Posted: April 21st, 2011 | No Comments | Tags: Feature, Race, The Daily Graduate
Yesterday I posed a question… “what does it mean to be a student of color on an American college campus in 2011.” This query was prompted by recent events at my alma mater and current place of employment, the University of Pennsylvania. Over the weekend, a student was verbally assaulted by a small group of his peers. This student decided to write an article about the incident, and how, after approaching him in a disturbing manner, speaking in a mock slang, the students he encountered then asked if he belonged at this school. These students, acting foolish, taking on caricatures that they’d seen on TV as a way to make themselves feel empowered in their drunken moment, at the expense of another human who was simply walking home, asked whether he belonged at Penn. What a funny world we live in.
I’ve studied and written at length about race. I’ve often wondered why others have not, because for me, in many ways, its been therapeutic. My awareness serves as a constant reminder that we can not claim to be post-racial or colorblind without first coming to terms with our racialized history. Questioning whether a student belongs has nothing to do with SAT scores, income level, country of origin, ability, or anything else. These students knew nothing about this man, other than he had brown skin.
If I leave you with nothing else, please understand that if you are a student of color on a college campus, you belong. Never question that. Never doubt yourself. If you run into academic issues, financial issues, etc., you can overcome them. If you begin to feel like you are less than someone else, simply because of your ethnicity, that’s a much heavier burden to bear. And quite frankly, it’s simply not fair for you to carry this. So don’t. As the elders say, “keep your eyes on the prize.” In my view, people only attack others when they themselves are insecure. Our 2011 America is much different than that of 1965. America in 2042 is predicted to be majority minority. If we are to ever become a true democracy perhaps, rather than having previously marginalized minority populations question themselves, we should be asking students who hurl such irresponsible, racist attacks whether they belong.
Posted: April 19th, 2011 | No Comments | Tags: Feature, The Daily Graduate, Your Team
Today’s entry is going to be a little longer, because I have to tell you this story. Yesterday I sat in on my third or fourth session of a doctoral class taught by advisor. She had invited me to unofficially join the class after she and I had a meeting about halfway through the semester. I thought… “it’s too late for me to do this class,” for two reasons. First, as I said, it was the middle of the semester. Second, I’m done with coursework for my program (so why would I want to go to another class… lol!). But I trust my advisor (she’s been extremely supportive of my work from day one), so I started going to the class a few weeks ago.
It was my turn to present on my dissertation proposal yesterday, to get feedback from the group. What I left the room with was a ton of helpful criticism, additional resources to check, ideas to explore, and suggestions to help frame my approach. This came through my advisor and about a half dozen of the other students. I’d been working on my topic for some time now and thought that I had a firm hold on what I’m trying to do. In some ways, I do, but this experience helped me take on new perspectives, which is what the process of learning is all about. So, as another lesson, know that it’s never too late to get help… whether you think you need it or not. (But, as you really start preparing for your final exams and you clearly see things that you need to improve, don’t just sit there and hope for a miracle. GET HELP!)
Posted: November 15th, 2010 | No Comments | Tags: Feature, Studying, The Daily Graduate, Your Team
This may be the most important lesson in life, so you may see this one come back as a Daily Graduate from time to time. It’s (almost) never too late to get help. I add the “almost” because if you’re in the middle of a midterm or final exam, and you realize that you should have gotten a tutor or gone to the review session a couple of nights ago, then yeah, right then in that moment, it’s too late for this round. You’re going to have to deal with whatever grade you get. But still, you can get help. You can take the exam to a tutor, grad student, peer, TA, faculty member, or someone else who knows the material, and walk through your mistakes slowly so that you understand what went wrong. You may not see the point in this, especially if college is just about grades for you. But if you want to learn, then there’s always time, even if it’s after your exam has been turned in.
The B-side of this has to do with getting help before it really is too late. On Friday I pointed out that for most schools, the Fall semester will be coming to an end shortly. Maybe you haven’t gotten a tutor yet for a tough class, or formed a study group, or gone to office hours, or had anyone read any of your papers (that, coincidentally, you haven’t done so well on). You can fix that right now, for these last few weeks. You can decide to keep things as is, too shy/proud/lazy to make a move, or you can decide that you want to get the most out of the few months you’ve already put into this semester. All you have to do is take the first step and get the help you need. Even if it’s just one class, try it and see how it works. You’ll soon see that getting help isn’t as hard as you may have thought it was, and more rewarding that you imagined in your shy/proud/lazy state.
