How to Choose a Doctoral Program That’s Right for You
There are many reasons a person may choose to earn a doctorate degree. The desire to perform research. A pathway into teaching. Passion for a particular field. Even simply to fulfill job requirements. Despite these motivations, studies show that of all the students who start a doctoral degree program, only about half actually complete it. Given the high investment in finances and time, choosing a doctoral program that aligns with your needs is critical.
So what should you look for when choosing a doctoral program? In this blog, we’ll discuss how to choose a doctoral program, including five key factors you should consider when determining if a program is the right fit for you. That way, you can make a more informed decision about which school to attend and which doctoral program to apply for.
1. The Dissertation Process
There’s an old saying that in order to be successful, you need to begin with the end in mind. Your doctoral program is no different. Even though the dissertation process comes at the end of your program, it is often where students struggle the most. There’s a reason why many doctoral school candidates achieve “ABD,” or All But Dissertation status. In other words, they can complete their coursework but cannot finish their dissertation.
The dissertation process is often the most difficult phase of a student’s doctoral journey, so it’s important to ask what kind of support you will receive when choosing a doctoral program. How often will you meet with your dissertation advisor? How quickly will you receive feedback? Faculty responsiveness, clear expectations, established milestones, and adequate mentoring all play a vital role in helping successfully guide students through their dissertations. If an institution can’t answer your questions about the dissertation support you’ll receive, they may not have the program that best fits your needs.
2. Writing Support
Many doctoral students find academic writing difficult. Even those who have earned a master’s degree are surprised to find that doctoral writing is more scientific and specific. Sentence structures need to be crisp and concise. Supporting research needs to be clearly cited. Source material needs to be curated from peer-reviewed sources. Grammar, punctuation, and citation methodology need to be perfect. Arguments must be coherent, logic-based, and carefully crafted to transition from topic to topic.
Mastering these skills will take time, practice, and extensive cycles of feedback. Colleges and universities often have writing centers that are available to all students on campus and can help you hone your writing. Doctoral programs that provide students with support that helps them develop their writing are the most likely to produce graduates … not ABDs.
3. Academic Quality
When choosing a doctoral program, you want to find an institution that aligns with your interests and passions. They should offer a rigorous course of study taught by faculty who specialize in the subject matter in each course. Their expertise and guidance will be crucial for your success. For example, Walsh College offers a competitive Doctor of Business Administration designed for candidates to get ahead in their leadership careers—and is taught by faculty who are active in their field of study.
Take a look at program rankings and student data for each university—what is their acceptance rate? What are their most popular programs? And how many students actually graduate? Understanding the reputation of a college you’re interested in can help you make a more informed decision.
4. Peer Support and Networking
A strong doctoral program will foster a collaborative environment among students and faculty, as well as share your passion for discovery. Look for programs that allow you to engage with faculty and fellow doctoral candidates through residencies, seminars, research groups, or conferences. Peer support can also provide valuable insights, feedback, and motivation during the research and writing process. Look for a strong sense of community where everyone is “all in” for your success—especially faculty.
Walsh College offers tutoring services, an extensive online and physical library, and recruitment services to help you land a job after you graduate. Whether you study on-campus or remotely, you’ll get the support you need to finish your coursework, complete your dissertation, and receive your well-earned doctorate.
5. Posture Toward Student Wellbeing
Earning your doctoral degree should be a challenging experience, but not one that ruins your physical or mental health. When considering a doctoral program, ask about the institution’s commitment to balancing completing degree requirements with other commitments such as employment, family life, and other enjoyable activities. It is also wise to ask about coaching and mentoring assistance to ensure you stay on track and celebrate your successes.
Institutions that offer flexibility in course delivery helps students balance every facet of their life. Ask to talk to other people in the program about their experiences to ensure you understand what you’re signing up for. Walsh College offers four unique course delivery options, so you can decide what pace you’d like to learn at. And through our mentor program, a business professional can walk alongside you on your academic journey and provide guidance along the way.
Determining How to Choose a Doctoral Program Shouldn’t Require a Ph.D
In this blog, we covered how to choose a doctoral program that’s right for you—and not just to advance your career, but one that doesn’t burn you out in the process. At Walsh College, we provide a rigorous doctoral experience but support you every step of the way. From face-to-face residencies carefully planned to assist you through the research process, to connections with faculty and peers on a regular basis, to wellness checks, to robust feedback on your course work, to a caring community that’s dedicated to seeing you succeed, Walsh College may be just the program you’re looking for. If you’re interested in choosing a doctoral program from Walsh, click the button below to schedule an appointment with a doctoral program advisor.