Tag Archives: graduation

Year-by-Year Self-Care for Graduate Students: Part 4 of 4

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment of a four-part series written by doctoral student David Jeffries. View part 1, dedicated to the first-year graduate school experience, part 2, dedicated to the second year, and part 3, dedicated to the third year.

mortarboardStart your fourth year in the summer.

The summer between your third and fourth year is a good time to assess where you are in accordance with the trusty handbook you took the time to read and get to know in the earlier years of your graduate program (see part one). By this point it is likely that you are approaching a period where you may advance to candidacy (!) so checking in with program expectations can be a good idea throughout this year.

During the summer between your third and fourth year, talk through concerns around your graduation timetable and your funding with your advisor. Regardless of what relationship you have with your advisor, by this point in your graduate work you undoubtedly have been communicating with faculty. Continue to do so in a way that serves your programmatic interests and highlights your accomplishments. By having these conversations with faculty, and reviewing what is left for you to tackle before your fourth year starts, you can re-establish a commitment to your doctoral program, while also recommitting to a sense of self-preservation and self-care by looking out for new opportunities.

To recap, in your rising fourth-year summer, look towards your dissertation, look into funding for future years, and consider your timetable.

As you become a more seasoned graduate student, you'll know when to step away from your work. (Source: "Studies" by Flickr user lindztrom. Some rights reserved.)

As you become a more seasoned graduate student, you’ll know when and how to step away from your work. (Source: “Studies” by Flickr user lindztrom. Some rights reserved.)

Treat graduate school like a job.

By the time you begin your fourth year it is likely that the majority of your coursework is behind you. This likens you more to that of a professional with a 9-to-5 schedule. To that end, care for yourself by beginning to increasingly treat graduate school like a job. This means you can make it your priority to set up times when you do work, and times when you absolutely do not work. In earlier years your schedule may fluctuate too much or rely on late hours of studying, but with most of your coursework out of the way, it is time to recommit yourself to setting limits.

With most of your coursework out of the way, it is time to recommit yourself to setting limits.

When you go into your lab or office at the start of a day, have a plan. In realizing that plan, take purposeful breaks and work efficiently. Once the evening comes around, however, give yourself permission to leave your work at work. Go home or go out, but either way do not convince yourself that you can or should be working all the time.

More seasoned graduate students often confess that doctoral programs become easier once they become more comfortable with the truth of always having a to-do list that never really gets done. The key is, that is totally okay. Like someone with a 40-week job, graduate students will always have more than 40 hours worth of work to do. So do what you can, when you can, but do not lose sight that this is a choice you’ve made in pursuit of your own future happiness.

If working too hard causes your doctoral program to become a source of consistent discontent, it is important to be able to reflect on what you can change in the service of being happier. Always commit to things that are in your best interest, and leave your work at work!

What rights can psychology graduate students expect no matter where or what they study? (Image source: Julia Manzerova on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

Graduate Students Have Rights. APAGS Just Spelled Them Out.

What rights should psychology graduate students expect no matter where or what they study? (Image source: Julia Manzerova on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

What rights should psychology graduate students expect no matter where or what they study? (Image source: Julia Manzerova on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a graduate student in psychology discuss aspects of their training or education that seemed inequitable, I could pay back all my loans.

Too often in graduate school, students come across situations in which they believe their rights have been infringed upon in some way. When this occurs, many students feel at a loss for how to advocate for themselves and what they can or should be able to reasonably advocate for. The result for many students is dissatisfaction, frustration, and occasionally leaving a training program or experience.

The APAGS Committee has honed in on this student concern over the past year and opted to move forward with creating a student “bill of rights.” This was a very detailed process that included a literature review of various student right documents from across the world, drafting lists of rights based on this literature and our own experiences, and completing many revisions with input from APAGS leaders and many outside resources.

At long last, the APAGS Committee voted in December to approve a document titled, “Position Statement on the Rights of Psychology Graduate Students.” The Committee is planning to distribute these rights across various platforms and to a variety of constituents. The Committee is even considering bringing the document to APA’s Council of Representatives for consideration as an official policy document! That’s a huge step, and we will keep you posted.

In the meantime, we hope that students, programs, and other interested parties can use this document to their benefit. Use it to advocate for your own rights and thereby create a program or training experience of the highest caliber. If you have other ideas and reactions, we would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!

Here now is the text of our position statement, which is also available on our website.

Position Statement on the Rights of Psychology Graduate Students


The American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) deems the rights described in this document to be indispensable to the fair, equitable and respectful treatment of every psychology graduate student throughout their education and training. The protection of these rights fosters the highest quality graduate training experience. APAGS considers these rights essential, not aspirational, and we urge graduate programs to implement these rights in their unique settings and training environments. We encourage current and prospective students to utilize these rights in making informed graduate program selections and in advocating for themselves as issues arise.