It’s not too late. Do it today.
Posted: November 4th, 2010 | No Comments | Tags: Balance, Feature, The Daily Graduate, Time Management
You ever feel like this? Everything needs to get done all at once… like right now! You don’t know where to start nor how you’re going to finish, but you have this overwhelmingly depressing feeling that it’s all not even possible, even if you could clone yourself.
It’s a tough spot to be in. I should know. I visit there daily, and it’s been my weekend home for the past few years. Kids, grad school, jobs, life… it all adds up. So, what do you do? You implement the Five P’s. (The Daily Graduate, #50)
Pause. Take 10-15 minutes, remove yourself from the madness, and clear your head. Don’t worry about EVERYTHING YOU HAVE TO DO but instead, move to the next P… Prioritize. What’s the ONE most important thing that you have to do. Notice, I didn’t say what are the three things that you can get done quickly to cross off of your list. It’s easy to fall into that trap, but what happens then is that you clutter your peak time with tons of small things and still have the pressure of big things pounding down on your shoulders. And bottomline, you won’t get the big things done if you don’t work on them. Sometimes we purposefully avoid them. Sometimes we don’t realize it, because we’re always busy doing something, so we feel okay. We’re not okay, unless we’re doing what matters most.
Third, you want to Plan. Now that you know what’s important, how can you be productive? How will you know you’re being productive? That’s the fourth P, Progress. Your plan should be measurable. If you need to work on a paper, tell yourself that you’ll have 2 pages typed and edited in the next hour and a half. If you need to read a difficult text, take 45 minutes to push through half a chapter, quizzing yourself as you go and taking solid notes so that you understand the material. Take a 10 minute break, then do another 45 minutes on the other half of the chapter, then take another quick break. When those two hours are up, you will have accomplished something. That feeling will help you be able to confidently ask yourself, “what’s next?”
Finally, give Praise. No matter how stressful my life seems on the outside, I’m always at peace on the inside because I’m thankful. I’m thankful for my family, for my opportunities, for my accomplishments, and for the challenges ahead. Every day is a chance to do something great, so I truly look forward to doing my part and inspiring others to do the same.
I can’t remember a day when I got EVERYTHING done. It’s simply not possible. But with the Five P’s, you can map out a prioritized plan to use today to the fullest and set up tomorrow to be less stressful. Keep your eyes on the big picture, making sure that you’re investing wisely in yourself. Ultimately, the more your days are about growth (rather than To Do lists and distractions), the more you will get from them, and be able to give back to the world.
Posted: November 1st, 2010 | No Comments | Tags: Balance, Feature, Studying, The Daily Graduate
Despite college sometimes feeling like a sprint – especially when you’re rushing through the end of an exam, trying to answer questions you’ve skipped, or are frantically tapping out the final paragraphs of a paper that you need to e-mail to your professor in three more minutes – college is a long, arduous road. Some would say that it’s marathon. It might be, if you plan it right. In fact, that’s the best case scenario. Let me explain…
For some of you, each day helps inform the next day. You preview your course material, you go to class, you study alone, you review with a group, you get help when you need it, you take your exams, you do well, and you keep building. You take what you learn in your introductory courses and apply it to intermediate and advanced courses. You tutor other students, which helps solidify your understanding. You look for other ways to apply your knowledge – maybe writing for the school paper to nurture your journalism career, or working as a research assistant in a lab to get hands-on experiences in the sciences, or balance the books for a local business as a student accounting intern. All of the pieces fit together and keep pushing you forward, one step at a time. It’s a long road to walk, and it won’t always be easy. But at least you know where you’re going, and you can confidently keep making moves.
