Tag Archives: grad school

Week 1, or Goal Setting for a New Semester

Well, it’s that time: the syllabi are posted and students have returned to campus. Soon, long summer days will turn into crisp mornings and brisk nights. That’s right– it’s the start of the semester. The start of a new semester for me is a moment of reflection– a moment to meditate on how I’ve done things in the past, which in turn informs how I set goals for myself in the future.

This semester in particular is very special to me. It’s my last semester of coursework as a Ph.D student, so things are set up a little differently than they have been for the last two years. In the past, I have taken three classes per semester, but in this last go around, I’ll only take two. The two classes I’m taking are a perfect fit for me: Introduction to the Digital Humanities and Critical Race Theory and Education. With the extra time, I will start to prepare for my Comprehensive Exams (Comps), which will tentatively take place in May 2019. And, if you’ve been following along, I will be completing my assistantship this year with the Lemon Project .

Given how much I have to accomplish this semester, I thought it would be a productive exercise to make my goals public, which might encourage me to hold myself more accountable as I go through this semester. So, here are my goals:

  1. Get through this last semester of coursework in one piece. I’ve done such a great job making my way through my classes for the last four semesters, and it’s amazing that I can celebrate yet another milestone along this process: my last first day of classes. The goal is not to be perfect, but to successfully complete these last two courses. To me, this means that I will do the readings, complete all the assignments, do the final papers/projects and most importantly I will do the best that I can in that moment, no matter what the final grade is.
  2. Finalize my Comps Committee. I had a snafu with someone who I assumed would be willing to be on my committee and therefore had to quickly scramble to find someone to replace him. Fortunately, I have found someone to replace him with, but I need to confirm that the replacement will be willing to work with and examine me.
  3. Set a date for my Comps Colloquium. Colloqs in my program are simply a formality; one must set a meeting with all the members of the committee and agree that the set of lists I come into the meeting with will be the final lists which I will be examined on. It is also the moment to set the date for my examination, which I hope will happen in mid to late May 2019.
  4. Start reading for Comps. This one will be hard, especially when I have readings for coursework to do, and an assistantship to prepare for each week. However, the more that I read now, the less stressed I will be come December when it’s really time to buckle down and start reading about a book or two a day.
  5. Prioritize my health. I mean all manners of my health. If I’m physically ill, I’m going to rest until I feel better and I won’t put off doctor appointments. I’m going to prioritize my mental health by making sure I’m eating properly, staying hydrated, taking breaks, and remembering to treat myself generally like a human and not a lean mean grad school machine. I’m also going to prioritize my fitness, and instead of laying in bed watching all of my favorite CW shows, I think I’ll take my iPad to the gym and walk on the treadmill while I watch instead.
  6. I am going to prioritize my joy. I think my own happiness comes second to literally anything grad school related. This year, I’m shifting my mindset. I’m going to do more of what makes me happy, whether it’s making art, knitting or crocheting, baking, writing, or spending time with friends and family, I plan on incorporating that into my daily life.
  7. I am going to write again. In full transparency, I started the semester off with a series of rejections. I finally worked up the courage to write stories that I was ready to share with the world, so I submitted them to literary magazines, and was rejected from both publications. Again, in full transparency, I’m going to be sad, I’m going to wallow, and I’m going to sulk for a while, but ultimately, I am going to write again. I am going to try to get published again. All I’ve ever wanted was to see my name in print and I deserve to have that feeling. Someone, somewhere, is waiting to read my words.
  8. I am going to spend more time with people. After the initial shock of how lonely grad school was, I got used to spending almost all of my time by myself. Aside from classes, I rarely see anyone. It’s partially grad school, partially my super introverted nature, and partially my social anxiety. Case in point– I went out with friends a few evenings ago and stayed out for a long time, much longer than usual for me, and my friends definitely mentioned it. The only reason it came up is because I usually isolate myself, but I was having such a good time that I wondered why I didn’t want that sort of interaction more often. Especially with Comps coming up, I think it’s more important than ever to make sure I’m seeking out healthy, mutually supportive friendships.

