Returning To Graduate School after Hiatus

Returning To Graduate School after Hiatus

Are you contemplating furthering your education but think too late to return to school?  Many potential students see a long hiatus from school as an obstacle to furthering their education.  You always planned to complete that master’s or doctoral degree, but life happens—career, family, obligations.  Things have changed and you’re ready to take that next step.  You want that graduate degree, but is it possible to return to graduate school after a long hiatus?

The idea of attending college as an adult after a hiatus can make anyone anxious.  Seasoned students who took time off from school often have unique academic concerns; however, making this decision doesn’t have to keep you up at night.  When you make the choice to return to graduate school, you are not alone. 

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Recommendation Letters: Who to Ask, How to Ask, and When

Recommendation Letters: Who to Ask, How to Ask, and When

If you are facing graduate school applications, it’s time to get serious about requesting references for your letters of recommendation.  Usually grades and test scores factor are most influential in a graduate school application; however, many applicants don’t realize that letters of recommendation can be the deciding factor in the admission process.  As a continuation of the previous blog, 5 Tips for Recommendation Letters, an effective letter should provide those making admissions decisions with an assessment of your potential as a graduate student.  Therefore, it is important that you ask those who know you academically to write your recommendation letters.  Professors are the ones who most commonly write letters of recommendation for graduate school applicants; however, professionals who supervised your work in academia or research may also be appropriate choices.

Although you cannot control a letter’s content, there are things you can do to make the process of getting positive letters of recommendation as successful as possible.  Who you request a letter of recommendation from, how you ask, and when you ask will influence the quality and type of recommendation you receive.

Who to Ask


It might take a while for you to think of people who can recommend you.  This is okay.  Don’t worry too much about getting the most prestigious name you can find to recommend you for the program.  Of course, that might help bring attention to your application, but if the people who own those names don’t know you academically, professionally, or personally, then their recommendation letters will seem bland and generic.  The people who know you well academically, professionally, or personally will provide a unique and customized recommendation letter for you.  These letters are the ones you want because it will allow their readers to get an idea of who you are as a potential graduate student instead of only understanding basic knowledge about you and your achievements.

Anything other than a positive letter has the potential to harm your application.  Ideally, you want a letter from someone you’ve worked with in a classroom setting, research, volunteer work, or any other one-on-one situation.  So, avoid anyone who you think might give you a negative reference and remember that an indifferent reference can be just as bad as a negative one.  The following people make the best recommendation letter writers:

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Start 2018 Off Strong: Self-Care in the New Year

Start 2018 Off Strong: Self-Care in the New Year

It’s the end of December, meaning it’s almost time to take down the holiday decorations and get back to the grind.  What is your reaction when New Year’s comes around?  Do you see it as a fresh start, or as just another passing year?  Whether you look forward to New Year’s or would rather not be reminded that you’re another year older, for me—and I’m sure for a lot of you, too—it feels like I never had a break from the grind.  With work, classes, and the holidays all demanding your attention, you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed, as if trying to keep afloat in a sea of final papers and wrapping paper. 


Getting an advanced degree is time consuming and, taking care of yourself often falls off the list of priorities. The long hours in lab, teaching, and dissertation or thesis demands leads many students to burnout. So, how can you combat graduate school burnout with so many demands on your time? Be proactive about self-care. These changes don’t have to upset your entire routine, but take time to reexamine your habits and adjust your behavior to better care for yourself. A new year is here and it’s time to think about making 2018 the year of self-care, even when—or especially when—you feel like you don’t have time for it.

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Pros and Cons of Getting a Master’s before a Doctorate, Part 2: The Pros and Cons of a Master’s Degree

Pros and Cons of Getting a Master’s before a Doctorate, Part 2: The Pros and Cons of a Master’s Degree

Is the time and money of a master’s worth it? If you are considering going to graduate school, you are most likely pondering which degree to get. There are pros and cons to earning a master’s degree before pursuing a doctorate. Master's degrees are more career-oriented and doctoral degrees focus more on research. If all you want is a raise, pursuing a doctorate is probably not the route to choose. If you love learning and you want to pursue a career in education or research, then the work required for a doctorate may be worthwhile.

