Spring has sprung!! Well….kinda.

Hello everybody! Today is the first day of spring! As a southerner, and person who believes in minimum 45 degree weather, I am thrilled that winter is coming to a close. I personally prefer Bloomington in the spring and fall. Mother Nature puts on a show with an array of flowers, colors, sweet smells, and sunshine. However, I can live without the bugs…but I guess we need them for pollination…oh well.

If you are interested in coming and visiting Bloomington, the perfect time is right around the corner. Come up, make some new friends, and enjoy what the city has to offer. My favorite activities are the Farmer’s Market, Taste of Bloomington (a summer event, but start deciding which restaurants you want to try now), an IU Softball game, or you can just take a walk around campus.

That’s all for me folks….Have a springy day! :)

The Waiting Game

Hi Everyone! I hope that life has been treating you well. I know that I’m a little late with my post for January, but it has been a crazy time. Anywho, let’s get down to business :). What does one do when waiting on an admission decision? Well, you could engage in arts in crafts? It’s winter time, so your friends and family would love a new scarf…get out those knitting needles! You could also try to set a new world record. However, I would recommend something more productive.

Waiting on admission results can be a nerve wrecking process taht can take a toll on you physically and mentally. Here are my recommendations as you play the waiting game.

1. Relax! You’ve done all that you can at this point. You’ve put your best foot forward, so don’t nitpick with your essays.

2. Stay in contact with current grad students to learn more about the program.

3. Do NOT harass facutly about a decision two weeks after you submit your application. Give the process some time. However, if you don’t hear anything back by March, give the department a call.

4. Look for funding (internal and external) opportunities.

5. Stay positive! You never know what a program is looking for in a new cohort…so don’t count yourself out of the mix!

Have a great day…and I will keep my fingers crossed for plenty of acceptance letters!!

To Visit…or Not To Visit? That is the Question!!

Visiting your potential graduate home is a important question to ask yourself at this time. I personally think that visiting your campus is extremely important. By going and seeing the campus with your own eyes, you can get a firsthand look at what the campus looks and feels like. It also gives you the opportunity to investigate potential housing, transportation options, and accessibility issues (specifically if you have a physical disability). Another benefit to visiting a campus is to see your department of interest in action. You can gain a lens into student life in the program, student connections to faculty, and departmental politics (just a small peak though…mainly how office space is distributed).

Campus visits can be very beneficial; however, they can be quite expensive. If funds are tight and you are not able to travel, here are some options that you have.

1. Take an on-line tour at the university’s website.
2. Ask your department if you can Skype with current students or faculty members.
3. See if your department of interest has a list of students who are looking for potential roommate (if you are looking for housing)
4. Connect with the professional and graduate student association(s) on your campus. At IU, the Graduate and Professional Student Organization (GPSO) has been very helpful during my time here.

I hope that these suggestions help! Have a great day!

Prepping the Right Package

Packaging yourself as a applicant can be a very tricky job. Seeing that I like to bake, I compare the graduate application to a recipe. Some items (i.e. vanilla extract) can be added to taste. Other things (i.e. baking powder or baking soda) have to have added according to the recipe. The same goes for your application. It truly depends on the culture of the program. So, here are some things that I would recommend as you prepare to complete and submit your applications.

*Read the instructions. This seems pretty simple, right? Well this can be a very tricky thing for applicants. Sometimes programs want recommendation letters via email or are sticklers for having them mailed directly to the department.

*Know your deadlines. Make sure that you have your application deadlines posted. You want to make sure that you have the strongest application possible. This can’t be done when you are rushing to write your essays.

*Proofread your essays and personal statements. I don’t think I need to explain this tip.

*Only supplement when it is welcomed. You want to put your foot forward, but do you don’t want to be the person who added five extra items to their application.

I hope that this helps…now get those applications done!!

Marhaba Y’all!!

