5 Questions I Asked Myself Before Committing to a Doctorate Program

CSU Chico Kendall Hall

Last year, I turned 31 and realized I wasn’t exactly where I thought I’d be. I didn’t have the life I wanted. I was living paycheck to paycheck. No house, no real investments or savings. I had finished writing three novels, but felt like they were crap. So what did I do? I applied to two online doctorate programs in education (EdD) to “give myself more opportunities”. I got accepted to both of them, and I turned them both down.

So why did I turn down these programs after so much thought, time and effort had been put into them?  

The decision to turn them down was not an easy one. But to tell you the truth it wasn’t a hard one either.  

There was about a month and half between the time I submitted my grad school applications and the time I heard back from them.  That time gave me the opportunity to really consider whether or not a doctorate program was the right path for me.  It also gave me the opportunity to step away from the high of my “brilliant” idea of going back to school so that I was able to think more clearly. 

When it came time to make the decision, I was procedural and honest.  I asked myself five questions to help me decide whether or not a doctorate program was the way to go.


Question #1: Is this what I really want?  Really.  

This was the hardest question to answer because I did want to go back to grad school, so I had to dig deeper and ask myself: Did I want this more than anything else?  And the answer to that question was no.  I didn’t want it more than (1) finishing my fourth book, (2) paying off my debt, (3) being BFFs with JK Rowling, and (4) starting a family.  I know, I have JK Rowling before starting my family.  Don’t judge.  


Question #2: How will this help advance me professionally and do I really want to go there?

Getting an EdD would’ve set me up to advance to administrative positions where I’d manage staff, handle budgets, and be swamped with meetings and paperwork, therefore, taking time away from my creativity.  So the answer was no.  I didn’t want to go there.  (That was easy.)


Question #3: Can I afford this?

Heck no.  I was still paying off my $20,000 loan from a master’s program in my mid-twenties, and I didn’t have any money saved up, so going into a doctorate program would’ve added more to my loans.  


Question #4: Can I get this same education doing something else?

Yes.  I can get this doctorate level education through reading books and working and learning the old fashion way.  Like an apprentice.  I’d have no degree to show for it, but I would have experience and I would have all my projects, and honestly, I’m a huge believer that there is no teacher like experience.


Question #5: Why am I really doing this?  Be honest here.

When I was honest with myself, I realized that I wanted to go back to grad school because I wanted to feel accomplished.  I was starting to feel like I had hit a standstill and I needed a boost, so I was going to get myself into further debt to have three letters to put after my name, so I that could feel accomplished.  When I realized that, it solidified my decision not to go back to grad school.


So there you go.  These five questions really helped me make my decision about whether or not to go back to grad school.  It’s tough to say no to a doctorate program, but I feel like I made the right decision, and I hope you do, too.  


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