As many of us go onto start our next journey in life whether that be starting graduate school, beginning a summer opportunity, or graduating from a program. There is no correct order or timeline for things to be done. Be patient with whatever path and journey your life may take.
Graduate school is an opportunity to learn more about the things you are interested in. What people don’t always tell you, is that it can make you rethink your choices and/or reveal new passions. I used to be an over-planner. Every step I took was carefully laid out. In graduate school I have been exposed to different concepts, cultures and opportunities. We can’t plan everything. I’ve had to fight myself to go off of the path I laid out for myself to achieve something greater. Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith and trust yourself, your heart or your gut. 🙂
How to Communicate in Grad School?
“Do you understand the words, that are coming out of my mouth?” is quote by Chris Tuckers’ character from the classic buddy cop movie “Rush Hour.” One of the obstacles that Tucker and his co-star, Jackie Chan, had to overcome was being able to communicate with one another. Communication is a very important factor in graduate school, as you have to be able to articulate to other people how you are doing on your academic journey or what you need. This comes down to be able to communicate with professors, classmates and your friends with how you’re feeling in your academic career.
Now that you are in graduate schools it’s important to let your advisors or professors know if ever feel you’re struggling in courses sooner rather than later. You don’t want to wait till after midterms to tell the professor that you’ve been struggling with the material, as had you said something sooner may have affected the difference between passing and failing your exam. Communicating with your professors begins in the classmate. A common practice for students is when it comes to note taking is to pretend you understand what was written on the board, when in reality you don’t. In moments like that it’s important to be honest and let them know if there is any part of the material you don’t understand. If the confusion about the material continues, that’s when it is important to see the professor during office hours. Speaking from experience, I’m currently taking intro to statistics, and I usually see the professor in that course at least once a week in order to gain a better understanding of the course material. So it’s important to communicate with your professors on how you’re doing in your graduate level courses. But the other part of communicate is that with your classmates (colleagues).
Properly communicating with your colleagues, be they in your cohort or organization, is another important of grad school life. This can be applied to not only how to study for classes in your department, but also to be able to coordinate meetings or activities. One way this applies is if you’re apart of a student organization and get emails about coordinating a meeting with other members and need to respond on the location and time. The worst kind of response is no response as that can make it harder to plan a meeting if only a few people respond to the email. So even if the response is not immediate, it’s still better to respond sooner rather than later. This can be applied to studying with a group of your classmates as to not only where to study, but also what to study in terms of course material. Being able to communicate properly with your colleagues helps show your reliability in planning events or meetings, but also shows your understanding the responsibility that comes with it.
Overall knowing how to communicate to other people in graduate school is something you learn over time. There will be times that they’ll come to you, but it’s important to know when to be direct and go to them when you have concerns or planning something. Understanding this will help make your academic career all the more successful.
After Spring break, most students regardless of classification are looking to prepare themselves to end the semester strong. The important thing to consider after spring break in particular, however, is how you will continue your matriculation progress through the summer. While most students may choose to focus on day of, or week of assignments, graduate students should be planning ahead with research and writing plans during and post-semester. I’ve come to realize that pacing yourself as a graduate student with rotating weekly obligations is a near superpower, once you get the hang of it.
Research and writing planning during the late spring can certainly provide a boost for graduate students to apply for grants, conferences, and other fellowship opportunities in the future. As you consider what “springing into action” means for you specifically, I would propose the following questions to determine which action should be taken to ensure optimal success for you as a prospective or current graduate student:
- What stage are you in currently in pursuit of your graduate degree? (classification, program requirements, research interests)
- Where are your research archives? (databases, libraries, locations outside of the university)
- Is there a conference, fellowship, grant, that you need to write for? (deadlines, recommendations, format)
- How can you get ahead with writing for the next term over the summer? (May/June/July)
While we all come to graduate school “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed”,it can be easy to get overwhelmed. We get caught up in our work and may even lose sight of the the reason we decided to pursue a graduate degree. It is very important to find ways to feed your passion outside of school. For me, this includes volunteering and creative writing. While neither of these are directly related to my coursework, they feed my passions and bring me back to reality. Other grounding activities i’ve indulged in include include recording gratitude and making what I call “passion goals”. Some of my passion goals are to read 4 books this year (not for class) and to do at least one craft every month. There are plenty of self-care activities out there that can support your passions (or even help you discover more!)
Who isn’t excited to have a little time off? But often as graduate students we don’t have the option to bail on teaching and graduate responsibilities during breaks. Whether it’s because traveling is too expensive or have an approaching deadline for a project you will, on occasion, find yourself in town during a school break. Staying in town when the majority of the student body vacates can seem disheartening, but have no fear, here are five hidden ways to enjoy your campus staycation.
