- You'll spend a lot of the first year studying things you think are useless, silly, or off point. Expect it. But realize that you really don't know yet what's needed and what's not. So, keep slogging - it does get better, and learning the foundational stuff is essential.
- You'll often feel like an impostor - particularly when one or more of your classmates is a star that seems to coast through things. In my case, we had a student who was ABD in physics, and he could run rings around some of the professors when it came to high-level math chops. In contrast, I struggled with basic real analysis. I got through it, but it wasn't pretty.
- You'll want to give up - often. In fact, this is a running joke with some of the students. Avoid the temptation.
Advice to First Year Ph.D. Students
I came across this a while back, tagged it, and immediately forgot about it. So while I spend my day torturing the English language (my coauthors are both internationals and I'm in charge of "englishizing" the paper), this might keep y'all busy. It's written by Matt Pearson, a UC-Davis econ grad student, but there's so much overlap between econ and finance at "good" programs, that it's worth reading the finance PhD students, too. He starts out with a few running themes: