Starting my Doctorate program.
I got accepted into my program in the summer of 2017 and was so terrified I put it off until January 2018. I was still nervous to start when the day came but I was determined. It was not an easy start though. My school started us out with an intro class and a regular full credit class. I had the best professors, but it was a time to learn and get used to the program. I needed to learn to write at that level and the classes were only seven weeks long; things moved fast. If you are not disciplined and on top of things you can get left behind or lost very easily. I set reminders for myself of when I would complete assignments and really stuck to it. Having that discipline was a true-life saver in this program. I ended up with an A in one class and 89.5 not rounded up but a B+ in the second. I was not happy with the B+ but it ended up being one of only two that I received in the entire program.
After that term it was a lot easier and went quickly. The classes were interesting and balancing work and personal life with school was easy. The professors are amazing, and you begin to build a solid, professional relationship with them and your classmates. I did not have that in my master’s program. Having that support and building that community with my classmates and professors really helped me get through the work.
Even though it seemed easy when doing the work, looking back, it really was a lot of work. It has been worth it though and I absolutely love being able to use what I learn in my career.
Two years of classes went by amazingly fast. Then it was time for comps, or the computation exam classes. These were the classes that terrified me the most. Thankfully, the professors were awesome and made the experience not as bad as I had expected at all. By the time I finished all my classes I had secured myself a 3.8 GPA. Not bad for someone who originally thought she would never have the grades to even be accepted into a program.
Starting my dissertation was like starting the program all over again. In my opinion this part should really be discussed as a separate, third part of the entire program. My school did its best to prepare you but, in all honesty, they focused more on preparing (basically scaring us) for how hard comps classes would be. Dissertation classes move fast, and the work is the heaviest I have had to do yet. You really must buckle down and focus or you will not be able to work through it. I had many days where I would be in tears or so mad at my dissertation chair who by the way I am thankful for being so understanding and patient.
I really feel in my opinion some of the courses in the dissertation process move too fast. I mean an entire literature review, mind you this is dissertation so its bananas long, is supposed to be 25+ pages and is expected in two weeks’ time for the assignment to be graded. My literature review is now 35 pages and that is without any updates yet from my chair or second readers. Can you imagine what it will be when it is finalized? Sometimes it makes my head spin to even think about it.
Changing my topic.
I wrote my first three chapters just like everyone else and then halfway through my third course changed my topic. It was the best thing for me and honestly it has been hard. It really set me back and I am determined and hardworking but there has been no way for me to catch up to where I should be.
I had to really take a step back and remind myself this is my road to my Doctorate degree and stop pushing myself to graduate on time. I was comparing myself to my classmates who were on schedule to finish in 3.5 years way too much.
Sometimes people change their topic or life gets in the way and they must slow down with writing their dissertation. This was not easy for me to accept my chair really tried to help me understand this is my degree, no one else’s.
Sure, it would be great to graduate with my classmates, but honestly half my class is not graduating on time anyways. Typical PhD programs are four years long and this program is supposed to be completed in three years, or that is what they tell you, but it is actually a 3.5-year program.
My road to the Phd.
I do not want to be in school forever either, but I keep having to remind myself this is my road to the PhD. This is my story and no one else’s. I am totally in love with my topic and have even come up with ideas for future research to expand on it. Changing my topic was honestly the best thing I could have done. You must be happy in your research and in your degree. This has really become my own individual road to my PhD, and it will be worth it when I finally finish. It has also helped my career to move in a positive direction.
For anyone else working on their PhD, my best advice is do not compare yourself to anyone else and do it for you. This is your road to the PhD.
This road has had its up and downs and I am sure there are more to come. I am in my fourth and what I thought was my final year but now I am realizing it most likely will not be. That is ok though because this is my road to my Doctorate degree.