When considering the advantages of each program, remember that masters and doctoral programs will give you in-depth training in a specialized field and the usefulness of each degree depends on your academic and career interests/goals. When carefully considered, graduate school earns you more than just another fancy paper to go on your wall.



There are numerous benefits of a master’s degree. There is a reason so many people return to school after working for a few years. A master’s program narrows your field of study and delves you deeper in to the field, forcing you to master the subject. While it may be difficult to consider more schooling, consider making graduate school your next step, especially if you want a job that requires more training or a higher starting salary. Unlike your undergrad degree, there are no general studies requirements in graduate school, which is ideal for those with a thirst for knowledge.

A Master’s Degree will introduce the Process of Graduate Study

Graduate work is on a different level than the work you did as an undergraduate. A master’s program will introduce to you the process of graduate study. Students coming straight from an undergraduate program will probably be surprised at how theoretical the material in a doctoral program is. People coming in with a master’s degree will have already learned some of this, and are less surprised at the content of doctoral courses. Typical college courses present a broad overview of a subject. Graduate school can be very competitive and is a lot of work. Many students who floated through undergrad are surprised to find that graduate programs require a much greater commitment, and it is not until students immerse in a field that they truly come to know the depth of their interest.

Although most undergraduate degrees allow students the opportunity to choose subjects of interest, a Master’s degree does this to a greater extent, where you will conduct independent research in order to develop your thoughts and ideas. For many students with passionate academic interests, there’s little need to question the value of a Master’s degree; the experience itself provides plenty of satisfaction by attending extracurricular activities and meetings, hearing from guest speakers and lecturers, and one-on-one supervision.

A Masters May Help Admission into A Doctoral Program

Become an expert in your area of interest. If you’re intent on contributing to the world, professionally or academically, you will need to know your field inside and out—starting with a master’s degree.

Not all college graduates are competitive doctoral program applicants right out of undergraduate school. A master’s program can help you improve your academic record and show that you are committed, interested, and qualified in your field of concentration.  As a master’s student, you will have contact with graduate faculty who teach in the doctoral program, as well as doctoral students (who often take many of the same classes as master’s students), which will give you a chance to get some insight from current graduate students on what life is like in a doctoral program. However, admission to a doctoral program is not guaranteed.**

**Before you choose this option,
be sure that you can live with yourself if you don’t get accepted.**


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Pros and Cons of Getting a Master’s Before a Doctorate Part 1: What’s the Difference?

Pros and Cons of Getting a Master’s Before a Doctorate
Part 1: What’s the Difference?

Are you ready for graduate school? As a potential applicant to graduate school, you have quite a few decisions ahead of you. If you are considering a graduate degree, you might wonder what the differences are between the Master’s and Doctorate, or which one is right for you. When you enroll in a graduate degree program, be prepared for a different experience from undergrad.

Eddie Machek describes the three types of higher education degrees perfectly: “At a bachelor’s level, you are going to go out and do what’s been done. At the master’s level, you are going to be in charge of the people who are doing that stuff. In a Ph.D., that's a whole other thing because you are doing the new stuff. You are in a lab.”[1] When considering the merits of a master’s versus a doctoral program, remember that both will give you in-depth training in a specialized field. However, as I stated in my How to Deal with Grad School Competition blog, the usefulness of each degree depends on your academic and career goals.

 Comparison Chart of Basic Differences between Masters and Doctoral Degrees 




Types and examples

Academic or research (MPhil), Professional (MPA, MSW), Terminal (MFA, MBA)

Academic or research (Ph.D., Ed.D)
Professional (M.D., J.D.)

Why get this degree?

To research, is necessary for profession, is an intermediate step before doctoral, broaden your knowledge of an issue/subject area, increase your skill set for a job

To research, teach at the university level, is necessary for profession

Time to complete degree

1-3 years, full-time.
Longer, part-time.