This semester, I am diving head first into new territory:  Arabic.  Well, I should not say new territory.  As an undergraduate, I studied abroad in Dubai for one semester.  During this time, I studied Arabic, but did not retain much after my return stateside.  A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to revamp my Arabic studies, but did not know when I would have the time.  I was just starting my coursework, and did not have the time nor mental energy to place on learning a new language.  So, I waited…and waited…and waited…and now the time has arrived.

Studying a foreign language as a graduate student has been very different from my experiences as an undergraduate.  As a first-year, I did not see myself traveling abroad.  I had no connection to the language.  However, now, I see the importance of being multi-lingual.  Communication is a very powerful tool, and vital to being /becoming a global citizen.

I am just in the first few weeks of study, but I can honestly say that choosing to study a foreign language in graduate school has been one of my best decisions.  It is a lot of work. Somedays are great…others, not so great.  However, I keep trying.  I enjoy going to class everyday (yes, I have a class that meets Monday through Friday), but I love every minute of it.  If you get the chance to study a foreign language, take it!  You will not regret it.

Ma’as salaama!  (Good-bye!)

The Rankings Game

Pursing a graduate degree is not a light undertaking. It requires deep thought; a close examination of personal, professional, and academic goals; and a dose of brutal honesty. If you choose to take this mission, you will sacrifice sleep, time with loved ones, and oh…did I mention sleep? However, once you have finished (and you WILL finish), there are several benefits. If you’re lucky, you get the chance to meet wonderful people along the way.

As you can see, choosing to jump back into the higher education pool is a big decision.  Becoming informed about graduate school options can become overwhelming with numerous articles, books, and blogs that talk about the “best of the best”. Adding to the madness, several ranking lists exist,…so who do you trust? Here’s my advice.  First, get to know the resource you’re using. Here are some questions to ask as you browse:
Which rankings list are you using?
What measures are being used to determine scoring?
How many years has it been in circulation?
Is my field of study represented?
Are factors that I feel are important, represented in the ranking measurements?

Secondly, rankings are helpful, but they don’t tell you everything.  With so much information out there, it is very easy to float in confusion. Being informed is great…being overwhelmed is not. When you feel yourself floating, step away from the computer and use other resources you have at your disposal.  Go for a campus visit.  Go to an academic conference.  Contact a program of interest to see if you can speak with current students.  Speak with current professionals in your field.  Rankings serve as a great tool towards informing future scholars, parents, and curious citizens about what institutions have to offer. However, rankings are not the final say. YOU are! The question should not be, “Which institution is best?” The question to ask is, “Which institution is best for YOU?”

How Did I Spend My Summer? Reading, Relaxation, and Preparing for Quals

This summer was a transition for me in a variety of ways. As I finished the spring semester, I realized that I was, “running on fumes.” I desperately needed a break. So for the first time, since 2004, I gave myself a summer vacation. Actually it was a “stay”cation.  No teaching, no grading, and no classes….well, there was one small class in early May. It was a course on Critical Race Theory, and it was great! So I will give that a pass. However, other than this one course, my summer was completely devoted to giving myself some “me time.”  During my relaxation staycation, I created a nice groove in my couch by watching re-runs of my favorite television shows. I also got the chance to see movies that I planned to see once I got a free moment.  At first, I was nervous about this decision. However, it was the best thing for me. As graduate students, the desire to engage our respective curricula, or the drive to complete degrees in a specific timeline can take over our lives. To compensate, sacrifices are made to ensure that the goal of graduation is accomplished. I think that it’s good to be focused; however, it is crucial to one’s mental, physical, and emotional health to make sure that he or she takes the time to recharge.

As I was embracing my staycation, I was also preparing for my qualifying exams.  When I first entered my program, this rite of passage seemed so far away.  However, starting August 17th, I was going to enter the trenches.  Though I dedicated time to relaxing, I also took the time to collect and read resources.  Now having finished my qualifying exams (I turned in my final response August 27th), I really appreciate that I took this summer to relax.  Qualifying exams were very intense.  In addition to this, classes started back (AHH!!!).  I’m still getting my bearings, but I’m prepared to start the semester.  So Fall 2012…let the games begin!!