5 Tips for Future Doctoral Students

I’m 27 years old yall! What an age! My parents had me at 27. I always thought this would be the age that I have my first child as well, but it is not in the plan for me right now. And I am so fine with that. Do you watch Grey’s Anatomy? Well, I like to think of myself as a mix between Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang.

meredith and cristina

You see, like both women, I am extremely ambitious. Yang noticed that she valued her career over starting a family, while Grey decided that she wanted it all. Like Grey, I want it all: a rewarding career, a loving husband, beautiful children. But this is real life. So, like Yang I know I have to prioritize to be successful in my field. Hence, at this time building a foundation for those beautiful children I thought I would have, through becoming an expert in my field, is the goal. And later down the line, I can still have it all.

So yes, my bday was November 1st, and I started my locs! I am going to be doing a blog post to start documenting my loc journey so look forward to that in the near future!

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Anywho, I have grown so much this last year. I am proud of the different moves I have made. I am proud of my accomplishments. I am proud that, through my failures, I remained faithful and dedicated. I have noticed courage through my hardships and strength through my pain. I am grown y’all, a woman. I finally feel it.

Along with that maturity though comes, one of my favorite words, planning! Yes! I recently made a 3-year vision plan titled “Three Years Until 30”. I think the name gives it away but the vision plan outlines the personal and professional goals I am attempting to accomplish by my 30th birthday. After I finished my 3-year vision plan, I completed a 2 and 1-year plan as well. The completion of the goals for the 2 and 1-year vision plans lead me into completing my goals for the 3-year vision plan. For example, one of my goals of the 3-year vision plan is to have presented my research at six research conferences. A goal for both my 2-year and 1-year vision plans is to present at two conferences. Therefore, by the 3rd year, I will only have to present at two more conferences to reach my goal of six presentations.

Making my goal a three-year process takes away unnecessary stress. Click here if you want to access the vision plan template I created.

Speaking of my research, I think I have found my dissertation topic! There’s a major gap in research for my topic, and I am also extremely passionate about it. Before I put it out there for the masses I do want to become more knowledgeable in the area, so look forward to hearing about it in the near future.

My program is steadily moving along; I am almost done my first semester as a doctoral student. It’s unbelievable. I am cruising down my path to becoming a Ph.D., and I am so grateful for the experience. From my first semester’s experience, I thought of five tips I wanted to share for those who are thinking of pursuing a Ph.D., especially if, like me, you were not exposed to this world by anyone in your family or communities.

Get at least 2 years Post-Masters experience. My first tip is for those in the social sciences and are going into academia, but may also apply to individuals not thinking of getting their Ph.D. in the social sciences. You should talk to a mentor or someone in your field to be completely sure. If your goal is to teach at the university level after getting your Ph.D., most schools will ask that you have experience in the field. It makes sense because we should not expect to be able to teach practice-based classes if we have not practiced ourselves. The key, though, is for the experience to be post-Masters. Your post Bachelor’s experience will not apply.

Advocate for your needs with your Academic Supervisor. Yes, you are getting paid to work with your supervisor. Yes, you will have to do many literature reviews, grading, etc. for your supervisor along with your coursework. But, throughout your time with your supervisor, you should also be learning skills that will help you complete your dissertation and make you a better researcher and future professor. Therefore, during your first meeting with your supervisor, be sure to make him/her aware of what you hope to get out of the relationship. Ask your supervisor if you can publish with him/her (which will also look good on your CV and make you more of a competitive candidate for a professorship). Ask your supervisor if you can teach a class. Ask your supervisor about presentation opportunities. Your supervisor probably knows more about your field and has community connections, so informing him/her about your goals will help you become more knowledgeable and gain more opportunities.

Remain open to all opportunities. Volunteer, research, extra credit, anything! You can gain inspiration and/or clarity from anywhere. Also, these opportunities may give you a chance to meet new people! Networking and creating community partnerships is very important for your future career!

Work with your cohort. Statistics is kicking my cohort’s butt right now. Although it’s intense, working together makes it so much easier. All of us come from different walks of life. We are different individuals, therefore we have different understandings. Your cohort can teach you something in a way your professor never could. You may also help others understand assignments that they would have never gotten done without you. Also, you may be working alongside them in the future. Building cohesiveness now may help your working relationship in the future.

Have reasonable expectations. This tip is not only about school work. This is also about spending time with loved ones, spending money, getting a good night’s sleep, etc. Ph.D. programs are nothing like bachelors or masters programs. It’s more demanding. If you are a full-time student, you most likely will not be able to work which will take a toll on your finances. You should have an assistantship (I would not enroll in a program that does not offer full tuition plus a monthly stipend), which will take time away from being social with your loved ones. You will NEED to read for homework, literature reviews, and to become an expert in your field, which is very mentally taxing. You will need your sleep! Make sure to maximize your time by planning your day.

You can do this! You’ve made it this far due to your hard work and perseverance, so obviously you can do anything! You can have it all.

I hope these tips help anyone who is thinking of taking that next step in their professional career. As I continue to grow through my Ph.D. program, I will share any and all tips that I think are beneficial.

Until next time…

XOXO,

Sandra Renee

P.S.

Leave a comment with any tips you think will help future Ph.D. students. Or, if you are a future Ph.D. student or are thinking about taking that leap, what are some questions you have?

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