You have been accepted into the Ph.D. program of your dreams. Whether you accomplished this as an international student miles away from home or by studying until the wee hours of the night while working a full-time job, you made it.
According to the Council of Graduate Schools, “More than 1.8 million graduate students were enrolled in graduate certificate, master’s, or doctoral programs at U.S. graduate schools in Fall 2016.” Due to the competitiveness of the workforce, the numbers have astoundingly increased.
The challenges you had to overcome to enter the program do not stop there, though. You still have to make it to the finish line. Creating a game plan to survive your Ph.D. program is a must to make sure you come out mentally and physically sound.
What can you do to make sure you succeed at finishing your dissertation and keeping your sanity?
Read more to find out.
Create and Stick to a Routine
To obtain some stability in such a vigorous academic environment, establishing a routine is vital. From the time you wake up to when your head falls on the pillow at night, structure will give you a sense of control and empowerment. It will also help you stay on track in the program. Activities that could be implemented in a schedule can include study or lab hours, meditation, meetings with professors, and self-reflection time.
Select a Professor in the Program You Can Rely On
In a Ph.D. program, it can be easy to have the mentality that you have to rely on yourself to succeed; this is not the case, though. Reaching out to a professor for help with your dissertation or lab work will increase your network. It will also give you insight into how they went about succeeding in their career. When initially seeking a mentor, explain why you have chosen to reach out to them specifically, ask about their availability, and always be open to feedback. Use your resources.
Begin Writing Your Dissertation on Day 1
It can be tempting to procrastinate and adopt the mindset when entering a Ph.D. program that you have all the time in the world to complete your dissertation. Before you know it, though, the time to turn in the dissertation or lab work has arrived, and you are scrambling at the last minute. The average time to finish a dissertation can range from 13-20 months. The average length of a dissertation paper could be 150-300 pages. Every minute counts in your Ph.D. program. When you wait until the last minute, it’s likely to show in your dissertation as well.
Build a Rapport with Your Peers
The relationships you form in a Ph.D. program are essential during and after your program. When you form friendships in a Ph.D. program, you have another set of eyes for your dissertation and also gain a connection for the future. After graduating from a program, whether you become a professor at a university or conduct research, you may want to reach out for help when you are stumped on an issue.
Asking for feedback from your mentor or peers is essential when completing your dissertation. Taking constructive criticism can be difficult, but in the long run, it can be beneficial. When asking questions, do not be general. Kindly ask if your mentor can elaborate. After request a follow-up so your mentor can view the progression of your changes. One tip that dissertation coaches have is to provide sections as opposed to delivering a full written document. This will give you a good foundation and save you a significant amount of time re-writing parts of your dissertation.
Do Not Neglect Your Physical and Mental Health
Managing your mental and physical well-being during your Ph.D. program is imperative. When you neglect both, there is a strong chance that you won’t believe you can complete the program and eventually opt out. Reaching for sugar-filled energy drinks or hundreds of cups of coffee may be a knee-jerk reaction when wanting to pull an all-nighter. Using those to stay awake, though, can lead to a crash and a horrendous breakdown. Take the time to make your meals ahead of the week and implement fruits, vegetables, protein, and healthy carbs. As for your mental health, incorporate meditation and dedicate 30 minutes to moving your body. Also, remember always to have positive self-talk. Who better to be your biggest cheerleader than you?