Deciding to pursue a graduate degree is a commitment. I just finished earning my doctorate. I got some tips on how to thrive through it.
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Going to graduate school to earn my doctorate had been a personal goal of mine for years! I finally got my act together and went for it. Alright, I got some tips for you.
Research Doctoral Programs
First, research the different programs in your field. You want to consider the instructional delivery model and the program’s emphasis. For example, if it is an online or in person program. Moreover, for me, it was important to have an emphasis on inclusion and diversity since I work primarily with special education and mental health.
“…it is unfortunate when doctoral students realize in the middle of their doctoral program that their program was not a good fit for them.”Source: U.S. News
Additionally, try to get real life experiences of others who have gone through a doctoral program. I spoke to a few people about their experiences with doctoral programs prior to making my decision. Also, I considered gender when I got input from individuals. This helped me get more context on how to balance the program with having a family.
Make Sure Your Family is All in
Next, be mindful of your loved ones. Who will be impacted by you being busier? For example, there was a student in my program who delayed her start date after some reflection. She had a senior in high school and she knew that the transition to college was coming. So, this student decided to start the following school year and it worked out. I take an honest look at your situation so you can truly enjoy your time as a student.
Be Ready for Ups and Downs
There were times when I felt confident and in control. In contrast, there were other times when I was completely overwhelmed. Those were the times when I questioned why I decided to get my doctorate. The waves of doubt eventually passed.
Additionally, a lot can happen in a year. Now, think about 3 years. That is the minimum time a doctoral degree will take. So much can change during that time. I had health issues in my family and then there was the pandemic. Try to have a plan for the worse case scenario as we discussed in this post. Prepare to have some highs and lows as you juggle life and your studies.
Prioritize Your Health
This is so critical and difficult at the same time. Our health is the first thing to go when we get busy. Even if it means just going for a walk. Make sure you are taking care of yourself. This is how you will be able to sustain the effort and commitment to finish your doctoral program.
Dime En Español
Además, pueden pasar muchas cosas en un año. Ahora, piense en 3 años. Ese es el tiempo mínimo que tomará un doctorado. Muchas cosas pueden cambiar durante ese tiempo. Tuve problemas de salud en mi familia y luego vino la pandemia.
Make Time for Something Different
You heard me right, make time for something that is completely different! Even if it is just a little bit of time. This will keep you from getting too stressed out. For instance, I started my podcast in the middle of the program. I had some pockets of time right before class that I could just record in my car. Shifting your focus momentarily will help you avoid burn out. Also, doing something you can completely control can bring you some joy.
Enjoy Being a Doctoral Student
Finally, enjoy being a student. I think we talked about this in the episode on counseling – enjoy time that is just for you. One of my professors said “hey you’re going to miss having these conversations with your colleagues”. I wouldn’t say that I completely miss being in class until 10:00 pm after being at work all day. However, I did try to soak up the conversations in class and be present. Just be present and remember it is a special time. Enjoy the gift of being a student and a learner.
I got a load of books during my program! Here are a few that I thought were worthwhile or helpful for the dissertation process. My study was qualitative and related to educational leadership.
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