8 Useful Graduation Gifts for the (Almost) Ph.D. in Your Life

celebrate- hoorayIt’s spring semester ya’ll, and for me, that means graduation season is almost upon us. If you’re like me, “Omg,” “fml,” “I’m so behind,” etc. will be screams heard ’round the world (and certainly from me) as we draw closer and closer to defense dates and final submission deadlines for the graduate school.

As I think back on my life, I honestly cannot believe I’ve made it this far. I’m a Black woman who spent all of my Black girlhood with working-class parents, at public schools where 100% of students received free and reduced lunch lunches, and in neighborhoods where gang violence and murder were the norms. And yet, somehow (we know how but for the sake of dramatics rock with me), here I am, several years and a slightly safer neighborhood later, writing my dissertation.

I’m currently analyzing, recoding, and collapsing codes so I also want to stab my eyeballs out. But every few minutes, I pause and begin to think about graduation because the idea that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel alone is what is sustaining me. Tonight, one of my former grads and friend, Nacho, agreed to look over some of my writing. Nacho, like so many other people, has been instrumental in my continuing forward on this dissertation. And as Nacho agreed to help, I started to think about ways that others could use their talent and gifts as a graduation gift– things that would be useful and helpful for the Ph.D. candidate in your life like they’d be useful in mine. This led me to compile a list of eight things I’d love–with the number eight as my go to because eight years is the average time to degree completion for a Ph.D. student.

SO, here goes– 8 useful gifts for the Ph.D. (or Ed.D. or M.A. etc.) in your life:

  1. Professional editing: If you are great at writing (hey Nacho), consider gifting your time and talent. If not, pay for X amount of hours or pages for editing for a friend who is pressing toward graduation. Gift it early, prior to final deadlines,  so that students can use it before graduation. Trust me, it would help a lot.
  2. Gift Cards: Every Ph.D. student finishing up is going to want to sit and do NOTHING for a few weeks after they’re done. You can help them with this by sending them grocery store, restaurant, airline, etc. gift cards that they can redeem to help them relax a little more.
  3. Spa Certificates: Grad school is sckressful. The amount of tension we carry in our bodies from the stress of the process is always noticeable. A trip to the spa to help recalibrate could make a world of difference.
  4. Dissertation Binding/ Booking: When I finish, I’ll be taking a well earned break from looking at my dissertation. However, it’d be cool to be able to hold a well-bound physical copy of this thing called hell dissertation I survived. Gifting services for binding a copy (or two) could be extra special for the grad in your life. Note: Some institutions have printing services available. Check with the institution your friend attends for more information.
  5. giphy- you look mighty fine and dapperRegalia: Okay, so I pulled out the big gun here. UGA’s regalia is so darn expensive that I’m going to have to take on a fourth job to purchase it. Grab some friends and go in together to gift the grad in your life the NICE, top of the line, regalia (which, at my school, is almost $1,000, but still not as much as the most expensive regalia available). This would def take a load off and make graduation prep less stressful. Also– everytime they wear it, they’ll think of you. (If everyone from #CiteASista gave me 1.00 I could afford mine, just saying.)
  6. Diploma Frame: Despite how much schools get you on the way in with fees (GRE/ Applications/ etc.) and throughout your time enrolled with all sorts of miscellaneous fees (special $400/semester institution fee at UGA, I see you!), it doesn’t let up on the way out. Not only is the regalia ridiculous, but so are the diploma frames. Degree frames allow your gift to be on display, surrounding the paper that represents an achievement (…and the blood, sweat, tears, and sleep deprived days and nights) that your friend worked super hard for.
  7. giphy- martin workout sceneGym/ Fitness/ Personal Trainer Memberships: Okay folks– this is NOT the time to tell someone “you’re getting fat.” *Staring at you Black family members.* However, the average graduate student gains much more than the Freshman 15  we’ve all come to associate with college. In my case? I’m staring at a 45-pound weight gain since I started my degree. The good news? The weight can come off. The bad news? It’s probably going to cost me more financially than the degree itself (eugh!). So, a gym or fitness membership, to a grad you know well enough not to offend, would make an amazing gift. Or maybe I’m speaking for myself– buy ME some personal training. Added bonus? Meal prep to get them through the end of the semester. #GiftGoals.
  8. Graduation Outfit Shopping: Okay, so some of these are way too practical. Perhaps you’re the fun friend/ aunt/ uncle/ etc. Then the number eight is for you. Take your grad shopping. For most of us, defense and graduation are big days. For me–my Ph.D. graduation day matters more than any potential wedding day I might have. This is it– the moment I’ve worked so tremendously hard for. So like most Black folks, an exorbitant amount of thought will go into getting this outfit ready. If you want to get the fun gift, go with your grad shopping and purchase part of the graduation outfit. Perhaps you could even volunteer (with a limit) to purchase an outfit for their graduation pictures. Either way, Black folks love to get dressed up and there’s no better moment to help your grad strut their stuff than this.Edi

