When I completed my masters degree, my dad encouraged me to start thinking of taking the next step of getting a PhD. One of the important life lessons that my parents taught me was that having a solid education is something that no one can take away. It will always benefit me and in the end, I never want to say “I should have.”
However, I also realized the value of having work experience when pursuing higher education. During my undergraduate degree, I volunteered at a crisis center and it was amazing to see how I could relate actual events to what was being taught in the classroom. After graduating with a masters degree, I decided to take advantage of an employment opportunity as a clinician. During that time I pursued continuing education credits and I obtained substance abuse and mental health therapist licenses. I have no regrets about the course of action I took post grad school. My experience as a clinician provided me with not only professional development but also personal growth and enabled me to decide on a doctoral program that was best suited for my needs and future goals.
As much as I enjoyed and valued my work as a clinician, I knew that I needed more. I needed a bigger challenge and opportunity for growth. So, after talking things over with my parents, I decided to begin the process of applying to doctoral programs. Let me just say that in my experience, it was not an easy process and the hunt for a Phd program felt like a full time job! But I kept my word, strapped in and braced myself for the ride.
I think the most difficult aspect of this process was finding the right program. I consulted with professors from grad school, friends in various doctoral programs that I was interested in, read a lot online and prayed that I would make the right decision. I could safely say that the process of getting into doctoral school took one year.
After brainstorming with professors and friends, I decided that a PhD in counselor education and supervision would be the best fit. Because I have a strong interest in wellness, I decided to also apply for health psychology programs. I utilized the CACREP and APA websites to search for accredited programs and narrowed down my interest to 10 schools. Yes, 10 schools. I then emailed the program directors of each program to give a brief background, introduce myself as a potential candidate and ask about funding opportunities. I received favorable responses from six program directors, no responses from the other four. I then decided to apply to the schools whose program directors made contact with me.
Since I had finalized the schools I would apply to, I scheduled to take the GRE exam. Studying for this exam proved to be a true challenge as I found it very difficult to balance my work life with studying. Also, in the midst of it all I moved to a new home. So between a hectic work life and chaotic space, I managed to get the exam done and send off my scores. Now it was time to get my applications in!
I would be dishonest if I said that I enjoyed the application process. First of all, I don’t like filling out forms so that was a buzz kill, ha! But I will be honest in saying that I am eternally grateful for my parents and a dear family friend who got me through this phase. Our family friend took the time out of his very busy and hectic professional life to assist me with editing and finalizing my essay. I am also very grateful for a few of my friends who helped me with editing and developing my resume.
Once my applications were in, I took a breath of relief and began playing the waiting game. I had officially begun the process of getting in to a doctoral program. No turning back now!
As I end this post, I want to leave a few thoughts with you just in case you are considering applying for a graduate degree:
– do your research to find the best program(s) to apply for.
– talk to others who have gone through the process to get suggestions and tips.
– plan in advance for applying and give yourself enough time. Do not rush this process!
– get supportive people in your corner who can also assist in the application process.
– avoid people who may try to discourage you. Seriously, stay away!
– be sure that you have the financial support for school, if not obtain funding.
– believe in yourself.
Here are a few helpful links for you to check out:
“The struggle is real, so avoid the fake” ~ KC