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Posts tagged ‘characteristics of doctoral students’

5 Tips from Academic Advisors on Achieving Academic Success

At Northcentral University, the role of our Academic Advisors is not just administrative. Our advisors strive to be supportive and encouraging of our students, advocating for their success.  NCU’s Academic Advisors direct students to academic resources and especially in the online environment, act as consistent point of contact to help students navigate the University’s policies, procedures and various departments.

After many years of being privy to how students learn best, what works, and what holds them back, our Academic Advisors now present the Top 5 Tips that successful students use to complete their programs successfully:

Time Management: Students often report their biggest struggle is making time for school work. Balancing academic obligations with family, work and professional obligations can be difficult. If adequate time is not set aside for assignment completion, students can fall behind quickly. Managing time effectively is one way to show your commitment to the program and honor your professional goals.

Utilization of Resources: Many of our most successful students understand the importance of seeking a variety of diverse perspectives. Taking advantage of tutoring, peer and instructor feedback, and APA and library resources will ensure students are up-to-date on requirements, and ultimately make them more confident about their work. For doctoral students this is especially important because of the nature of the dissertation phase where there is much more back and forth between editing and revision.  The ability to incorporate feedback and synthesize information and insight from a wide variety of sources is something that successful students take the time to learn and do well.

Proactive Communication: Successful students communicate proactively and seek assistance as early as possible when experiencing difficulty with the academic process.  They do not wait very long for a response before reaching out in another way or seeking confirmation that an initial communication has been received. Academic Advisors and your instructors should be informed if extenuating circumstances are preventing you from submitting assignments in a timely manner. In this way, successful students work to resolve problems while they are manageable and before problems begin to snowball.

Professional Application:  Successful students often have a professional context in which to apply their learning that works to their advantage. Students who are passionate about their subject and who concentrate on networking and building a professional name for themselves while still in school will feel even more confident when approaching graduation and professional application.  At the same time, professional networking and experience in the real world application of a course of study facilitates a student’s ability to complete high quality coursework.  Successful students look early and often toward their ultimate professional goals and how the topics they research or the concepts they study will enhance their understanding and assist them in their professional life.

Confidence: Advocating for oneself can portray a student in a positive and confident way.  Our most successful students are able to communicate succinctly and considerately when defending their theories, coursework and desire to fully understand feedback or policy.  It is not uncommon for advisors to hear a student express concern that being assertive to self-advocate might lead to negative repercussions.  In fact, the result is just the opposite when critique and questioning of rationale is articulated respectfully and with a confidence to acknowledge any misunderstanding.

The Most Important Trait a Doctoral Student Needs to Have

If you are a doctoral student, you know what a rigorous journey earning your doctorate can be.

Doctoral degree programs are a very different world from undergraduate and master’s degree programs, and require different skills in order to be successful. With each milestone, you are challenged in new ways as you work to create information that informs your discipline while maintaining high levels of academic thought and scholarly writing.

The hard truth is that only about 50 percent of students who enroll in any doctoral program actually finish their degrees. Some get stuck on the comprehensive exam (COMPS); others struggle with identifying a gap in research or filling that gap during the dissertation process. So how do people get through it? When some crash and burn or simply stop swimming, what is it about others that enables them rise above and live to synthesize another day?

To answer these questions, we turned to some of Northcentral University’s best and brightest minds. If you didn’t already know, all of NCU’s faculty members hold doctoral degrees. They’ve been in the doctoral race and they know what it takes to finish. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Honestly, two of the most important characteristics a successful doctoral candidate needs to have are tenacity and flexibility. In a doctoral program, you must select and complete a long-term research agenda. This means you have to learn how to do research and all that entails, including working closely with your chair, communicating results, finding your way around obstacles, dealing with some anxiety, and sometimes navigating academic politics. The hard truth is that a dissertation usually takes a few years to complete and often requires candidates to work through problems that arise, change their plans, and stick with it when things get tough. If you are not tenacious about working on the dissertation and overcoming unexpected challenges and obstacles, or flexible when it comes to making changes that are designed to increase the academic quality of your dissertation, you won’t finish.”      

Dr. Greg Bradley, Dean, The Graduate School

One needs to be driven, relentless, tenacious, and have a passion for research. Research should be viewed as necessary vs. a necessary evil to get a PhD for the sake of getting a PhD. If you don’t like research, then you will not enjoy the journey.”  

Dr. Greg Hickman, Full-Time Dissertation Chair

“I believe the most important trait is humility. Simply put—the ability to accept criticism and then learn and grow from it.”  

Dr. Heather Frederick, Vice President of Academic Affairs

No matter where you are in your doctoral journey, you’ve probably already faced a challenge or two. But remember, if earning a doctorate was easy—everyone would have one! Your level of responsibility and accountability will only continue to increase throughout your career, and the dissertation process is your opportunity to begin that transition to scholarly independence.

In your experience, what trait has been or was the most important for you during your doctoral journey? Share with your fellow candidates, alumni and prospective doctoral students in the comments section! 

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