2-8 years, full-time.
Longer, part-time.

Chart taken from “What's the difference between a masters and a doctoral degree?”, LinkedIn 2015, URL:


What are Masters’ Degrees?

A master’s degree is the first level of graduate study and typically takes one to three years to complete. Master’s degrees are also considered more versatile than doctorates as they tend to be more career-oriented. Upon completion, program graduates are expected to have advanced knowledge within their specialized field including how to apply their newly acquired skills. Generally speaking, there are three types of masters programs:

Research Master’s

Although primarily used in the UK, the term Research Masters’ degree is the application of these types of degrees is typically for academic and applied research disciplines (e.g., Master of Arts in History or Master of Science in Biology). In some fields, earning a “research master’s” without a doctorate restricts professional options—as research jobs within government and industry labs are competitive, and tenure-track faculty positions are notoriously hard to obtain.

Professional Master’s

Professional masters degrees prepare you to do professional work by introducing the skills and frameworks for understanding the issues and services of that field. Professional masters degrees sometimes are also a means of qualifying you to practice in that field (e.g., Master of Social Work or Master of Business Administration).

Terminal Master’s

Most degrees considered terminal are doctorates, however, some master’s degrees “terminal” if the field does not offer a doctorate. Therefore, terminal masters degrees are the highest academic degree in their field (e.g., Master of Fine Arts or a Masters in Library Science). While some master’s degrees may serve as a steppingstone towards a doctorate, these are the highest academic accreditation in those fields.

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How to Deal with Grad School Competition

How to Deal with Grad School Competition

It is no secret that pursuing a graduate degree is emotionally, psychologically, and physically exhausting. Graduate school can be the first time students truly experience the deep frustrations of a competitive learning environment. Graduate students can come face to face with a deep, pervasive anxiety that seeps into everyday life, a constant questioning of capability, intelligence, and whether or not one is cut out to be there.


As mentioned in our Adjusting to Graduate Study section of, most individuals who apply for grad school are often in the top of their undergraduate classes, however, because you will be in class with the top of the top as a graduate student, you might find it more challenging to stand out. Here are some more tips to help you stand out, even when the competition is tense.

Competition is Sneaky

Competition is the silent topic that graduate students hate to discuss. It creeps into every classroom, lecture hall, and presentation. Looking at your colleagues, there will be people publishing more, teaching more, more extracurricular activities, or and people with more funding than you—making it easy to think you don’t measure up. This self-deprecatory thinking causes students to ignore strategies that can help make them successful and instead of fixating on what colleagues are doing. What are these strategies?

There are benefits to seeing where you are at compared to others, but do not negatively compare achievements:

Turn envy into admiration. Sit down with a colleague whose path you would like to know more about. You’ll learn the steps required to achieve that level of success.

Run your own race. When thinking about what peers are doing, remember this is your degree, not someone else’s. Classmates may be pursuing teaching-track positions while your goal may be a tenure-track research position. But because of all the teaching work they’re doing, you might feel the need to work on your teaching strategies, even though teaching doesn’t match up with your career goal.

Competition is Confusing

When graduate programs advertise an overly positive picture of cohort cohesion – students sometimes feel ashamed for experiencing feelings of competition, something that is a normal part of life. Competition sometimes resurrects insecurities among students—wondering if classmates are having greater accomplishments—leading to feelings of worthlessness, which can be exaggerated when graduate schools promote a “We are in this together” mindset.

Types of Competition

Little research has been done that focuses on the graduate level competitive atmosphere—but we all know it’s there. The underlying issue to when discussing academic competitiveness is the pressure grad students feel to succeed. The pressure to perform well in academia comes from many forms of internal and external sources (e.g., peer pressure, familial expectations, teacher expectations, or self-expectations). There are three types of competition:

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What No One Told Me about Graduate School

What No One Told Me about Graduate School

What I wish I knew

There are things no one will tell you about your first year of graduate school, and the Internet is full of postgraduate “advice” from former and current grad students warning people to stay out of graduate school. Some advice: If someone tells you what they wish they would have done or known before entering a graduate program, listen. There are a lot of problems you’re going to have to face in this adjustment period. Having watched others and gone through the process myself, I’m here to offer you my own two sense and help make the transition smoother.

