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Finding the Right PhD Program for You

Finding the right PhD program is no small endeavor. Before you apply for any graduate program, there are questions you need to ask yourself.

May 10th is Trust your Intuition Day.  What is intuition? Psychology means the ability to make decisions without depending on analytical reasoning. 

It is that gut feeling that makes you think, “Is this the right decision?” 

If you are thinking about applying for a PhD program, I would recommend doing a combination of intuition and analytical reasoning.

Six questions to ask yourself before applying for a PhD program

1. How does it fit within my long-term career goals?

Is getting a PhD going to advance your career or change your career completely?  Are you getting a PhD because the position you want is unattainable without it or are completing one because you hope it will give you a better career?  Make sure that when you choose a PhD program there is a clear path from graduation to career.  

2. How will I pay for the program?

Many PhD program offer students graduate assistance positions that will help pay for school. Unfortunately, the majority of these programs offer minimum compensation. You may have additional out-of-pocket costs including health insurance, housing, food, and clothing that will need to be paid for.

While student loans are an option, because of the higher costs associated with graduate school, this financial aid often balloons to astronomical prices by the time you graduate. Before you go to school considering working more, increasing your savings, reducing debt, and cutting expenses.

It is true that being a grad student means that you will be financially strapped.  You will most likely need to rely heavily on family, savings, and student loans – even when the program is paid for.  Be sure you understand the financial implications of your new degree

3. How will it affect my family?

So few people get to experience a PhD program. While your loved ones may have a college degree, they may not understand the time and effort it takes to complete a doctoral degree. Your family and friends may have trouble understanding the need to spend hours of uninterrupted time studying and writing. They may question why it is taking so long to complete your degree.

Having a long meaningful conversation with your family before you apply will help smoothen this transition. It is even more compounded when you are working full-time. Discuss the concerns each family member has about the time commitment it will take to complete the program. Be sure to schedule time meaningful time with your family.

4. Is an online or a seated program the better choice?

There are multiple options when it comes to completing your doctoral degree. The two most common types are online and seated programs. Both types have pluses and minuses. The ability to complete the program and the ability to obtain a meaningful position post-graduation are two questions you need to ask yourself.

For those who are working, online might be the only option. For those who are early in their career a seated program might provide more opportunities to supplement the lack of work experiences.

5. Will I like attending this program?

Visit the campus and talk to the faculty and current students.  If you do decide to attend a seated graduate program, visiting the campus is extremally important. You should feel a sense of belonging; a feeling of excitement.

Ask if you can sit in on a class to get an understanding of how your day will look like. Visit the lounge and speak to current students. Ask them questions that are important to you. Research faculty and request a meeting with someone you would be interested in being mentored by.

Understand that there are certain aspects that you are not going to like. But overall, you should feel a sense that you are making the right decision by the time you return home. You can get a sense of whether or not you will fit into the program. 

Obtaining a PhD is a long endeavor and is mentally taxing.  Having a place that feels like home will make those next years much easier to handle.

Dr. Jocelyn Steward

6. Why am I pursuing a PhD

You should be able to articulate the reasons clearly.  If you doing it because you don’t like your job or is a fleeting thought in a long line of career changes, think hard.  If you know the reasons why you are there, it is much easier to get over the humps you will endeavor.

I want to make sure that everyone who enters a PhD program graduates.  With the right support and mentoring it is more likely to happen than not.  Being a Dr. is a tremendous and rewarding badge of honor. Before you submit your application, be sure you doing your due diligence in finding the right PhD program for you.

Do you need help finding the right PhD program?

If you are interested in discussing your plans for graduate school, learn more about the services I offer, and feel free to reach out and schedule a complimentary telephone call to discuss any areas that you may wish to consider.