Retaking the GRE

If you’ve taken the GRE and are not completely happy with your scores, should you retake it? This is a very common question that has no one answer to it. There is a lot of variability between disciples and even programs in how much GRE scores factor into admission decisions. Therefore, do your best to determine how important these are at the schools you’re applying to by talking to your mentors, professors, and/or current students in those programs.

When to Retake
If you believe that you have enough time to study and meaningfully improve your scores, then it’s likely a good idea to retake the GRE. However, you also want to keep in mind that programs often consider every aspect of your application. Therefore, consider, if by taking extra time to study for the GRE, if you would be decreasing the quality of other components of your application that are very important such as personal statements.

Grad School? More Like Academic Hunger Games!

“May the odds be ever in your favor.”

If you’ve seen the hugely popular film, “The Hunger Games,” then you’re quite familiar with that quote. The film’s plot focuses on how a boy and girl are chosen from each of the 12 districts, and are thrown into a battle-to-the-death where the last one standing wins.

I shared this famous quote, because graduate school can, at times, feel like an academic hunger games. However, no matter where you are in your graduate school journey, it’s important to be aware of the factors that can lead to a negative experience. These factors can include: students in your cohort, the lack of support, and your own progression.

As it relates to the classmates in your cohort, avoid comparing yourself or you accomplishments to them and their success. Comparing yourself to your fellow classmates, can lead you to doubt your own skills and ability to navigate the graduate program. The reality is everyone learns at their own pace, and students may have a better handle on the subject material than you do. Instead of looking at your lack of knowledge as a weakness, turn it into a strength by collaborating with your classmates and helping each other with understanding the material better. This will not only help you learn more about yourself, but also help your classmates learn things that they may not understand.

The next, and arguably one of the most crucial things, to have in graduate school is support. Not just support academically, but emotionally as well. Without proper support, your journey through graduate school can become increasingly difficult, as you may feel very alone. Making friends with students in your cohort is helpful as they can offer support when it comes to classes, and also help you with relieving stress when you put down the books and do fun activities. Support from your advisor is also important, as it’s imperative to keep in touch with your advisor on a weekly basis to ensure you’re staying on track with your graduate program. Keeping constant communication with your advisor shows him or her that you’re invested in completing and being successful in your graduate program. In “The Hunger Games,” Katniss had support in preparing for the deadly competition from a stylist named Cinna, who helped her find her inner strength, and from a former Hunger Games champion named Haymitch, who helped her train and strategize. That support played a big part in helping her survive and win the games.

Lastly, the speed at which a student progresses in their graduate program can have the most significant impact on their success. When it takes you longer to learn material or progress in certain parts of the program, it’s easy to feel frustrated and become intimidated by your fellow classmates. For example, when it comes to qualifying exams, it can be frustrating when you don’t past them right away while some of you classmates pass their qualifying exams on the first try. But it’s important to not lament at your inability to keep pace with your classmates, and focus on progressing at the pace that works best for you. Learning and understanding the material in your classes in your own way will make you that much more prepared and ready for your qualifying exams and future research projects.

It’s very easy to look at graduate school as a fight for survival till the last man is standing. However, do not compare yourself to others, and trust the training and skills you have which have gotten you to this point of being a graduate student. So as they said in The Hunger Games: “Welcome to the Hunger Games. May the odds be ever in your favor.”

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3 Ways to Survive Graduate School According to Olivia Pope

1.  Stand in the Sun

Olivia Pope talks about standing in the sun by embracing full vulnerability and facing her truth head-on. She honors the joy that comes with standing in the sun, while simultaneously recognizing the hardships. For many of us, graduate school is a life-changing 2-7 years of standing in the sun, whether it be confronting hidden demons or feeling as though you are not enough or deserving to be in this space. Regardless of the discomfort, you must remember your end goal and continue to stand in the sun. Its 3 months until winter break! Keep striving through the challenges of graduate school because your goal is worth it. Someone is watching you stand in the sun and face your truth head-on, only hoping to have the courage to do the same. You will come out of this experience a strong and wiser person.

