Adjusting to Life as a Doctoral Student

Adjusting to Life as a Doctoral Student

Author: Val Krage

Krage.Val headshot-ASCBeginning a doctoral program is a huge transition, one that requires time to adjust and support from those around you. Your free time is no longer your own, as there are suddenly papers to write and deadlines to meet, all in addition to the usual demands on your time.

Because of the significance of this undertaking, it is vital that you find support from those around you—cheerleaders, shoulders to lean on, and family and friends to step in when you find yourself struggling to balance the many demands on your time. And because the on-line classroom environment may make it difficult to connect on the same level that you might with classmates you see face to face on a regular basis, it is helpful to find colleagues who are working towards similar goals, for support and commiserating.

desk with pencils, keyboard, and coffee. words include "stress management", "Therapy", "Motivation", "Travel", "Exercise", "Hobby", "Music", "Relax"In addition to the physical and emotional demands on one’s time, new doctoral students may fall victim to “Impostor syndrome.” This experience can leave us feeling like a fraud, like we do not belong in our program and our courses. It can keep us from enjoying our successes and reaching our full potential.

As “impostors” we tend to get stuck in a cycle of fear of failure, self-doubt, over preparation, and perfectionism. We tend to believe all of our successes are somehow due to luck or some error, without giving ourselves credit for our own abilities. It can be difficult to manage, but again, this is incredibly common for new doctoral students.

You are certainly not alone in this. And, you DO belong here. Celebrate every success and milestone and most importantly, keep going!

Val Krage is a doctoral student and peer mentor who is currently writing her dissertation on parent involvement in education. She credits her very supporting colleagues at Viterbo University for coaching her through her first months as a doctoral student.

4 thoughts on “Adjusting to Life as a Doctoral Student

  1. Hello, Val Krage,
    I have not started my doctoral program yet, nevertheless, I found your mindset refreshing. As a master degree student who is intent on going all the way and earning my doctoral degree in psychology, knowing about “imposter syndrome” being real gives me more self-confidence. Thank you, for your support.


  2. Greetings Val,
    Thank you so much for the additional articles you presented, they are very enlightening. Starting the Industrial and Organizational PhD program May 29, 2018 (right around the corner), I am already experiencing symptoms of “imposter syndrome” only stemming from the fact that I want to do my very best. I believe starting the program with a certain level of self-expectation is good, but it is the expectations of the professors that scare me a little. Living up to their expectations in order for them to see the conviction and dedication to pursuing and achieving your degree seems as though it will not be an easy task. While I feel I am up for the challenge, I do understand that a great support system is necessary. Thank you again for the articles and allowing the opportunity to express those feelings with someone who understands.


    1. Thank you for your kind response. You would not be at this point in your educational journey if you weren’t up to the task, so take it one day, one assignment at a time, and you will be writing your dissertation before you know it!



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