Here's what no one will tell you about the next 2+ years of your life:

Grad school isn’t like undergrad. The atmosphere from undergrad to graduate school is a complete change of pace. As an undergraduate, you were most likely discovering yourself (such as your interests or political views). By the time you hit graduate school, most of the self-discovery has been found and all that’s left is the work. Graduate classes tend to be longer, smaller, and include much more self-paced work outside of the classroom. Remember, as a grad student, your academic future now depends on the success of your research.

SO MUCH READING. Everything is reading and as the work load increases, students suddenly find that they are expected to master 2-3 times the material that they were used to as undergraduates.  You may no longer have exams to study for, but you have pages and pages of reading every week. This can be intimidating, but don’t panic. Keep a large collection of highlighters and post-its handy and during this adjustment period you will be surprised at the extreme time management skills you will hone in order to get it all done on time.

Your classes will discuss those readings. Always read and take notes on your readings. You will be discussing these readings as a class (which counts towards participation).

There are no right answers. As you work towards your dissertation you’re exploring subjects that don’t necessary have a right or definitive way to address or answer them. The things you address as a grad student deal more with solving problems not yet resolved.

Grades are different in graduate school. It is time to think “differently” about grades. Grades were all important as an undergraduate, but as a grad student they become less significant. Don’t take this observations as to say that academic performance is not vital, however, be aware that time spent on coursework is time spent away from research.

You’ll need to be a self-starter. Unlike undergrads, advisors will not seek you out if a problem arises. Instead, you’ll need to track your own courses and find the people you need to speak with when issues arise. When it comes to research, you may work with a faculty member as an advisor, but when it comes to writing or conducting research, no one can push you in any one direction. You’ll need to be self-motivated.

Adapt or die. There is a large transition and adjustment period involved when relocating to a new city; leaving family and friends, and starting a new program all bring about significant personal change and adjustment. Allow yourself time to find your rhythm in graduate activities such as teaching and supervising students, as well as building new relationships and navigating within a new city and program.

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Your First Conference: Part 2

Your First Conference: Part 2


What should I bring to my presentation?

First, always double check your room location.  Sometimes room locations change or floor plans can be confusing, so try to physically visit the room if possible. Second, almost all rooms are set up with projectors and screens, but you will need to bring your own laptop if you want to utilize a visual presentation. If possible, test to make sure your computer works with the technology provided before your presentation. Third, you may want to bring hard copies of your paper or of key points that you wish to emphasize as part of your presentation to hand out upon request.

Prepare an “elevator speech.” You should have a short, roughly 30 second version of your speech explaining your research that can answer the “so what do you do?” question that you’ll get at the conference.

Send copies of your paper to your panel. This provides the discussants with what they need to give you feedback after the presentation. In turn, respondents should always provide you and the other presenters with written feedback as well as their presentation response. However, keep in mind that your paper should only be sent to the panel chair if the conference requires it.

Dress comfortably, but conservatively. Adhere to the formality of the conference when choosing your conference attire. The dress code for conferences are a little different than for a job interview or other events that require business professional attire; think business casual. Some great go-to options for anyone are:

  • Pants: Khaki or navy pants, neatly pressed are safe business casual for both men and women.
  • Shirt: Polo shirts, blouse, or a pressed long-sleeved, buttoned down shirt are an appropriate choice for this sort of environment.
  • Shoes: Be sure to wear shoes that are in good condition and comfortable. Athletic shoes and flip flops are not acceptable, and heels are uncomfortable during long periods of wear.

How do I get to know people?

Do not spend too much time alone. Mealtimes and snack breaks are a great time to network and meet scholars in your field. If there’s someone you’ve been trying to meet with, see if you can go with them to lunch. If you don’t know anyone, ask to join a group that’s headed to eat. Even if their topics of interest end up being outside of your research interests that can still be a good opportunity to practice your elevator speech, as well as a way to meet different people in your field. Additionally, there is sometimes a specific event for graduate students to meet, so plan to attend if there is one being held at your conference.

