My Doctoral Journey

My decision to apply to the Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) program at Valdosta State University was predicated on my future professional and career aspirations and the requirements to achieve those aspirations. This decision was one of the best decisions of my life. I always receive two questions from those who are thinking about returning to graduate school for the second time. The first question is “what is it like to be in a Doctoral program?” and the second question is “what is like to be in a Doctoral program while working full-time?”. The first part of my response is always the Doctoral life is not for the faint of heart. The Doctoral journey can be overwhelming but if you approach the process as steps and milestones along the journey it is less overwhelming. Be realistic about the timeline for studying and taking the GRE which will include an honest assessment of the obligations in all sectors of your life. I purchased my GRE study materials developed by the ETS (Educational Testing Service) who is the test maker but there are a lot of options out there. I tell those who are applying for admission to a Masters program and currently in a Masters program to make the decision about returning to graduate school for a Doctorate degree before the GRE score expires. Anyone who has taken the GRE can attest to the fact that once you have taken the GRE successfully, you do not want to take the GRE again.

Your timeline should factor the amount of time it will take to develop a stellar application package. Be strategic about who authors your Letters of Reference (LOR) and schedule a meeting with the Doctoral program(s) prior to application submission if your life allows you to do so. Prepare and submit your Written Statement and other application materials (as applicable) to your references prior to them drafting the LOR. This will contribute to the content of the LOR. Prepare your questions in advance of meeting with Doctoral programs. When you are accepted into the Doctoral program, establish the mindset of not finishing the Doctorate degree is not an option. Leave pride at the door and run your own race. The accolades got you into the program but put this to the side as the Doctoral level is very different. The rigor at the Masters level does not come close to the rigor at the Doctoral level. My Masters program at the University of Central Florida (UCF) was rigorous and I slept for six months after walking across the stage at the CFE Arena. I speak from experience that the rigor is not the same. Run your individual race and do not compare yourself to someone else in the Doctoral program as this person is in a different race. I am heavily influenced by STEM because I work in a STEM environment. STEM influences my approach to my Doctoral program and research. I focus only on my race.

Listen and speak less as you are entering your first year. If you are hearing something more than once, it is for a reason. I listen more than I speak because there are people in the room who know more than I do. The DPA faculty are awesome and I have learned so much from them. It is imperative to listen in your Doctoral program as Faculty, Supervising Faculty, and Mentors have not only obtained their Doctorate degrees but they have also ushered others through the Doctoral process. I am not trying to save the world during this journey as there is a seven-year clock to finish. I have concentrated on a research topic focus from different perspectives throughout this journey that can contribute to my Dissertation proposal. I receive the questions and comments about how long it takes to finish your Doctorate degree. You are not going to finish in two minutes or two years like a Masters degree. I understand the reluctance as I was in that position of deciding if I was returning to graduate school. Years ago, I was having a dinner with a group of people during UCF Homecoming prior to attending the football game. I was asked the question when are you going back to graduate school? I responded it may take five years or more to finish. The response I received was you are going to get five years older anyway so you might as well go back to school. So here I am winding down my 2nd Year. The time will go by fast and it is worth it. I will be working on my Dissertation proposal in Spring 2021 and become a Doctoral Candidate in Summer 2021. I am employing the wisdom of my Doctoral program. There is no reason for me to be in the position of staring at a blank Word document at the Dissertation proposal stage as I have concentrated on a research topic focus from different perspectives during this journey. I get the question all the time about when I will graduate. I will graduate when my Dissertation Committee and the Graduate School says I am done. They are the independent variables in this matter. This decision was one of the best decisions of my life.

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