For other students, college is a marathon of sprints and stops. Imagine twenty-six miles of sprinting for a mile or two, then slowing to a walk, crawl, or stand-still, then trying to pull it together to sprint again for another mile, then stopping again. Worse, imagine sprinting portions in the wrong direction, because you have no clue about where you’re supposed to be going! No one runs a marathon like that. If you make it to the end, it will take who knows how much longer and your body will hate you. For a good number of college students, this is the unfortunate model you try to apply to your lives in school. The cramming and late nights, the poorly thought out study strategies, the skipping classes and then trying to make up for it by copying someone else’s notes, the limited use of the many academic resources available to you, the distractions and procrastination, and the many other things that get in the way of what you’re supposed to be doing. Sometimes the biggest things in the way of your success in college are you own ideas of what college should be like (The Daily Graduate #47). You think that it’s supposed to be a marathon of sprints, and not a well-thought pace that you set and manage. When you don’t know that you’re supposed to make a better plan, you won’t make one. When you don’t make a plan, you won’t win. When you start seeing a ton of C’s and D’s, you’ll begin to worry, but you still may not know what to do. There is another way. You can go higher… one page at a time.
(Photo Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty)
Posted: October 19th, 2010 | No Comments | Tags: Balance, Feature, Studying, The Daily Graduate
One of the many ideas I talk about in Higher Learning is the choice that students often have to face — do I learn the material or do I try to do well on the exam. Seems like this shouldn’t be an either-or, but those of us who’ve had to read a three-hundred page book, write two short papers, study for a midterm, and do a lab report all in 48 hours (in addition to having some semblance of a college student’s life… which could mean 48 hours of studying or 48 hours of not studying, depending on how disciplined one is) understand that there are choices to be made. When you start your work earlier, you can choose to go deeper, and learn more (Daily Graduate #38). It takes time to get to this point. You have to get into a good groove with your overall studies, activities, and time management, so that you can truly understand how much time you have to work with. You don’t want to sabotage yourself when it’s time to study by not leaving enough time to do a good job.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of things on campus, you’ll get a better sense for which classes you want to truly explore and which you want to excel in but stick more closely to the minimums on the syllabus rather than diving deeper into your own additional research and readings. You have to be strategic about this, because at the end of the day, your ultimate constraint is literally the end of the day. You won’t be able to do everything, every day. But if you learn how to learn more effectively, and you set your sights on getting more out of class and campus, then you’ll be going into the balancing act much better prepared than other students who have no idea what they’re doing and end up solely focused on surviving exams rather than thriving. Put yourself in a position to thrive. Go Higher!
Posted: October 14th, 2010 | No Comments | Tags: Feature, Op-Ed, Studying, The Daily Graduate
There’s one basic truth about college life. This truth remains through life after college as well, though it’s sometimes less recognizable, perhaps because post-college, you know a little more about what you’re signing up for. College, on the other hand, is supposed to be filled with days of aimless fun, and random moments that stretch into hours of the free-est time that one could ever image. That’s certainly a part of the picture. And then you have the other twenty hours of your day, when you’re in a lab writing code, at a library table reading through a stack of books, or in front of your laptop trying to write the perfect paper (for the fourth time this semester).
We call this “the grind.” And the only way to get through it is to get through it (Daily Graduate #35).
There’s no way to sugarcoat this – studying is difficult. Becoming proficient at solving mathematical equations, learning the ins and outs of international commerce, getting fluent in the artistic milestones of given periods, understanding reactions in cells, and the many other things that we try to wrap our minds around involves a commitment to working with a ton of material over and over again. The best learning (ie, being able to actually remember and apply something) is built on taking simple steps, getting them down solid, practicing/applying the knowledge, and moving on to the next step. Most things are built on foundations; you don’t forget these, so you need to make sure that your core knowledge base is solid. Fast-forwarding is never a good idea. Worse when you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s going to take time and patience. You will have to find a certain comfort zone, if not an appreciation for the mental pain.
This blog entry came to me last week as I realized that in many of my post-college pursuits – teaching, writing, entrepreneurial stuff – I’ve been doing a lot of the same things over and over again. I’ve revisited thoughts and ideas, re-read texts, re-had conversations, and re-did plans. I’ve gone through a lot of the same motions, sometimes leading me to dead ends and other times opening up unexpected doors. It’s all been a learning process, which is the best that one could hope for, especially given the years that have been put in. The joy in the struggle and process is found when you repeat those same steps, but you realize that this time around you’re stronger, building on past experiences (rather than starting over), and climbing higher. Whether its solving a problem set or cranking out the third draft of a business plan, you have to run around the track a few times before you can get to the finish line. With each cycle, make it a point to learn and grow. Only then will you finish as strong as you possibly can.
