Posted in NJIT (Fall 2020)

You are in grad school, now what?

Congratulations, you are officially a graduate student! I know the road has been tough (and hopefully fun!). This is where the real fun begins and where you get to shape your academic path. By all means, there is no “right” way to go through your graduate career. Everyone experiences life in general in different ways, and school is no different! With that being said, I want to cover five main components of areas to help you through your time in your garden program:

  • Get to know your professors
  • Get to know your fellow cohort of scholars
  • Stay organized.. At at least try
  • Make everything count!
  • Try applying theory to practice

Get to know your professors

Please do not let the intellect, or seriousness, of your professor intermediate you into not talking to your professor. As graduate students, some of your professors might be your biggest supporters. I am not saying invite your professors out to eat.. Maybe try talking to them after class to get a better understanding of their field of work and what academics interest them. Attempting to make that extra effort  goes a long way!

My experience: 

In my own experience within my current MA program, my biggest supporters are my professors! From my program director (who is also a professor within the program!) to my Research & Methods professors have become my extended academic advisor/family! Through afterclass talks, small emails (and some perks of being a GA), I was able to find out about different opportunities to further my academic and professional interest. Which no bring me to my next.. Making friends.

Get to know your fellow cohort of scholars

I truly believe that this is one of the most important aspects of being a graduate student. Getting to know other people with your program helps you not just learn about them, but your own understanding/interest in your particular field of study. There may be some upperclassmen that can give you great advice on how to navigate through the program!

My experience:

I was able to make friends with two of the graduating “seniors” of my program before they left. From talking to them and attending their Senior Simposime, I was able to get an idea of the direction I wanted to go for my future thesis project. Quite honestly, because of them, I was able to get a read of how professors were in curtain classes and how to prepare for them!

Stay organized.. At at least try

Even though this point may sound self explanatory.. I still am going to explain it. As your semester goes on, assignments, projects, meetings, personal life, and everything else you can think up will come to bite you in the butt! So to prepare, I would recommend buying a wall and hand calendar. It’s easy to both write things down while in class, and then transfer them to your wall calendar at home. I promise, these will probably be your most used school supplies.

My experience:

I am a bit extreme.. So take this advice at your own risk. Since I wear MULTIPLE hats, I try to keep separate calendars for each aspect of my life. I currently have two calendars in my room (one wall and one regular hanging). I write down important personal information and dates to keep track of. I also have a weekly calendar I use to keep track of school/job todos. Lastly, I have a calendar on my ipad to keep off things that are too much to write on a paper calendar. As I stated previously, I am extreme and I have multiple calendars…

Make everything count!

This tab is more so for the next blog post, but I think it is vital to mention it now. Believe or not, there is life after academia! So with that said, try to make everything you do or experience in your graduate program count towards your future ambitions. Employers will be impressed with seeing that you can transition from academic work to practical work. By all means, it is always easier said than done, but try to get creative with it!

My experience:

I like to do multiple projects and occupations at once because it helps me develop my understanding and professional experience. So to break it down, my future career ambitions are the following:

  • Tenured Professor (English Studies or Media Design)
  • Instructional Designer 
  • Media Design Specialist (I have some experience, but I would like to go in different aspects of the field!)
  • Researcher (The Pedagogy of Writing and education technology)

Through my educational blog (this one here!), work that I do as a graduate student/assistant, currently being an adjunct professor, and other side projects I work on; I try to make all my materials align with each other so that I could put it on my Cover Letter (Cover Letters are important.. Start making one!).

Last Remarks

Starting a new degree can be both exciting and challenging at the same time! But if you follow at least some of the steps I presented to you, it will make the process even more enjoyable!

Posted in NJIT (Fall 2020)

What to do once accepted (or not)

So this is the time we are waiting for! We have gotten accepted into our desired programs! With that being said, there are crucial steps to prepare before your first day of class. Below is a list of essentials that should be done prior to your first day of being a Graduate Student!

  • Make sure all materials are submitted
  • Submit school deposit
  • Apply for institution and outside scholarships (GA ship)
  • Meet with Program Director for Advisement
  • Make semester schedule
  • Get school materials together! 

Make sure all materials are submitted

Even though this step sounds like it should be done in Guide to Grad School: Getting your application started, this still can apply to this step as well! Some institutions accept students without fully having all materials.

