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First, figure out what you want. Find people who have it and do what they’ve done.
Graduate school is not like any other schooling you’ve ever had. The emphasis is on self-directed exploration and publishing of your results. If you don’t have your own ideas, if you don’t have the motivation to pursue them, if you are not interested in presenting them to your peers and getting honest criticism, grad school is probably not for you.
The WORST thing you can do is go to a school where you have no relationship with a professor, publish no papers, and finish as quickly as possible. You might get a job in industry that way, but no one in academia will take you seriously.
The BEST thing you can do is find a professor whose work you find exciting and would like to advance. Contact that professor to see if they are socially compatible, and go from there. In other words:
A lot of people have written on this topic. I particularly like the following:
And of course students can always come talk to me.