Read name tags. Pay attention to attendees in the audience, sitting next to you at lunch, or standing in the hall and consider approaching them. The best way to do this is by showing interest in them and their research instead of trying to sell yourself, make your conversations about them, not you.

Don’t be afraid to approach researchers. A good way to meet people, especially for graduate students/first time conference attendees, is through an introduction. Remember, every researcher was once a graduate student and know what it’s like. If you’ve read a researcher’s book or paper, it’s easy to start a conversation with them by saying that you’ve read their work, and sharing how you found it meaningful to your own research. If you want to get feedback on your research from them, don’t be afraid to ask.

Look for people who look like they don’t know anybody. Keep in mind that people at the conference are in the same situation as you. Look for people who look like they don’t know anyone either and introduce yourself. They are usually easy to spot and often first time conference attendees as well.



Answering audience questions and responding to comments is often the most anxious and dreadful part of the presentation, or even the entire conference. There can be many misconceptions among graduate students about panelists or audience members verbally attacking student presenters—in fact, it’s the opposite. Most conference attendees and researchers want to support graduate students, and often ask helpful questions and make positive remarks about their presentations. However, the best way to prepare is to practice and get feedback from advisors and other graduate students before attending the conference.

What do I do if someone asks me a question and I am uncertain of the answer?

Ask the questioner to restate the question in a different way or provide an example that illustrates what they are asking. This will give you a few moments to think of an answer and the questioner may be clearer in a restatement. Another option is to politely say that you are uncertain and suggest that another panel or audience member may have a good answer; and hopefully someone will be able to offer a good response. If not, the panel chair should interrupt and move the Q & A session forward.

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Your First Conference Part 1: What to Expect

Your First Conference Part 1:
What to Expect

Conferences are a great way for graduate students to learn about academia and expand their network. The conference environment is uniquely suited to providing a forum in which one can present original research and offer feedback, or debate among members of the same field. This is a great opportunity for graduate students to present their own research and gain some valuable feedback.

Below are some tips to help you prepare for your first conference presentation. Keep in mind, the best way to prepare is to check with the chair or respondents of the panel well in advance of the conference so that you can organize according to their suggestions.


How do I get accepted into the conference?

The conference website has all the information about the submission process for that specific event (as requirements may vary). Be sure to examine the registration form and the submission instructions so that you know what is expected of your proposal when you sit down to submit. Most importantly, you need a basic idea articulated clearly in an abstract with an appropriate title. Keep in mind the timeline between your submission and the conference date(s) to ensure that you can cover the points made in the abstract.

How should I decide which sections to submit my proposal?

Again, consult the conference website, there will usually be an invitation to submit that describes the year’s conference theme. Your abstract should reflect the conference theme. Although you likely have a general sense of which panel would best suit your paper based on your abstract topic, the sections listed will be more specific.

Should I volunteer to serve as a discussant or chair of a panel?

No. Neither of these roles are suitable for graduate students. Chairs must assert their authority to keep presentations to their allotted time, and discussants critique others’ work (neither of which a graduate student has nearly enough experience for). However, in rare cases, you may be contacted by a panel organizer to serve in one of these roles if you have particular expertise or to be a part of a discussion among other graduate students.


Can I get funding to attend the conference?

Consult your department about institutional funds available and relevant deadlines/eligibility requirements as early as possible each semester.  You can also look into academic societies (such as Phi Kappa Phi) or related groups at your school who will also help with transportation or lodging assistance.  However, some do require you becoming a member first.

Where should I stay during the conference?

An association can sometimes get the meeting space for free if enough attendees stay at the host hotel, so conferences usually encourage attendees to stay at the hotel where the conference is being held. However, if the conference has to pay for the meeting rooms, then the registration costs go up. For a graduate student on a limited budget, it makes financial sense to stay elsewhere. Keep in mind though, that planning ahead and finding some conference roommates can be a great way to bring costs down no matter where you stay.

