The Value of a Scholarly Support System

You can’t do this thing alone. You can’t do this thing alone. You can’t do this thing alone. This is something that we as graduate students must constantly remind ourselves. Cutting to the chase, graduate school is no joke, and the only way to survive and thrive is to build and maintain a consistent support network.¬†

As I type this, I am sitting in the IMU computer lab (on a Friday night, might I add) for a study session with two fellow scholars, a second-year master’s student in my program (Higher Education Student Affairs) and a fourth-year Ph.D. student in journalism who is preparing for her qualifying exams coming up in two weeks. We three, along with a few other graduate students, have begun to study and write together regularly. As a matter of fact, we’ve been on top of it every day this week. Find us in the library in the graduate commons, the IMU computer lab, Rachel’s Cafe (which has THE best hot chocolate), or the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center grinding, burning the midnight oil…taking care of our scholarly duties.

This support system is so important for so many reasons. One is accountability. Knowing that I am going to be with them for some hours out of the day consistently helps me to stay on top of my game. It’s so easy to say, “I’m tired, so I’ll study tomorrow… or the next day.” But, just when that thought begins to make itself comfortable in my head, I get that message in my GroupMe asking where we are meeting to study. I respond by packing my bag, grabbing a snack, and making my way to the study spot.

Secondly, this scholar support, as I like to call it, is a form of discipline for all of us. Discipline is another word for straightforward motivation. For instance, my friend who is studying for her qualifying exams looks to us to keep her motivated and on task so that she prepares efficiently and effectively. I look to our group for motivation to create my own deadlines and set out to accomplish a certain number of REALISTIC tasks during our time together.

Finally, these regularly scheduled study sessions reaffirm my reason for why I do what I do. In graduate school, we all have those moments when we question why we even bother reading an unfathomable amount of pages of research every day, or why we sit in 2-3 hour classes a couple times a week, or why we moved eight hours away from home to go to school for five or six…or even seven years to get a degree. These thoughts are normal! But joining your fellow scholars for a study session and watching them grind, in some ways, cultivates an “I got this” mentality that lets you know that you can do it.

So, when you enter graduate/professional school, I urge you to solidify that support system early on. Make sure you identify fellow scholars both within and outside your program who are committed to excelling and want to see you do the same. It will be nothing less than worthwhile! Now, back to work I go…:)