I think the most productive thing to do at the start of every semester is to sit down and make goals for yourself. Whether or not you follow through is up to you; at least you did make a concerted effort to better yourself, and were at one point committed to those goals. Now that I’ve shared my goals with you, I encourage you to write down your own list of goals and keep them somewhere visible so you can check in and note your progress every now and then.

Happy Grad Schooling!


P.S. Leave a comment down below with your top three goals for the semester!

Black Girl Does Grad School… Eventually

By Branika Scott

Sometimes you know exactly what you want to do in life, you just don’t know when you want to do it. Sometimes you realize you have to take time, not only for logistics, but simply for yourself. As you can see by the title, this is for the black girls who will go to grad school…eventually.

Since I was a child, I’ve loved school. Yeah, not liked… loved it. I loved everything about school and everything that had to do with learning. I was that one kid asking all the questions in class. The girl who dressed up as Condoleezza Rice for the elementary school Halloween parade. When I wasn’t in school, I was at home playing school, taking on the role as teacher to my little siblings. So naturally, from a young age, higher education has always been in my “big picture”.

We all know everything doesn’t always go as planned…

I was filled with hope at the beginning of my last year at the University of Virginia. I’d just had the best summer of my life, and life, in general, was perfect. This was my last year and I was going to make it count with all of the memories that I could. I also started planning for grad school. Although the profession I want doesn’t necessarily require a graduate degree, I always feel one should never stop learning. Also, due to UVA’s unique Drama program, I felt there was way more I could learn within the realm of acting. Grad school applications, along with audition planning was soon in my horizon…or so I thought.

Within my first week of school, I found out I had a heart condition that was not curable. That same week I also ruptured my Achilles’ tendon. These two events completely changed both my life and my path. I was now on bedrest for about three months and medicated heavily for almost two of them. Because of the effects of the medication, I was not reading or writing very much, which meant I wasn’t filling out applications and applying for fee waivers. It also meant I wasn’t looking at dates, locations, and times of auditionsto book. Because I could not walk, this also meant I could not act at full capacity, I could not rehearse, so I would not be able to apply to grad school due to the audition process held inJanuary/ February. I had to put my life on hold, as well as my dreams of grad school.

I’m not going to lie, at first I was devastated. I couldn’t understand why God had allowed this to happen to me in my very last year of undergrad. I cried a lot in the beginning. I felt like I had been robbed of my last semester, as well as all the memories I didn’t get to make. Most of all, I felt hopeless because I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life after graduation.

Since I didn’t apply to grad school, I didn’t have a Plan B. But I guess I learned that that’s the point. God has a plan for everything, and His timing is unpredictable to man. This setback made me realize that maybe God was telling me to take a break; maybe God was telling me I needed to take time for myself. I mean, when you think about it, I have been in school for 17 straight years. So I decided this gap year would be my blessing. I decided to stop feeling bad and sorry for how things turned out; I decided to stop feeling scared, and I have decided to follow my dreams.

In my gap year, I’m moving to Los Angeles. I’m going to audition, work, spend some time trying to put myself out there in this acting industry, and see where life takes me. Who knows, maybe I’ll get booked right away on a hit show, maybe I’ll end up moving back to the east coast within a few months, but regardless of where life takes me, I still dream and plan for grad school. No matter what, I still want that Masters Degree with my name on it. And one day, I’ll have it.

So to all my black girls who will eventually go to grad school, don’t feel bad for taking a break first. Don’t be scared of the direction God takes you in life. Everyone’s journey is unique and theirs for the making. You’ll get there when you’re ready, so be free and take your time.


Branika Scott is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia with her BFA in Drama. She is in the process of moving to Los Angeles, where she will pursue her career in acting. Glitter is her spirit animal and gold is her metal of choice.

I’m Good Luv, Enjoy: Navigating Other People’s Dreams While Reaching For Your Own

by Trayc Freeman

If you think it’s annoying to constantly have the “what’s next for you” conversation during undergrad and grad school, just wait until you start having the, “Oh no you should actually do _____!” conversations in the adult/professional world.

I found my research passion my very first semester of my master’s program when I took a class called Civil Rights and Education. After writing a paper on Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Virginia during massive resistance, I was hooked on oral histories, and talking about the benefits of segregated education for Black students. That semester, I was presented with an opportunity to attend the ASALH (Association for the Study of African American Life and History) conference; The other two semesters flew by and it all contributed to seemingly showing me the career path I wanted to embark on. While I haven’t gotten to the path yet, I have a (somewhat) clear idea of how I’m going to get there.