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How to Write a Proposal: For a Master’s Thesis or Dissertation

How to Write a Proposal: For a Master’s Thesis or Dissertation

Note: Many thanks to fellow PhDStudent blogger Ryan Krone for his contributions and insight to this post.

Your thesis/dissertation proposal provides an overview to your committee of your plan of research; including the general scope of your project, research questions, methodology, and significance of your study. Most universities offer guidelines for their dissertation and theses requirements with information about how to set up and organize the document. Most dissertations are organized into four or five chapters. The proposal generally consists of the first three chapters because it is designed to justify and plan the project as well as explain how it contributes to existing research.

Understand and accept that the proposal will be a scrutinized document that will most likely be redrafted and resubmitted before approval. Think of the proposal as an introduction to your thesis, bridging the gap between existing work and your research. Remember that the proposal is not binding or meant to limit your ideas- you will likely modify and refine your scope, argument, and methods throughout the submission process.

Parts of a Proposal

Theses and dissertation proposals across different programs generally include some form of these sections:


At this stage in your proposal, you need only provide a working title. Don’t worry if you compose a lengthy title, the aim of a title is to convey the idea of your investigation. A good title should:

·         Familiarize the audience to the topic.

·         Indicate the type of study to be conducted.


If required (since some fields and universities do not require abstracts), the abstract should provide a brief (350 words for Dissertation, 200 words for Thesis) overview of the proposal that gives the reader a basic understanding of your proposal. The abstract should summarize your introduction, statement of the problem, background of the study, research questions or hypotheses, as well as methods and procedures.


Your introduction should put your project in conversation with other similar projects and provide necessary background information that establishes the purpose of your study. A good introduction establishes the general territory in which the research is placed and includes some references to existing literature (which will then be looked at in a later section called the Literature Review).

Statement of the Problem

This section may be incorporated into your introduction or stand independently (ask your advisor for the most appropriate format). Regardless of placement, you need to clearly identify the problem or knowledge gap that your project is responding to. To do so, be sure to limit the variables you address while stating the problem.

Purpose/Research Questions

Like the “Statement of the Problem,” this section can be included as part of the introduction or it can be separate. The statement of purpose/research objectives involves a description of the question(s) the research seeks to answer or the hypotheses the research seeks to advance. Once you begin your research, you may find that your questions or hypotheses may change- so don’t stress. What is important for you at this point is to specify your study’s focus and concisely explain the goals and research objectives. When doing this, however, remember to show how your approach will be different from the previous research and add to the field of knowledge.

Review of Literature

The literature review is a critical look at the existing research that identifies potential gaps in knowledge and is significant to the research you are proposing to carry out. Here, you need to be able to identify the key texts which contribute to your thesis or dissertation. Literature reviews often include both the theoretical and empirical approaches in order to effectively demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and the appropriate approaches to studying it.

Tips on drafting your Literature Review:

·         Categorize the literature into trends/themes and begin each with an appropriate subheading, then synthesize related information. Remember to:

o   stake out the various positions that are relevant to your project

o   build on conclusions

o   point out the places where the literature is lacking or flawed

·         Avoid defenses, praise, and blame. Your task is to justify your project given the existing knowledge.

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Should you work towards a Master’s or Doctoral degree? Which is right for you?

Should you work towards a Master’s or Doctoral degree? Which is right for you?

If you are considering going to graduate school, you are probably wondering which degree to get. The choice should not be too difficult once you understand the differences among the two types: doctorate and masters. Graduate school is a lot of work and can be very competitive. Many students who floated through undergraduate work are surprised to find that graduate school requires a much larger commitment. Students who are taking a full course load as well as teaching or working other jobs often find themselves overwhelmed. The difference between college and graduate school lies in the ability of the student to focus on their field and areas of most interest.

When considering the advantages of each, remember that both will give you in-depth training in a specialized field and the usefulness of each degree depends on your academic and career interests/goals. However, the higher the degree, the longer it takes to earn and the more specialized the focus becomes. For that reason, here are some things to consider.