Posted: October 11th, 2010 | No Comments | Tags: Feature, Op-Ed, Presentations, The Daily Graduate
At the risk of being accused as an eavesdropper, let me first offer this disclaimer. If you’re engaged in a conversation in public, and I happen to be near, then chances are my “researcher’s ears” will kick in, and not only will I overhear some of your convo, but I’ll probably have a critique as well. I’m finding that happening often lately, and there are a couple of things that have been especially sticking out to me – the use of the word “like” and the phrase “sort of.”
Like, I sort of don’t understand like why people sort of like use these things like sort of all of the time.
That sentence reads poorly written out, doesn’t it? But, like, how many times have you sort of heard people talk like this? I bet, like, sort of often. Sort of.
I don’t get it. I wonder if they are crutches that we rely on as we process our thoughts (notice, I said “we,” because after paying attention to myself talking, I realized that I too was injecting “sort ofs” in places where I didn’t mean sort of at all). Is it like (like intended) when the little wheel is spinning on our computer screens, letting us know that something’s happening in the background?
Walk with me now as I get a little deeper, but I think that maybe our language reflects our present infatuation with indecisiveness, driven by an overwhelming amount of choices in our complex lives. This is further exasperated by our preference to be noncommittal whenever possible. Told you I was gonna get deep. But seriously, this has to be coming from somewhere. It certainly doesn’t help that everyone’s talking like this (while we also inflect statements as if they are questions, sounding even more unsure of what we’re sort of like unsure about). Maybe we’re talking like this so that we can sound like everyone else. Maybe that’s not the best idea, especially when it makes us sound like we shouldn’t believe ourselves.
One thing I am sure about. We need to get it together, and stop using like and sort of as the glue holding our sentences together. Listen to yourselves talk then adjust accordingly. (This is especially true when giving a classroom presentation, but is a great thing in general). Maybe if we speak like we know what we mean, we might actually mean more of what we say (Daily Graduate #32).
Posted: July 21st, 2010 | No Comments | Tags: Feature, Writing
Strategy 3 in Higher Learning (Sharpen Your Skills) takes a look at some of the key academic activities that you’ll be doing on campus, including writing. In the chapter I talk about style, voice, overcoming writer’s block, and how to shape a topic that will help you stay motivated about the assignment. My pointers are simply a starting point in your quest to become a greater writer. There’s much more information out there – some the may offer entirely different perspectives on writing, and other resources that will dive much deeper into specific things that you may need.
If you want to become a better writer (which, as a great bonus prize, will almost certainly improve your grades), you need to continually practice and study the craft. Spend some time with the links below and search for others. You may not agree with all of the tips and strategies. Read through them, try a few out, and see how they fit. If strict outlines don’t work for you, find a method that does. Don’t simply overlook the suggestion out of laziness, however. That’s not going to help you become a better student. The point is to push yourself. Spend some time doing that, and you will gain from the investment.
Posted: July 18th, 2010 | No Comments | Tags: Feature, Financial Aid, Scholarships
As I cover in Strategy 9 of Higher Learning, there’s a ton of money out there for you to get through college. From scholarships to affordable student loans to specific support programs at your school, if you’re running into financial struggles – especially a huge or unexpected challenge that is impacting whether or not you can remain in school – you need to tap into any and every resource available to you, and find some money.
A good place to start is Fastweb, which maintains the largest database of scholarships, fellowships, contests, and more. They also had lots of information about financial aid, loans, grants, and other resources. It only takes a few minutes to sign up (you will have to click through some ads), but it’s a free service, and is a great place to begin your search.
If you’re already in school, you definitely want to also form a strong relationship with your school’s financial aid department. It can be a time-consuming and stressful ordeal for some, but it can also open the door to scholarship and grant opportunities directly from your school that you wouldn’t be aware of otherwise unless you speak to someone at financial aid and tell them your story.
Start with these two suggestions, then check back here later for some more tips and links. Also read through Strategy 9 again about working on campus, saving your money, the dangers of credit cards, and more. Getting through college financially will take the total package: finding money AND keeping money. If you blow a $500 scholarship check on enhancing your sneaker collection, then you’ve still got a lot to learn (and less money for school!).