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*Bonus*: Sanity. If you can find a way to gift it back, we’ll take it. H/T Chelsea Doub for the suggestion.

So that’s that. Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments with your suggestions.


Editors note: Edited to add a bonus message.

A Finals Plan of Attack

It’s FML FINALS season.  How do I know? Glad you asked! The temperatures are rising. Flowers are in bloom. The sun is out longer. Spring is here… All signs that it’s… You guessed it, FINALS season. For most graduate students, Spring Break ended two or three weeks ago and the semester kicked into hyper drive. If you’re like me then you probably already started stressing out. So do as I say and not as I do: Don’t stress or panic. There is hope.  Hopefully, my FINALS plan will help you knock out your finals and leave time for fun.

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In all seriousness, I strongly believe there is hope.  Below you’ll find a step by step guide to my finals plan. I hope these actions will help you knock out your finals and leave time for fun (in the sun).

Prioritize your finals by deadline

This will help you complete finals in order of due date. Last semester, my finals were due the same week, but different days. This semester my final deadlines are spread out

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Pictured: My Finals Schedule

throughout April, with finals due each week. As a personal aid, I made this calendar my desktop background so I will always know what I need to work on. You could do this or print it and post it on your desktop. You could also set reminders in your calendar app.

Research each final

Designate a day to research each final before you start working on it. I start my research process by looking for relevant readings in the course syllabus. Then I search in my university’s research database, Google Scholar, and the research librarian’s research guide page.  Your university’s research database will provide you with access to academic journals, items in the university’s library—such as books, movies, documentaries, historical documents, etc.—and items that you can access through interlibrary loan (ILLaid). People use ILLaid when they have begun the research process well in advance. I don’t usually start my research that early. Google Scholar is a good place to start if you want to see more recent articles on some topics. In my experience, I have found Google Scholar to be a hit or miss depending on the topic of my paper or project. Last, the research librarian is heaven sent. This person will be your best friend during finals. Research Librarians know all the tricks to finding what you are looking for. Typically, they have web pages that can guide you through the online research resources your university has to offer. Sometimes, they have specific topics for your concentration.

Outline your final(s)

Once you know what you want to write about. You should outline your paper.  Some professors havMake-an-Outline.jpge the Final Outline listed as an assignment in the course syllabus. If your professor did that. Thank them and take it seriously. Completing the outline signifies your half way done with the paper.  Additionally, if you have to present your final use your outline. During the Q&A part of your presentation, ask colleagues for their advice and incorporate their suggestions into your paper where you deem necessary.

 Meet with the course TA or Professor with questions

If you have any questions about your paper or need direction, I strongly suggestion meeting with your TA or Professor. After all, they are there to help. Plus, it is always good to bounce ideas off other people.

Designate days to focus on finals (highest priority 1st).

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My Finals Study/ Writing Schedule

Working on finals is time-consuming. I suggest dedicating all your free time in the week to completing finals. For me, that means all my free time Monday through Saturday will be used to complete finals. I don’t use time limits when working on finals. However, some of you may want to allot certain time periods to work on finals. If it works for you, I say go for it. This week my homework schedule looks like…

Edit/Revise & Submit

Take time to edit your finals. It is hard for me to edit my own work. Primarily because I have looked at it nonstop. Share your work with fresh eyes, by exchanging papers with colleagues. Or you could take some time away from your paper by working on something else. Once you are happy with your final, Submit!

Good luck, sisters! The end is almost near.

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Be sure to sound off in the comments so we can learn what works for you!