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Grad Student Resolutions

Putting the right foot forward in the new year.

January 3, 2016

Wendy Robinson is a doctoral student in higher education administration at Iowa State University. You can find her wasting time on Twitter at @wendyrmonkey.



My Christmas tree is down. The twinkling lights that line our porch windows have been turned off for good. I can’t face the thought of eating even one more Christmas cookie.

The New Year is here and the cozy quiet and slow pace of my holiday break is over. Time to get back to real life, back to the dissertation that I ignored in favor of a stack of new novels for all of break. This time of year is often associated with making resolutions and even though we know that most resolutions don’t succeed, even grad students aren’t immune from the desire to think about a year filled with better habits and more productivity.

My sincere hope is that 2016 will be my last year as a grad student, a goal I think I can meet if I am able to keep these resolutions:

1. Write every day: My writing preference is to hide away for days at a time and work for hours straight. I happen to have two kids and a full-time job, so this preference just isn’t realistic. I will challenge myself to spend at least 15 minutes a day working on my dissertation until the draft is done. I’ve found that setting my phone’s timer for 15 minutes does the trick in terms of getting me started. Keeping going often turns out to be easier than starting was.

2. Find some readers: I live four hours from my campus, so I don’t see the other people in my program now that I’m out of coursework. I need to find a writing group in my area to have some external accountability and to get feedback in moments when I get stuck.

3. Practice better self-care: The demands of being a grad student, parent, wife, and employee mean that my time feels limited sometimes and I tend to find it easy to put things like exercise and relaxing lower on my priority list. Unfortunately, it is starting to show: my pants feel tight and I spent the fall fighting a cold. I will make sure I have room on my 2016 calendar for taking care of myself.

4. Start planning for paying back student loans: My husband and I have a solid budget for right now, but if I graduate this year like I plan to, we’ll be looking at having to make student loan payments by 2017. I’m still paying off my undergraduate program and I’ve accrued debt as a doctoral student so I need to determine the right payment plan. My income is unlikely to change immediately after I finish my program given that I already work full-time in my field, so we need to figure out how to chip away at a pretty substantial debt load.

5. Plan for research life after dissertation: I’ve been focused on finishing my dissertation but I also need to start to consider avenues to share my research. My dissertation has revealed several related topics that I’d be interested in exploring and even though I’m on the non-faculty side of the academic house, I don’t want my dissertation to be the last research I do. A list of ideas, possible collaborators, and relevant journals would be a good start for a long-term research agenda.

In the interest of not counting chickens before they are hatched, I won’t add my secret sixth resolution on my list: throw myself a fabulous graduation party.

Are you making resolutions, academic or personal, this year?

[Image by Flickr User Tim Lucas and used under Creative Commons license]


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