Are you done yet?

Sara Kaiser, North Dakota Membership Coordinator

March 23, 2018

The month of April is a month full of flowers blooming, spring air, warmer weather (well for some folks anyway). It’s a season of new life. Well, at least it should feel like summer vacation is around the corner. For some, the month of April is about late nights, searching the APA manual, printer meltdowns, and computer shutdowns. What am I referring to? It’s the dreaded/highly anticipated/long worked-for/when in heaven almighty will this be over with--dissertation defense month. It feels like April is the month when many of our friends, colleagues, and students are trying to find the delicate balance of completing a dissertation (or master’s thesis) to the satisfaction of their chair and committee, while trying to keep their head above water at work, family members remembering what they look like, and colleagues wondering if will they ever stop hearing about the statistically significant finding in their ground-breaking work. In all seriousness, it’s a lot to balance, an incredible amount of stress, and an amazing achievement!

It’s easy to look back on my graduate school experience with rose colored glasses. Oh how I loved to write with fellow classmates at the local coffee shop on Saturday mornings. To be fully immersed in my dissertation research at the university archives for hours on end, work that I found simply fascinating! You also couldn’t pay me a million dollars to go back to the last month of dissertation writing where I swear I was going to burn the entire document in a blaze of unfinished glory. To my fellow colleagues pondering whether the document will ever be finished, I promise, there is an end in sight. To those who are cheering colleagues, friends, and family members along on their journey to completion, I salute you, too.

The phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” feels relatable to those of us who are cheering someone to the finish line in their graduate work. It takes a village of support, understanding, cheerleading, patience, humor…the list goes on, to help reach the finish line of graduate work. Those of us in the “village” so to speak, what can we do to support our friends, family, colleagues, etc. on their journey? First, be willing to listen. Graduate research and writing takes an incredible amount of time to complete, and can be a very lonely process. Actively listen, and feel honored that the writer wishes to share their work with you. The research is a culmination of years worth of hard work. Second, remind the writer to practice self-care. It’s fine to take a night off from writing to see a movie, or have dinner with your family, or go to bed before midnight. Third, if you are able, offer to help. Are you talented in editing APA citations? Are you exceptional at formatting in Microsoft Word? Are you willing to mow their yard, or babysit kiddos for a few hours? It’s impossible to finish graduate school without support. If you can offer support, no matter how small, do it. Fourth, never, under any circumstance, ask “are you done yet?” I promise, you will know when the dissertation is completed. Last, but certainly not least, be sure to join in the celebration when the seal of approval from the committee is granted!

To my fellow colleagues who are almost finished with the long journey of graduate school—Congratulations!

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