Semester Reflections: Part 1

One semester down! I still can’t believe that I successfully completed my first semester as a doctoral student! At the beginning of this semester I thought it was creeping along and before I knew it, mid semester came upon us, and then we were preparing for final exams.  They say time flies when you are having fun, but I think it’s a combination of having fun and trying to keep your head above water.  But, whatever works for you…

I have learned so many things about myself this semester and had many great learning opportunities.  In this three-part series, I wanted to take some time to share a few tips/suggestions based on my experience this semester.  Hopefully these tips can be used not only during a first semester experience, but also throughout the doctoral program.

In this first part of the series, I will focus on the academic stuff:

Using a Planner


I have always been an organized person as far as I can remember.  I take pride in making a schedule of activities and crossing them off my list. So yes, I’m a list-maker-kinda-girl and it works for me.  What I found very helpful was at the beginning of the semester, once I knew when all my assignments were due, and my Teaching Assistant duties were outlined,  I plotted them in the “month” section of my planner.  Then I decided how I wanted to pace myself with each assignment, so in the “week” section of the planner, I penciled in what I would work on daily.  This allowed me to have a really good idea of what was needed and once I kept with my schedule, it easier to get tasks accomplished on time.

Study Groups

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Remember that one time when you were told that a PhD is not something you can do alone-they were right!  I am so grateful that I found a few classmates that I feel very connected to, so we study together for exams and to figure out homework.  it’s  been very helpful having other people to bounce ideas off of and to learn from.  It’s amazing how we have our own strengths and together make  good team.  We usually have lots of food, snacks, and laughter during our study sessions.



Apps can be fun and there is literally an app for anything you can think about! So why not make something that is fun assist you with learning?  One of my classmates introduced me to the app called Study Blue.  It’s a very fun way to create online flash cards that you can use at your convenience.  I’ve done almost all of my research design study cards on this app and enjoyed being able to whip my phone out anywhere and study!  My school uses the Blackboard app, so I also downloaded that to keep track of my courses and to get notifications on assignments and grades.  I also find it helpful to have a dictionary app as well.

Connecting With Professors


One of the important things that I have discovered is how important it is to be connected with faculty.  I’m not saying that you need to try to work into being their “bff,” first of all that’s inappropriate and secondly, it’s weird-please don’t do that. Having cleared that up, it’s important to find someone who can mentor you during your program.  I am lucky to have found not just one, but two professors that I have chosen as mentors.  They both inspire me in different ways and I look to them mostly for guidance as I respect the dedication and effort they put into their work and in building student relations. I have had some good opportunities come up because I kept myself connected and expressed (very early on) my interest in certain things/areas of study, so they were able to include me in their work. Don’t be afraid to sit down with a professor and talk about your interests. I find that they are usually willing to listen, and once you are open be being directed, they are willing to help.

In part 2 of this three-part series, I would discuss the social suggestions/tips.

“Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.”
― Shannon L. Alder

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