5 Lessons I Learned My First Semester Of Doctoral School

Every evening I asked myself, “why did I go back to school?” but it has all been worth it! After almost two years of academic freedom, I decided to enroll in a doctorate program at the same institution I received my masters degree from. It wasn’t a decision I made on a whim, I’d actually put lots of thought into it but I don’t know if I really believed I could do it.

Me? A doctor?

I was accepted the first time I applied so I took that as a sign that I was smart enough (sometimes I doubt myself) and moved back to Hattiesburg to start my program. I knew it would be challenging but I had no idea how difficult it would be to adjust back to being in school. There were days as and when I wanted to quit and nights where Starbucks and Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers were the only things between me and sleep in the middle of class.

Here are the top five lessons I learned this semester…don’t say I didn’t warn you! :)

Photo on 4-28-15 at 4.02 PM #2

5.  Keep lots of quarters in your car. – Most of my classes this semester were at weird, mid but closer to the end of the work day times. This usually means that all the good parking spaces are already occupied by undergrad students who have been on campus all day and it’s too early to park in the metered spaces for free. Make sure to have enough quarters for an hour because that walk across the busiest street in town after dark is not what’s up.

4. Don’t wait until the last month of the semester to start working on that 20+ page research paper. – I waited to do this in two of my three classes. Biggest mistake in life! The bad part? I knew better! If you want to sleep and have a normal life, I would advise you to work on that paper from the very start of the semester. Work on it one day per week for at least two or three hours and it will make a world of difference. I was so overwhelmed a week and a half ago that I just sat in my bed and cried with my face in my hands. Never again!

3. The Pomodoro Technique really works. – If you have a lot of writing to do and can’t seem to focus on getting those words on the document, use the Pomodoro Technique. It calls for a tomato timer but you can use any timer really. You set it for 25 minutes and you write and write until the timer goes off. Once it goes off, set it for a five minute break. During that break you can do all the things that you’re normally distracted by when you’re trying to write or study like check email, text messages and Facebook or Instagram.

2. Take advantage of office hours. – This is really important. When I was working on my masters, I don’t think I utilized my professor’s office hours at all. This time around I’ve used them on my own and it really helps. Our professors are there to guide us through the process and give us feedback on those papers we’re working on before we actually turn them in. It also builds relationships and that’s always a plus.


1.  Make friends. The biggest lesson I learned! I thought I’d be able to go through the semester and keep to myself but meeting and making friends with new people was the best thing I could’ve done. If it wasn’t for our “MC” group message, I would’ve been even more lost than I was at times. Friends remind you when assignments are due, you can talk out assignments that you may not fully understand and they let you know that you aren’t the only one struggling to get through.

This was a great semester, hopefully I’ll have that required 3.0 to remain in the program…one class is looking kinda funny LOL. What are some lessons that you’ve learned in school? Share them with me below!

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