Disclaimer: Everyone’s academic experience is different. Mine was very different because I never chose to spend time in the college premises but opted to study on my own and earning a PhD or doctorate degree experience is independent learning.
I was in my 12th standard when I decided to have a prefix “Dr” by the age of 30 and fortunately I could achieve it. The journey to reach this was very difficult but the amazing end results made me happy to realise that my hard work was not wasted. You should really like the field you’re thinking about pursuing a PhD in. A doctorate is a commitment of couple of years (for me it was 1.5years), and if you’re not fascinated by your project, it feels like an impossible chore. There are a lot of things that are actual chores — writing the synopsis, getting it approved, research results and sometimes the rough drafts go against your expectations, all these pulls you through. I don’t know anyone who finished their PhD who wasn’t excited about the field in some way. I was allotted a professor but I hardly took his help because I wanted to achieve this degree without anyone’s support. I think a lot of people expect an adviser or Professor to have all the answers and give you specific directions during the submission of drafts for approval. It’s not your Professor’s job to teach you everything, at this stage; studying independent really does wonders to you if you are academically strong and have good access to information at your fingers.
I did not get worried much as I started to write my thesis. My strong foundation was my MBA in Finance. In this too I scored really well. I got familiar with business management and even after finishing my MBA I did not stop reading further on this subject which made me attempt my thesis easily. I’ve always been an independent learner. I did not feel to distance myself from anyone or anything. I went about with my normal life that of a blogger and a PhD research student. It’s important to have a life outside of critique work. Give your brain a rest. Despite what ever happens, a thesis does not write itself. I read and made my own notes on the subject of my thesis. Getting started (the synopsis) was hard for me as I was completely new to the topic I chose to do my project on. I did not worry about proper citing, what pronouns to use, and the tone of my writing. This stuff is easy to fix later. My full focus was on framework and outline. By the time I reached middle of my writing, I knew better about the topic than anyone else. It made my defense less painful. In between I did read about experiences of PhD scholars, some were encouraging and some were really scary. Those stories didn’t stop me from being really nervous or over confident though and probably it won’t help anyone’s nerves either, but there you go.
In June 2015 I submitted my project to the institute for final approval and the next 5 days were no less than hell. I had positive & negative thoughts lingering in my mind. Those 310 pages were not just printed pages or words typed on MS word, but my everything. The professor reverted a week later with a nice note with appreciation to go ahead with the final prints and make it into a book. By mid of July, my thesis was ready and I submitted it along with my 10 test papers and crossed my fingers.
On afternoon of 27th July 2015, my phone altered me of a notification and it was from my Professor who messaged me “Dear Student, please check your email and revert immediately”. It was a big surprise to find my mark sheet, appreciation letter and doctorate degree certificate. I could not believe what I read. A top grade for my thesis was something which I did not expect. This is my life’s biggest accomplishment to excel in academics and I am really happy to have it achieved successfully.
A PhD at a glance. Work hard, try to relax, and embrace the uniqueness of course. There are many challenges along the way, but try to learn from them rather than beat yourself up over them. A PhD can be fun if you let it. Nobody teaches you to learn in this level. That’s something you are expected to know before you get in, so why spend years and money on a niche unless you are going to work on something related? That’s precious time you could have used to learn things that you actually need to know for your work. If you’re smart enough to get a PhD, you’re smart enough to learn on your own.
I write a lot, which keeps me off the streets and out of trouble. There is always something to write about, always a new story to craft. Not writing, for me, is like trying to hold back a sneeze. Learning to write was the most powerful influence in my life. I can still remember the awe I felt when I realized I could put real words onto paper and tell out a story. From that first ‘a-ha’ moment I knew I wanted to write.
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