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?