My experience/example:

I was accepted into my first MA degree without having my official transcripts. Once I was accepted, I had to send the official transcripts to my designated institution. Also, make sure to submit ALL transcripts of institutions that you have attended and/or earned credits from! I attend two institutes for undergraduate, completed courses at the county college near me, while also completing a graduate certificate… you can imagine how many transcripts I had to submit! Take into mind that most institutions charge between $7 – $10 a transcript. Be sure to have your school and money management information together when doing this process!

Submit school deposit

This is one is pretty self explanatory, but still important to mention. There is always going to be a deposit to save your spot in the program, so just be sure to pay that!

Apply for institution and outside scholarships (GA ship) & Financial Aid

Honestly, I should have posted this topic at the beginning of the post, but there is always a method to my madness…. Be sure to have a financial plan even before you submit your applications for grad school! You want to make sure that you will be able to go to school and live a decent life (welcome to broken grad student life!). Below, I will list financial option to help in looking for aid:

  • Applying for FASFA
  • Looking for internal scholarships available in your desired institution
    • Graduate Assistantships
    • Fellowships
    • Department scholarships
  • Looking for external scholarships

Meet with Program Director for Advisement

Here is where the fun really begins! I hope at this point you have taken on the initiative to make yourself familiar with your desired program, and have done a bit of research on the program director. If not, that is totally fine! But at this point, you should be reaching out to the Program Director of your program. You should be doing the following when meeting with the Program Director: 

  • Make semester schedule (this is where you could determine if you want to be a part-time or full-time student
  • Try to start mapping out how and when you are trying to graduate (it is also okay not to know exactly what you plan to do!)
  • Get to know your Program Director, they will be your biggest ally to graduate!

Get school materials together! 

Last but not least, it is time to get your materials together! Depending on the type of program you will be attending, will determine the type of materials you need. Speaking from my own experience, I needed a really good computer to design on; I am graduate assistant and my program focuses on digital writing. Some of you might be fun science folk, so you may need to look into text books. Some advice I would give on that aspect is to look for these textbooks in a digital version so you can carry them anywhere! Trust me, you will thank me later.

With that said, hope these tips and tricks helped you guys and look out for next post!

Posted in NJIT (Fall 2020)

Getting your application started!

Now that you have decided on the type of program you would desire to apply for, it’s time to get applying! If you are not quite at this stage yet, I suggest take a look at my last blog post (How to choose a school) to get things in order. With that being said, I am going to give you guys some tips, pointers, and my own experience on how to narrow down the important aspects of getting your application done!

General Checklist

I am a firm believer of speaking AND writing things into existence. When it came to applying to my first MA program, I was pretty much oblivious to the whole process of what materials and items I needed in order to get a completed application. Of course, all programs clearly state the criteria and materials you need to be considered an applicant, but the process of doing it can be quite difficult. It was not until I applied for my grad certificate and second MA that I realized the beauty of checklists. So here is my quick tip: 

General Checklist:

Even though each institute may ask for different things, they all have the same items that will be needed for the application. With that said, below are two checklists that I found on google (for free!). I would print them out and store them in a PhD binder (also pictured below!).

Institutions Checklist

Like I started earlier in the post, each institution has their own specific set of critters for a completed application. Here are the application materials needed for the MA in Digital Media Design and Marketing program (the next MA I will be attending in Fall’2021!). Also below I have snapshotted a snippet of the site as well.


  • See if any of your undergrad or previous grad program credits can be transferred over to another program. It saves you time AND money!
  • If you are an international student, be sure to check specific criteria you may need to complete.
  • Be sure to answer the specific question they are asking you to write or submit. Nothing is worse than submitting a bland personal statement that can fit any institution. 
  • Ask for those letters of Recommendation very EARLY! Most professors may agree to do it, and figure to actually do them (they are very busy and very gumane too!).

Getting materials in as EARLY as POSSIBLE!

Please, please, please! If you can not stress this enough, please be sure to get your materials in as early as possible. The reason for this is that you may lose out on scholarship, fellowships, grants, etc that can aid your grad finance. Graduate school is pretty expensive; from registering for courses, to trying to buy your 5th cup of coffee for the day. What not try to have your education paid for? Be sure to check with the graduate admission counselors and application to see for these scholarships and important deadline dates.