What is a Doctoral Degree?

The most common doctorate, and main focus of this post, is the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Obtaining a Ph.D. degree means you have exclusive specialty in your field of choice. Bear in mind that one of the very important aspects of getting a Ph.D. consists in the ideal of creating knowledge. Ph.D. work requires original research that contributes new information. In order to earn your Ph.D., you will be required to pass comprehensive exams and a dissertation. What many students don’t know is that they can apply for a Ph.D. program directly after completing a bachelor’s degree, although some schools do require a master’s degree before entering a Ph.D. program.

Purpose and Uses of a Doctorate

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Tips on How to Stay Focused: Improve Your Concentration

Tips on How to Stay Focused: Improve Your Concentration

How many times have you sat and tried to focus on a project or assignment, only to find your mind wandering? Despite your best efforts, you just can't concentrate. We've all been in this familiar, frustrating situation. Many students complain about their lack of ability to focus and concentrate as their minds race from one thing to another as their thoughts run all over the place. The trick is to use the right strategies to help improve your concentration skills and apply them to your studies. Don’t panic or be overly discouraged, almost everyone has the ability to concentrate.

We’ve all had days where we can’t seem to focus. For some of us, those days are more common than we’d like, but you don’t have to go to extremes. Here are some easy tips to help increase your productivity:

Getting Started

Environment is everything. Dedicate a space for completing work and other assignments; whether it’s the library, your room, or a friend’s home, it is essential to have a place that will enhance your concentration, not impede it. Keep this study area a distraction free zone- this means no TV, video games, or phones anywhere near this space. Consider stocking this space with all of the things you will need to complete your tasks, so that you don’t break your concentration by getting up to retrieve supplies. Some other tips include:

  • Calming music
  • Draw up a study timetable in correlation with energy levels at different times of the day
  • Divide your work into sections

Having a million things to do can create a major focus problem for anyone. If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of projects and assignments, extracurricular activities, and social obligations you have, it can be difficult to clear your head long enough to concentrate on any one task. This is why prioritizing is imperative. Determine the most important responsibilities and forget the rest. The less you have to do, the more you’ll be able to focus on the things that matter.

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How to Find Free Money for Graduate School: Part 4

How to Find Free Money for Graduate School: Part 4

The best kind of financial aid is money you don't have to pay back, such as scholarships, fellowships, and grants. Grants for graduate students can be the difference between earning an advanced degree and ending at the bachelor’s level. But while scholarships are often merit-based, grants are more likely to be need-based. There are many grants available if you know where to look. The following includes a basic overview of the types of grants available.

Career Specific

There has been an increase in career-specific grants, funding given to students focusing on a specific career goal. If you are undecided, or open to any major, consider pursuing a profession in high-demand fields. These high-demand areas of study include foreign language, special education, math, and science. If your career objectives include a specialized role, or advanced position, you might find grant funding that specifically supports your goals.

       For example, the TEACH Grant is a non-need based grant awarded to students completing a master’s degree in specific education disciplines.


Another good source for funding is college-specific grants. Your search for funding should include schools that specialize in the field you are interested in. Many colleges have grant funds set up by specific departments or by the alumni, which can be used towards opportunities that will give you valuable experience and enhance your professional credentials—such as internships, academic research, and other career advancement activities.

Opportunities are widespread and highly individualized by the universities that offer them, so it is up to you to uncover what opportunities your school gives graduate students. Financial aid professionals and program administrators can also provide valuable insight into available aid. Here are a few examples from well-known colleges:

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Part 3 of How to Pick Your Defense Committee

Part 3 of How to Pick Your Defense Committee

What strategies can a doctoral student employ to maneuver the trials and tribulations of a dissertation committee?

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Part 2 of How to Pick Your Defense Committee

Part 2 of How to Pick Your Defense Committee

Choosing a committee can be a daunting task for a doctoral student.  We’ve already covered two strategies that can help you through this process. 

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