The idea for this piece came to me as I sat in a conference on the recruitment and retention of minority librarians. With the few academic conferences I’ve been to prior to this one, I’ve always walked in feeling immediately that I was “home” and left out feeling renewed and re-energized; I’ve left ready to put in even more work! And while this conference was interesting, it didn’t give me that feeling. Fast forward to a week later, I was able to attend a good friend, and personal Sheroe’s, dissertation defense; being back in that space, even for a short while, gave me all of those feelings I mentioned earlier. That’s how I know where home is for me.

I’ve been working as an evening manager at a library for 2 years now and have never said to myself, “I think this is where I want to be for the long haul.” Yet, as of late I’ve had a lot of co-workers seemingly become convinced that I should get an MLS (Masters of Library Sciences) degree for no other reason (that’s been expressed to me) than, “well you’re doing the work anyways.” No one has explained what the degree track looks like and only one person, who actually wasn’t even a co-worker but a fellow conference goer, has told me how it could be even slightly beneficial to any of my interests and goals. When I tell these same people what I actually want to do, I’m rarely offered any resources or advice; I’m only reminded that I should really take advantage because my job would pay for library school.

Being a 2-time PhD reject, who’s about to go into admissions attempt number 3, I can say first hand just how much it sucks when you finally figure out where you want to go in life, only for the door to constantly be slammed in your face. It’s even worse when someone who’s trying to be helpful, whether it’s a co-worker, a friend or family member, tries to nail the door shut with their own ideas and suggestions for your life. The good news is that no matter how frustrating I find these conversations to be, I’ve also found them to be extremely valuable. Having to constantly, for lack of a better word, defend your education and career goals really causes you to sit down and fully think about what you’re trying to do. I’m sure we’ve all departed from at least one dream career we thought we had in life; for me that was being a singing lawyer (I was young and liked Ally McBeal, don’t judge me). But by having your choices constantly called into question, if for nothing but your sanity, you really sit down and ask yourself, “what is it about this that makes me want it so bad?” You also discover that not everyone’s dream for you is a bad deal; in fact, some of them are very logical and, for a few minutes, really will have you reconsidering your life. However, while logical, if you can’t see yourself fully immersed in that dream, you have to learn how to communicate that that’s not for you. I’ve learned this while dealing with several family members who think I should try out a teaching career (bless their souls).

The point of this entire piece was to say you should always follow your dreams first! I feel like that’s lowkey cliché, but I’ll say it anyways. With our personal dreams comes the eventual vision to carry them out. It also comes with unshakeable faith and resilience, and the ability to revamp our blueprints accordingly (I’ve revamped mine about 8500 times– I’m 26). Your dreams also come with an understanding that you may make others uncomfortable, especially when it comes to a career because they aren’t able to see the ideas and strategies that are all turning in your head. But it’s important to understand that most folks honestly just want what’s best for you even if their presentation does not come off that way. And if you change your dream, or at some point even take on the dream that someone else had for you, that’s cool too. So long as you worked to achieve what you want to do and didn’t just allow others to cast their dreams onto you because it makes it easier to deal with them (i.e. our parents). With that being said, I hope everyone who reads this finds and goes for their true dreams regardless. And, if in a few years I actually do decide to get an MLS and take on a career as a librarian, send me a link to this piece and laugh at myself for putting it off for so long.


Trayc D. Freeman is a “Double Hoo” from the University of Virginia, earning a Bachelors in African American Studies in 2015, and a Masters of Education in Educational Psychology (with a Social Foundations concentration) in 2016.  She currently works at the Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library, but hopes to eventually pursue a Ph.D, focusing on Black education, more specifically, the benefits of segregated education for Black students. From there she’d like to go on to academia, becoming a professor and historian of Black education. In the meantime she runs her own Black history blog, and is working to add an “Executive Producer” notch on her belt, working with UVA graduate and professional track athlete Jordan Lavender on her up-and-coming bi-weekly Youtube vlog “#DoItLikeJLav.”