Monday morning around 8am, I get a text message from one of my sista-friends asking me along with four or five other female doctoral students, “Where and what time are we working today?” Tuesday morning, same question…maybe a different person. Wednesday, Thursday, and even Friday or Saturday morning, same question. It’s like clockwork.
If you polled every graduate student on a given campus and asked them if they had ever pondered the above question (or some form of the question) before, nine times out of ten, the answer would be a resounding “YES!” and for very good reason.
Where has the time gone?! I’ve always thought the spring semester flew by compared to the fall. And that has truly been the case this semester. I feel like it was only yesterday that I was making vision boards with my sistah-scholars to bring in the new year. And now, it’s April! Spring is here! (Well, the cold temps may indicate otherwise…). But as I look at my planner for the remainder of the semester, it hit me that summer comes after spring…
Remember when you were a kid in elementary school, and the teacher would ask a question or tell the class to come to her desk for a treat? You and your little friends would take off to her desk, eagerly raising your hands and awaiting her surprise, as you scream “Me first, me first!!!!
Spring semester has arrived! Despite the fact winter only recently began to feel and look like winter, it’s time to bounce back into the swing of things and begin and end the semester with a bang.
Earlier this week, prospective students visited IU as part of the “Getting You Into IU” recruitment program. It was a pleasure meeting these students and learning about their interests, their backgrounds, where they’re from, and even sharing with them some things about my experience as a doctoral student. These students took initiative and applied for a program that ultimately gave them a glimpse into graduate life at IU. They had individualized schedules, met with faculty in their departments of interest, and were able to see what Bloomington has to offer…all in less than 48 hours!
Even if it’s not an institutionalized program such as GU2IU, I encourage you to visit your campus of interest and connect with current students. Sometimes, those conversations and visits are all you need to affirm (or disprove) your idea that a particular institution is or is not for you. It’s so important to hear from those individuals who are where you ultimately want to be and it’s equally important to see the lay of the land.
When speaking with current students, ASK QUESTIONS! Students are going to be honest and transparent with you so just about everything is up for grabs; nothing is off limits. What’s the workload like? How do I find an assistantship? Where can I get my hair done? How is the nightlife? What’s the dating scene like? Where should I live? All of these (and so many more) are good questions that current students can enlighten you on.
During GU2IU, I exchanged contact information with prospective students and have even talked with some since they left a few days ago. Keep the connections going. Stay in contact, stay engaged. When this happens, you’re one step ahead in the process of building your community. So, when you arrive at your institution (IU, of course!), those students you met will be welcoming you with open arms.
If there is one thing that I heard often before I entered graduate school and even when I arrived, it was that this experience can be an isolating, lonely one…IF I make it that way. As a result of hearing these words of wisdom from friends and mentors, I made it my business to be intentional in creating a support network while building and sustaining community on campus.
This morning at 8am, I joined my U215 students (freshmen Hudson & Holland Scholars) in our discussion section where we engaged in a very robust conversation regarding the “college for all” crusade and the question of whether or not a college education is really the “golden ticket” to success. My students, who are extremely bright and vocal, shared their various opinions, but by the end of the conversation, they all reached the same conclusion: college is definitely worth it.
As a graduate student, there are times when I ask myself, “Is this thing called graduate school really worth my time, effort, sleepless nights, MONEY, and all of the other sacrifices I have given and continue to give for this PhD?” Even though I have these moments that sometimes manifest themselves in the form of griping and complaining, I still manage to draw the same conclusions as my students: It really is worth it!
If you are grappling with the question: “To go or not to go to graduate school?'” because of the major costs involved (in terms of dollars and cents and the intangible things like time), do not let those thoughts deter you from pursuing a graduate degree. Yes, it’s important to count up the cost, but do not get so wrapped up in the costs that you negate the benefits, both tangible and intangible. Be your own cheerleader and encourage yourself as you prepare your application. Speak to mentors, faculty members, others in your field about your decision. Extra affirmation is always a good thing. It’s simple. If you really see yourself conducting research, diving deep into areas of interest and informing the work in that field, go for it!
Money money money money…some people gotta have it, some people really need it. It’s only fitting to begin this post with the lyrics of renowned soul group The O’Jays from their hit song For the Love of Money. These lyrics definitely describe graduate students’ sentiments regarding funding our graduate education. Graduate school is not cheap, and it sure is not free! But don’t be alarmed! What’s the best way to fund your education? SImple. Get someone else to pay for it.
Along with being accepted into a graduate program comes so many false myths and hard-to-believe but tough-to-deny seemingly true realities. One of these ever-so-popular beliefs is that graduate school is all about work, work, and more work. Period. Why? Because you won’t have time for anything else. I am happy to inform you that this is far from the truth.