2. Be a Gladiators in a Suit
Being a Gladiator means fighting for what you believe in. Olivia Pope is a Gladiator, but also has other Gladiators to support her. In graduate school, your beliefs may be challenged and invalidated, but you must stand firm in your truth. Olivia is a powerhouse because she is grounded in her values and core principles, but she is nothing without her Gladiators. Graduate school is not a journey you should tackle alone. You must find other Gladiators who are also being pushed and challenged to lean on for support and comfort. They will get you through the long exhaustive days when the readings and coursework began to pile up and home becomes a paradise you daydream about.


3. Wear the White Hat
Is it a Friday night and you are contemplating between the bar crawl and the paper you have due next week? Is it a Sunday evening and you are torn between watching Insecure or going to bed early? If so, remember that graduate school is mined with endless difficult decisions. There is no right answer to these questions. Wearing the White Hat means doing the right thing for you. Olivia Pope works endless hours to maintain the state of the country, but she is only of use when she can show up as her best self to do what needs to be done. Sometimes doing the right thing is going to the bar crawl because you need a social gathering to decompress. Sometimes it is staying in and working on your paper, watching Insecure or going to bed early. It will look different for everyone. You cannot serve others if you do not first take care of yourself and do what is right for you.


I won’t deny that it is quite difficult to stand in the sun with your gladiators and wear the white hat. It is an attempt to: be open to vulnerable and transformative growth, center your health and wellness, and find a community who will ground you in your journey. Nayyirah Waheed said, “a friend. is someone who supports your breath”. Your Gladiators will assist you with the work necessary for your survival on this journey.

So ask yourself:
1. Do you know why you’re Standing in the Sun? Your purpose will ground you when you lose sight of why you’re here.
2. Who are your Gladiators in Suits? It’s 2am and you break down from frustration with a theoretical framework or you remember the time in class when you felt silenced, who are you calling?
3. What is your White Hat? What is doing the right thing for you? What is going to ensure your health wellness so you can best support the greater good and live your purpose?

Teaching Support and Career Development for Graduate Students @ IU

Fall 2017_Events (CIRTL)In graduate school, many are us are assigned to teach courses as associate instructors or teaching assistants for the very first time. When I learned that my assistantship included a teaching component, I was both excited and panicked because I had never created a syllabus, designed a lesson plan, or even given a public lecture. Since I knew that a career in academia requires teaching and mentoring, Continue reading

Preliminary Steps for Applying to Graduate School

1) Are You Ready: Determine if you have the time (this is a very time intensive process), resources (applying and/or traveling for interviews can cost a lot of money), qualifications/experience to make a competitive application for programs you will be applying to. If not, then you may want to consider waiting to apply until you do.

2) Picking Programs: You want to begin narrowing down a list of 5-15 (this varies a lot by interest, degree, and discipline) places to apply. You can do this by asking professors, checking the places where the research you are interested in is being conducted, consulting books that outline the different components of programs across the country in your field.

3) Make A Timeline: Determine when you’re going to complete all the necessary components for your applications : narrowing down your list of programs, polishing your CV, personal and/or research statements, obtaining letters of recommendation, completing the application itself, taking and sending in GRE scores, etc. Having a plan will help you get everything done in a timely manner.

Far Reaching

C. Morton 2017

Photo Credit C. Morton 2017

Upon entering my doctoral program, I was told by one of my professors that doctoral study is a lonely process. I have never been one for crowds. So while I appreciated the notice, I did not put deep thought into her proclamation. Now in my fourth year of the doctoral process, I have a deeper appreciation for her words.

While the physical solitude of distance from friends and family stings at times, pursuing a doctoral degree for me has been more mentally isolating as I cultivate my academic self. In order to add to the body of knowledge I had to first consider who I am, who I am as a researcher, and who I want to be as a scholar. I encourage others to consider some of these questions before entering a program of study. For me the answers shaped my ontological and epistemological understandings of the purpose and goal of research. In turn, my understanding of my truths has shaped the courses I have taken and the way I frame my research.

Labor Day Weekend Musings…

Welcome to our blog site and to a new school year! As I sit here munching on a plate of study food and talking to you, I still can’t believe we are almost through with summer. But, like you, I’m excited about the new year and once again know we are in the right place at this time in our lives.

