial in preparing for a career and guiding relatively painless travel through the strange world of graduate school. In this respect, it is important to emphasize that no book can serve as a full guide to your career, but rather as one tool to aid you. Maps come with different levels of specificity; this one is fairly detailed, but cannot anticipate all the peculiarities of your experience. Developing faculty and collegial relationships is a crucial complement to books of this sort.

We recommend this book to people at any point in their graduate education. The book does not cater to only one specialty in psychology - it applies to a whole spectrum of interests and situations. This book could save you from major stumbling points that you might otherwise have to learn by trial and error. If it protects the reader from making a poor choice about going to graduate school or poor choices while in it, the book will live up to its title and more than pay back its cost in reduced stress and increased success. It provides an easier, though not necessarily easy, path through the dark fire swamp of graduate school.

Succeeding in Graduate School: The Career Guide for Psychology Students
S. Walfish & A. K. Hess (Eds.) 2001.
Lawrence Erlbaum. 400 pp. Paperback $32.50, Cloth $95.00

Hot Sites

Resources for the Teaching of Social Psychology, a web site for instructors of social psychology and related courses, has been significantly updated. Over 200 new links to useful course resources have been added including the ability to search the site. The site will soon offer a monthly e-mail newsletter with updates on new resources and tips for teaching social psychology.

The Resources web site is located at http://jonathan.mueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/crow. To subscribe to the free newsletter go to http://lists.imowa.org/mailman/listinfo/socialpsy-teach. Feedback is welcome and can be sent to Jon Mueller at jfm@noctrl.edu.

Found a Hot Site? E-mail Rhiannon Ellis at rellis+@pitt.edu.

Copyright © 2001 American Psychological Society. All Rights Reserved.