The life of a doctoral student is a challenging one. The hours are long, the work is demanding. At the same time, it is rewarding to be contributing to my chosen field in such a capacity. For me, getting my doctorate in Counseling Psychology was a dream that I have wanted to accomplish for practically my entire life. I still have a journal where, at the mere age of 12, I wrote about wanting to be a psychologist and how I wanted to make a difference in the life of others. The mind of a child is a wonderful and ambitious thing.
Choosing to pursue a doctorate is not something that should be taken lightly. It is not something that I would recommend taking on solely for the prestige or the title. I can assure you that it will be one of the most exciting, yet trying, times in your life. You should study something that you love but also something that sparks your curiosity. I recommend learning to manage your time and being a pro at self-care before you start, as these are skills that you will desperately need.
I have been able to maintain a 4.0 in my program, but not without struggle. Time management and I have been at odds since the beginning. I remember interviewing for my program. The interview in and of itself had me so nervous that I thought I would pass out. My interviewer asked me how much time I would have per week to devote to my studies. I ballparked around 15 to 20. He informed me that I would need close to 30 and I kid you not I may have fainted. Like most other 26-year-olds that I know, I work full-time. How on earth was I supposed to manage to do work, go to school, and have a personal life all at the same time?
Researching, reading, and writing will take up most of your time. To make things easier I would recommend getting a tangible planner or using something like Google Calendar to keep organized. Keeping track of your deadlines is of the utmost importance. I make a to-do list every single day and I revise it throughout the day as needed.
Your university will have tons of resources available to you. There will be counseling should you get stressed out (highly recommended that you take advantage), faculty mentors who are assigned to you and able to answer your questions and give you guidance, tutoring, opportunities to have your writing reviewed (extremely important in a doctoral program), and tutorials on how to best utilize your library and conduct research. Use your resources; they are there to help you succeed.
My biggest piece of advice would be to take care of yourself. This is advice that I give out freely regardless, but my, oh my does it ever apply here. During my first class I practically hibernated. I was so worried that I was going to screw up that my schedule looked something like: wake up, work, school, school, school, work, school, fall asleep in public on my Macbook in Starbucks, repeat. Do not forget to make time to do the things that your mind and body need. Eat, sleep in your own bed, exercise, spend time with your family and friends. Your doctorate is a commitment, but your sanity is a necessity.
We applaud you for following your dreams and your contribution to your field is certainly appreciated. Go forth and change the world!