Staying Positive

 Even through all of this very much busy work, be sure to always stay calm and recreate yourself. There is nothing wrong with taking a step… grad school (all the process of it) can be overwhelming. Be sure to take some me with me.

Posted in NJIT (Fall 2020)

How to Choose a graduate program/school

In this week’s blog post for A Guide Through Grad School, I will be discussing the first topic: How to Choose a graduate program/school. I will be breaking this down into three crucials steps when choosing, while also providing my own experience and feedback to how I approach each step. With that said, let’s jump into it!

How to choose a graduate school

  1. Know the type of program you would like to dedicate one  + year to! Graduate level degrees prepare students to have a deeper understanding of specific fields, while also preparing to contribute knowledge to the field. With that being said, you should decide what you would want to further your understanding in. You should take the following into consideration:
    • Are you continuing the same field of study from your undergraduate degree?
    • If you are not, what prerequisite courses do you need to take before applying?
    • How will it take you to finish? (This does not mean that you need to finish this degree in record time).
    • Will you need to relocate for this degree?

My experience

  • I decided I wanted to further my understanding within the English Discipline: but English studies has so many branches under it, so I decided to stick with writing studies because I like to write academic papers! I had to narrow my search, which leads me to the second step:

2.) When in doubt, Google it out!Google is a great search engine to see different programs and their institution. Try using keywords that relate to your study. Google will show you All the options available. 

My experience: I would copy and paste all the programs I found interesting onto a google doc to keep track of them all. I tried to aim for all schools in driving distance from my home because I was not ready to relocate.. yet!

  1. Once you have a list, time to do more research!
    • Look at their program overview
    • Look at the curriculum
    • Look at the staff
    • Reach out to the program director!
  • Oh yeah, be sure to look at tuition costs…
  1. Be real with yourself
    • Just because a school sounds/looks good, does not mean it’s for you
    • Explore ALL options and be open to trying different experiences… That’s what higher education in general is all about!

I hope these little guideline were helpful to you! Please look out for my YouTube video on this topic.

Posted in NJIT (Fall 2020)

A Guide Through Grad School!

Hi all, and welcome to my blog! For those of you who are new to my blog… excited to meet you! My name is Patricia Dennis, and I will be your blogging hostess for this site. I have done so many introductions throughout the course of my many blog posts that I kind of run out of ways to “introduce myself” any differently than before. With that being said, in my Welcome Page, you can find a brief (but welcoming) introduction of who I am. Please, feel free to check out my entire blog and tell me what you think!

The main theme of this blog is to share education, knowledge, and experiences on an open digital platform. My blog is set up in manner to display my journey through graduate school; each tab is broken down into semesters. As stated in my welcome page: “I use this blog to share my many experiences, thoughts, works of art, and education!”. When looking back at how far I have come in my educational pursuits, it dawned on me that some aspects of this journey could have been a lot “easier” if I was guided. Please do not misunderstand, I truly enjoyed every part of “figuring things out”… but I would have loved a bit more of advice and help with other aspects of the journey. 

As I begin to wrap up Chapter 25: Masters Graduate Student, I want to give back the education and experiences I have gained through this amazing journey! This portion of my blog is dedicated to, A Guide through Grad School: From Beginning to End! I decided to keep the theme of my blog being educational, I just decided to switch the topic up a little bit. This portion of my blog will serve as something like a guideline to those who are preparing for education beyond the undergraduate level. Whether you are going for a Masters, Doctoral, Grad Certificate, or whatever it may be.. I want to lend a word of advice for those pursuing more education! 

My blog post will cover these main topics:

Alongside my advice, I will give you my own personal experience, some really interesting and informative books and articles I read to help me along the way, and youtube videos to give visuals to my personality. By all means, everything I write and speak about is not the only way to go through grad school (there is never ONE way to do most things in life). I was compelled and inspired by one of my professors at NJIT (You are amazing Jenna!) to give back to those who may need the advice. With that said, please enjoy my youtube video below to put a face to my blogs!

P.S. I would love for this blog to expand by covering topics of grad school I may not have presented. Please feel free to leave comments on some aspects of grad school you would like me to cover!