Suggested by Cristina Serna and Catriona Rueda Esquibel, from the Crunk Feminist Collective blog:
- Be confident in your abilities.
- If you feel like a fraud, you very likely are suffering from impostor syndrome, a chronic feeling of intellectual or personal inadequacy born of grandiose expectations about what it means to be competent. Women in particular suffer with this issue, but I argue that it is worse for women-of-color (particularly Blacks and Latinas) who labor under stereotypes of both racial and gender incompetence. The academy itself also creates grandiose expectations, given the general perception of academicians as hypercompetent people. Secret: Everybody that’s actin like they know, doesn’t really know. So ask your question. It’s probably not as stupid as you think. Now say this with me: “I’m smart enough, my work is important, and damn it, I’m gonna make it.”
- Be patient with yourself.
- Be patient with your own process of intellectual growth. You will get there and it will all come together. You aren’t supposed to know everything at the beginning. And you still won’t know everything at the end (of coursework, exams, the dissertation, life…).
- Getting the actual degree isn’t about intellect. It is about sheer strength of will and dogged determination. “Damn it, I’m gonna walk out of here with that piece of paper if it’s the last cottonpickin’ thing I do.” That kind of thinking helps you to keep going after you’ve just been asked to revise a chapter for the third time, your committee member has failed to submit a letter of rec on time, and you feel like blowing something or someone up.
- Be your own best advocate. Prioritize your own professional needs/goals.
- You have not because you ask not. You have to be willing to ask for what you need. You deserve transparency about the rules and procedures of your program, cordial treatment from faculty, staff and students, and a program that prepares you not only for the rigors of grad school but also for the job market (should you desire a career in academia). But folks won’t hand it to you on a silver platter. You have to build relationships, ask questions, and make demands.
- Figure out your writing process (the place [home, coffee shop, library], time [morning, afternoon, night], and conditions [background noise, total silence, cooler or warmer] under which you work best and try to create those conditions as frequently as possible during finals, qualifying exams, and dissertation.
- Your self-advocacy will often be misperceived as aggression and anger, entitlement or selfishness. Don’t apologize.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Reward yourself frequently. Most of us need positive affirmation of a job well done, but for long stretches, especially during exams, dissertation, and the job market, the rewards elude us; and often given the time crunch, once we conquer the mountain, there is little time to enjoy the view before it’s time to trudge back down and start climbing the next one. All that hard work in high stakes conditions for anti-climactic ends can take a toll on your psyche. So be kind to yourself. Figure out the things you really like and make sure to enjoy them as much as is possible and healthy.
- Be proactive about self-care.
- Figure out your non-negotiables. For me, sleep is non-negotiable. I must have it. I don’t do all nighters. I also generally don’t do weekends, so I adjust my schedule accordingly. What are your non-negotiables?
- Take advantage of on-campus therapy services. My last two institutions have had women-of-color thesis and dissertation support groups. Consider joining.
- Cultivate a spirit-affirming practice. Grad school/the academy is a mind-body-spirit endeavor. So meditate, pray, exercise, do yoga, go to church, cook a good healthy meal. Do whatever you need to do to keep your mind, body, and spirit in balance.
- Be a friend/comrade to others and let them do the same for you.
- Build community with colleagues inside or outside your department.
- Build community with non-students/non-academics. You need folks who live life outside the dungeon. They will affirm you and help you keep things in perspective.
6 thoughts on “Back-To-School Beatitudes – 10 Academic Survival Tips”
This is so, so helpful. It’s almost like it speaks to me and my situation directly. Wow.
mil gracias for these reminders! they come just in time as i begin my 2nd year as TT faculty and feeling more overwhelmed and uncertain than ever. reading through these right now helps me to stay grounded, focused, and reminds me that it’s okay to live a balanced life. sending good energy a todas.
This is awesome, thanks! 🙂 I’m a first year TT faculty member, luckily I feel pretty good after the first week but these are good reminders, especially like the last three. 🙂
LOVED these words of wisdom. Will pass it on to new and not so new teachers as we all need reminders 🙂 THANK YOU.
Wow, thank you so much. I really needed these encouraging palabras. Gracias.