How to Choose and Prepare for Academic Conferences as a Graduate Student

Scaling the Ivory TowerAttending academic conferences is one of the most important things you can do as a graduate student for the following reasons:

  • Conference attendance could lead to publication of your work.
  • It allows you to engage with others in your discipline, and it is an opportunity to connect with potential collaborators who have similar interests.
  • It can help demonstrate on your CV how you contribute to your discipline.
  • You might obtain feedback on your work.
  • You will have the chance to improve your public speaking skills and build self-confidence.

That said, getting to even one conference can seem quite daunting. You may find the steps below helpful as you choose and prepare for academic conferences.

When choosing at academic conferences, start small and gradually reach higher.

Start with presenting in your department. Then attend regional or national conferences specifically aimed at graduate students.

  • Begin with specialized conferences. These are smaller and easier to navigate.
  • Next, go to the big regional conferences: for example, Southern Economics Association or Midwest Political Science Association.
  • Finally, try to present at your main professional conference, such as the American Economics Association. Conferences are usually advertised on the website of your professional association.

Your advisor will likely have good insight on where and when you should present. Look for conferences with themes that are relevant to what you are studying.

Establish a timeline as you choose and prepare for academic conferences.

You should be sending out paper proposals by the beginning of the spring semester of your second year. In your third year, you should try to have a finished paper and be travelling to local conferences. Ideally, you should be presenting at your major professional association by the time you are ready to begin navigating the job market.

Establishing your timeline helps to ensure that you meet your goals. It also assures you that you are on track to meet them as you choose and prepare for academic conferences. I certainly found it helpful during my time in graduate school.

IHS Conference and Research Grant

Conference and Research Grant

Traveling to and participating in a conference can shape your career. But it can also start to erode your budget—unless you have a plan.

Fortunately, there are opportunities to make it more affordable.

The IHS Conference and Research Grant provides up to $750 to cover travel costs and fees for career-related expenses on a rolling basis to current graduate students for advancing the principles of freedom through their career.

See more posts: Surviving Grad School 

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