1) First, appreciate the silence. Ok maybe not complete silence, but the bustle of cars, buses and people everywhere tends to settle down during long breaks.
2) Remember that you’ll have a more flexible schedule. The demands of seminars, attending meetings and/or teaching courses are reduced (if not eliminated) thus allowing you to be more flexible with your days. Perhaps you can take the opportunity to sleep in or leave campus early.
3) Get out and explore the town! Our schedules are always jam packed, so we rarely have free time to explore. Go ahead and try a new restaurant. The wait times are usually non-existent during long breaks, so treat yourself to that new place you’ve been wanting to try. This is also a great time to catch a movie, go to the gym, library or other campus hotspots that can feel overpopulated during regular semester hours can be easier to manage during the breaks.
*FYI* Check operating hours as businesses may adjust times or close for repairs due to fewer patrons.
4) Resources are abundant, whether trying to use the campus printing, valuable office space, or the machines that always seem to be taken. It is highly unlikely you are the only one around, but there are far fewer people everywhere making it easier to access shared equipment.
5) Lastly, you are not alone. There are tons of other grad students in the same boat. Plan to meet up with people you don’t get to see regularly because of your busy schedules. So use the time to reconnect with old buddies or if you’re new to campus, use it as an opportunity to make new friends.
Black Panther is a must see, but I’m sure you’ve heard this already from various media platforms. Black Panther is a source of inspiration and motivation to students and staff in the academy. It is an affirmation to so many Black communities within the diaspora that you are enough. Sometimes the academy can lead us to believe that there one way to discuss Black life. Black Panther has showed us the critical and necessary conversations we can have regarding the Black community through art, specifically film. The actors and screenwriters of Black Panther are creative scholars and you too can use creativity to build a bridge between theory and practice. Lastly allow Black Panther to serve as a source of joy for you to continue to push through. This film will go down in history and should serve as an honorable moment as a member of the African diaspora.
Incoming students often ask me what advice I have for them to be successful in graduate school. One of the most things I tell them is that they need to achieve balance in their schedules. Balance ensures that you are able to get your academic work done but also have adequate and regular time for aspects outside of school that you find meaningful. This is important because otherwise, you will burn out and/or be ill equipt to deal with the many stressors of graduate school. Below I outline 3 tips to help you achieve balance while in graduate school.
1) Make a list of your Values. Having a list of your values will help you determine what you find most important in your life. From here, you can number your values in order of most to least important and then make goals for all of these different aspects.
2) Have Hobbies. Having hobbies is a way for you to spend time doing something outside of academics that brings you joy and allows you to take a break while simultaneously doing something productive and meaningful. Hobbies don’t have to take a lot of time/efforts and can literally be anything you enjoy doing. Some examples include photography, writing, art, exercise, reading, volunteering, cooking, etc.
3) Make a Schedule. Once you’ve determined your values, goals, and hobbies, you can allocate how much time you want to spend on different activities weekly towards each of these. Including these aspects in addition to academics will help ensure that you’re working towards holistic growth throughout your graduate program.
I’ve heard the term “Imposter Syndrome” since the first semester that I arrived on IUB’s campus as a Ph.D. student. Essentially, “imposter syndrome” references the tendency that most faculty and students develop to perform their knowledge and proficiency in subjects of interest. It seems that “imposter syndrome” can even be performed involuntarily, with some prospective and new graduate students adopting this persistent intellectual performance in order to validate their presence in their respective programs to their faculty and peers.
My personal identity is not one that is rooted in ego, or the necessity to always be right. However, when I first began my graduate experience as a Ph.D. student, I felt the need to come up with something “smart” to say in my core classes with peers in order to please the professor, and to also prove that I had earned the right to be amongst the best and the brightest minds that surrounded me everyday. It was taxing and exhausting to say the least after the first year of doing it, and I realized that I needed to work on blending my personal identity with my academic identity more thereafter.
The truth is, many prospective and new graduate students are tempted to “prove” themselves and perform their intellect as soon as they arrive in their departments. But, what if each of us, the best and bright minds who earned acceptance into our programs, decided to celebrate the transitional moments and learning curves that come with beginning a graduate program? What if we dared to answer, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll look into it,” instead of “Well, if you consider…or insert author once said”? Don’t get me wrong, I strongly encourage everyone who knows a little bit about something or everything to share their knowledge, so we all can become better informed from it. As a tidbit though, as I’ve learned, you don’t have to start off as the “know-it-all” scholar in your programs, because most people have the same questions as you do, or at minimum hold similar anxieties about starting something new with new people.
I firmly believe that we become better learners when we decide that a good source for knowledge is important, even if that source is not us. Remaining teachable and authentic as a person will take you far beyond your graduate degree. And sometimes wisdom and temperament are more important to demonstrate on a regular basis than knowledge.