Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

Lavon Davis, MA, MEd

PhD Student

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Attending graduate school can be fun, exciting, and nerve-racking all at the same time for students. This is especially true for students during their first semester in a graduate program. This piece explores four tips, two for students and two for faculty, on how students can be successful and how faculty can support their students during the crucial transitions that graduate school requires.  

Student Tip #1: Know and Be Known

Graduate school is a meaningful experience that has the potential to shape one’s journey in a variety of ways.  It’s not always about the physical work but also about the self-work needed to progress through. With that, making meaningful connections with constituents within and outside of the institutions you are committed to becomes valuable. Ensure that you are making a conscious effort to get to know others in the research arena and beyond. This can serve as a gateway to make your name known in circles that could help expand your research and help you traverse through critical moments within your study. Getting to know others and allowing others the opportunity to know you opens up a realm of vulnerability that could be beneficial for you now and in the future.

Student Tip #2: Encourage Yourself

Many may have moments and feelings of inadequacy. Maybe you didn’t write as much as you had wanted. Maybe the quality of your work didn’t meet your own expectations. Or maybe you didn’t get the grade you were hoping for. All of these are real experiences one could undergo, but it’s essential to realize that these moments do not determine the totality of who we are. Find ways to encourage yourself throughout the week. Make encouraging notes.  Speak good things about yourself, even when you may feel like a failure—which you are not! Get the proper help and support to ensure your well-being is on track to sustain the rigors that may come with a grad program.

Faculty Tip #1: Get and Stay Curious 

While getting to know your students professionally and personally is essential, this is sometimes a small, overlooked necessity. Take the time to learn what you can about your students, where they see this degree taking them, what research interest they hold, and what excitement, nerve, and fear they bring to the journey. Taking the time to ask curious questions will help to remove any assumptions we may have as faculty, as curiosity will aid in the removal of barriers. 

Faculty Tip #2: Let Go! 

This tip is easier said than done. When we say let go, we mean it. Let go of the ancient ways of instructing, grading, approaching supportive techniques, and mentorship. Lean into innovative trends, strategies, and practices. We are not suggesting that you change everything immediately; however, as educators, we must change our approaches to meet the needs of our students. So, we encourage you to examine your practices and see if they truly align with the mission and goal of aiding student success. Then, we encourage you to seek and implement one new practice that will continue to support student success. 

Feel free to join us in the conversation on Twitter at @TomlinAntione and @LvnDvs

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Lavon Davis, MA, MEd, is a current PhD student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the Language, Literacy, and Culture program, focusing on sociolinguistics and how language grants or denies access. He has been working in higher education for nearly 10 years and serves as an Assistant Director for Communication and Learning at Georgetown University. In addition, he also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Anne Arundel Community College in the Academic Literacies Department.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.