You know, I always do this–just jump right into a conversation without introducing myself lol. Let me roll this back a bit: Hi, nice to meet you. My name is Amy Aiyegbusi. I’m a 2nd year PhD student in the department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at IU Bloomington, completing a concentration on the ethno side. I completed my BA at IU in English with various minors and my MA in European Studies at IU, plus I am a Bloomington townie, so you could say I know my way around here some:) I’m pretty accessible via email if you ever would have any questions for me about either the city or the University, so feel free to contact me at afa@indiana.edu if you need something.

So, as I sit here on a long Labor Day weekend and think about the fact that I’m inside managing my coursework instead of walking around in the sunshine, I can’t really complain. I went out last night with a friend to Indy (here’s a food pic, which was fabulous, as always), shopped a little online and organized all of my deadlines for this semester in my calendar. Academics is all about figuring out your current priorities weighed against your long-term goals, and so far this year, I seem to be doing something right. Oh yeah, almost forgot–it’s just the beginning of the 3rd week. Check in with me in about a month and we’ll see how I’m still feeling;) lol

Bis später,
Amy

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Researching Potential Graduate Schools by Thomas Elton IV

This month’s entry will discuss researching potential graduate school programs. This process can start as early as freshman year (to give you time to meet admission requirements for a school you want to go to), or senior year or later depending on when you want to enroll in a graduate program.
When researching potential graduate school programs one should do the following:

1. Determine what type of graduate degree you want to earn. There are many graduate degrees out there; you need to decide if you want a MA, MS, MBA, MPA, MPH, MSW or other graduate degree. With this step you should also decide if there is a specific area within that degree that you would like to concentrate or focus on. Some schools may not have the degree at all while others may have your selected degree with a focus or concentration that no other school may have. Some schools may even offer dual graduate degree options.

2. Investigate which schools have your selected degree/degrees with your interest area. Once you have decided what you want to study, you need to research what schools have those programs and make a list of those potential schools.

3. Investigate admission requirements and application deadlines for the potential schools. Once you have generated a list of potential programs, go through the list and look up the admission requirements for each school. Graduate programs will have different admission requirements that may include but are not limited to one’s GPA, standardized test scores, classes that one should have taken, or even work experience. For example a graduate program may require an applicant to have a 3.5 GPA, score 300 on the GRE, and have an undergraduate degree in a related field; while another program may require a 3.3 GPA, doesn’t require a standardized test score if you meet the GPA requirement, and the requirement for undergraduate degree is the fact that you have earned one in any field of study. Once you have researched the admission requirements of potential graduate programs, you can remove all of the schools on the list that you do not meet or do not see yourself meeting their requirements. Also at this time, if early enough you can start meeting requirements that you have not met. For example if a program requirement is that you take a biology course and you have time before graduate, you can register and take the course so that you can fulfill the requirement and potentially apply to the school if you want to.

4. Look at the remaining schools on the list and consider their location, the type of institution, cost and what type of funding do they provide. Once you have a list of schools you have decided you are eligible to apply for, begin looking at the schools as a whole to find out where you might want to go. Some questions that you may want to answer are:

A) Is the school a public, or private institution?

B) How far the institution from where you currently are and do you have to pay out of state tuition?

C) How much will a graduate degree at this institution cost you and do they offer fellowships, graduate assistantships, or research assistantships?

Once you have done your research, you can take or retake the standardized tests, work toward and meet requirements if have not. After this you can make the decisions on which programs you would like to move forward and apply for. Good Luck!

FALLing into the New Academic Year

Photo by Garrett C

Photo by Garrett C

The first few weeks of class have certainly proven to be busy! I just began my third year as a Ph.D. student in the Education Policy Studies program. It feels great to be at this point in my academic journey not only because it means that I am getting closer to the finish line, but also because I am much more familiar with this vast campus and the resources that it offers. After a recent appointment with my advisor, I am reminded that there is still much that I have to do, but I am not overwhelmed and can see how I will get there.

I have many goals for this year and one of them is to attend more school events. I often hear graduate students speak with such pride about their undergraduate institutions and years, but that same pride and excitement is not necessarily there now. Yes, we are older and the academic load is more rigorous, but this year I want to connect more with my institution. I recently attended IU Late Night with some friends and we had a great time. We went through an escape room, played virtual reality games, ate and received t-shirts and other free items. I also attended my first Big Ten football game on Thursday when I saw IU play OSU at a sold-out Memorial Stadium. While we did not win, I had a great time being an Indiana Hoosier!