Written By Mesha G., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Y’all, I’m officially a Ph.D candidate! I honestly couldn’t even image how the day would be once it came, but it’s here! It’s been a long 3 1/2 years but ya girl made it.  So, this month, I really want to focus on ten things I wish I knew before beginning this journey. Some of the items that I will mention, I honestly didn’t know I had until the moment arose and others are truly moments of “damn, well x could have been y.”

  1. Don’t do it if you don’t have the passion for it.

I know so many people who pursued a doctoral degree for the earning potential and not because they truly care about whatever they are getting a degree in.  But I want to have a newsflash moment for anyone that’s pursuing a doctoral degree in the soft sciences or humanities…you will not be a million off the strength of your degree, what has your bachelor’s degree do so far? I will not discredit the earning potential will rise, but let’s not get carried away, especially if you’re paying out of pocket. (Take it from me, I work in Financial Aid).

2. Find your interest topic before you apply

I have loosely had the same topic since I applied for my doctoral program and what I blessing it has been.  Going into an investment like this with a plan is the best thing that you can do for yourself. And depending upon your program, they may require for you to know what your interest is to ensure they have faculty available to support your research.  A disclaimer for this, be open…I have broadened and narrowed and broadened my general topic over the last few years. Be open and accepting of the feedback you receive. 

3. Have a supportive environment

You need support from everyone. You will need a supportive partner, whether that be a FWB, boyfriend, husband, wife, common law spouse, whoever he or she is needs to be supportive. They will need to understand that you have competing priorities but you’re not necessarily neglecting them on purpose.

A supportive family. Nothing is worse than being guilted for not spending the entire weekend with your family because you have to study or coming home to visit and bring books and your laptop with you.

A supportive workplace. Your supervisor at your place of employment has to have some consideration for this new addition in your life.  You will be miserable if you do not have a workplace that supports and respects your time and effort at the job while pursuing your degree.

4. Apply for scholarships

Even if you get your tuition for free, apply for scholarships! Period.

5. Publish

Imposter syndrome was too real for me, so I did not grow with my writing as I wish I would have because I was scurred lol. Had I had my stuff together way before and was confident enough to just go out there and receive critical feedback, I could have had a few articles out in the academic world.  Understand this, you are a scholar as soon as you start this!

6. Every professor is not the same

Because Professor X did this, doesn’t mean Professor Y will, respect the academic freedom that professors have and let them do their job.  It’s fine to challenge them with respect, but just because one Professor favored you more than another does not mean the experience occurred in the classroom goes out the window. 

7. Not much is different from earning an A or a B

I once was obsessed with getting all As in my doctoral program but regardless if I have a 99% or an 85%, I’m still a whole doctor of philosophy… so focus on actually learning and retaining information than having a transactional relationship focused on grades.  No one will ask you for your GPA of a terminal degree. 

8. Sacrifice is an understatement 

The amount of sacrifice is unreal. I had to say no to a lot of events and vacations and dinners and nights out. I went to conferences and some vacations with my book bag full of work for school. The grind never stops. The doctoral process truly does take over your life, and you might be half crazy just as I was.

9. Be open to learn

This follows the same sentiments that I had earlier about your intention to be in the program.  If you’re going only for the purpose of a fatter check, don’t do. You will not be receptive to hearing opposing views and actually learning.  I remember a few times where the students didn’t like the professors who instructed our class because they weren’t feeling the epistemology of the instructor, not because of something more substantial like just a low quality course. 

10. Self Care is mandatory

During this process, everything will be seem a top priority but you are #1.  Get your sleep, eat well, workout, meditate, take time to stand up once in awhile, get your eyes checked for your prescription…all of that stuff that you think is not self care is self care.  I gained (thank God I lost it) at least 35-40 pounds while being in the Ph.D program. And that’s because I was taking care of everything except for myself. 

It’s still unbelievable that I made it to this point.  It truly does take persistence, dedication, determination, and perseverance to make it happen. I know all these words seem synonymous but they ain’t lol…you will need all of it.

Mesha G., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

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