1. Institutional Environment

1.1 Right to respectful treatment by faculty members, colleagues, staff, and peers.

1.2 Right to have professional and personal information handled in a sensitive and respectful manner such that personal information is only disclosed when it is deemed necessary for educational or training purposes, and that students are informed prior to any such disclosure (See Ethical Standard 7.04).

1.3 Right to affordable insurance inclusive of health, vision, dental, and mental health care coverage.

2. Program Policies

2.1 Right to publicly available, accurate, and up-to-date descriptions of costs, the availability of financial support, and the likelihood of ongoing support throughout training (e.g., percent of students with full and partial financial support during year one, year two, etc.; available funding options), to be provided prior to or immediately following the program’s interviews for prospective students (See Ethical Standard 7.02).

2.2 Right to accurate and up-to-date information from research advisors and thesis/dissertation committee members on professional factors that could impact student training, career development, and timely program completion.

2.3 Right to access and exercise formal written policies regarding leave and accommodations as they pertain to pregnancy, parenting/caregiving, bereavement, medical or mental illness, and disability.

2.4 Right to access and exercise formal written policies and procedures regarding academic and placement/internship requirements, administrative procedures, evaluation, advisement, retention, average “time to degree,” and termination (See Ethical Standard 7.02).

2.5 Right to express opinions and have representation on campus committees relevant to professional development, with voting privileges where appropriate.

2.6 Right to exemption from new graduation or program requirements, developed after admission, that might result in a delay of graduation.

3. Professional and Educational Training Opportunities

3.1 Right to appropriate professional training (e.g., teaching, research, clinical practice) in the current standards and practices of the discipline and specialty area (See Ethical Standard 7.01).

3.2 Right to be evaluated by faculty consistent with current ethical practices in employment, progression through the program, and grading, solely on the basis of academic performance, professional qualifications, and/or conduct (See Ethical Standard 7.06).

3.3 Right to quality mentorship.

3.4 Right to change advisors and committee members for professional and personal needs.

3.5 Right to receive timely, ongoing feedback on all areas of trainee competency and the opportunity to address growth areas with support from faculty.

3.6 Right to co-authorship in publications when the student has made significant contributions of ideas or research work (See Ethical Standards 8.11 and 8.12 a-c).

3.7 Right to freely communicate and collaborate with other academic colleagues.

3.8 Right to lead, assemble, and participate in organizations and activities outside the academic program.

3.9 Right to engage in self care as a routine practice throughout training (See Ethical Standards 3.05 and 3.06).

4. Work Environment

4.1 Right to fair compensation for services provided during training (e.g., graduate, teaching, and research assistantships).

4.2 Right for students providing services during training (e.g., teaching, research, clinical, and administrative graduate assistantships) to enjoy the recognitions, rights, privileges, and protections afforded to employees under state, provincial, territorial, and national labor laws.

4.3 Right to study and work in an environment free of exploitation, intimidation, harassment, or discrimination based on one’s student status, race, ethnicity, skin color, national origin, religion, political beliefs, economic status, age, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy or parental status, disability, medical or mental health conditions, ancestry, citizenship, military veteran status, or any other identity salient to the individual in admissions and throughout education, employment, and placement (See Principle E and Ethical Standards 3.01, 3.02, 3.03, 3.08).

4.4 Right to work under clearly expressed and mutually agreed-upon job descriptions and work or training conditions.

4.5 Right to perform only those tasks that relate to academic program requirements, professional development, and/or job duties.

4.6 Right to provide constructive and professional feedback to supervisors, directors, administrators, and staff concerning the quality and content of supervision

5. Appeals and Grievances

5.1 Right to clearly defined official grievance procedures and informal complaint procedures.

5.2 Right to whistleblower protection for exposing professional, ethical, or legal violations (See Ethical Standard 1.08).

5.3 Right to due process for any accusation of violation or infraction.

5.4 Right to be free of reprisals for exercising the rights contained in this document (See Ethical Standard 1.08).

Repost: I thought there would be a parade…Life after doctoral study

From PSYCH LEARNING CURVE – Where Psychology and Education Connect, a new blog by the APA Education Directorate.

January 25, 2016 * by Daniel Michalski, PhD

After nearly five years of hard work, frustration, setbacks, and anxiety, I completed the final requirement to earning my PhD by defending my dissertation in July 2014. The moment I had been simultaneously anticipating and dreading played out in less than an hour as I confidently presented my research and addressed questions from my committee and the attendees. Beyond the obvious realization that the journey was over, I was struck by how solitary the experience truly was at that moment; what had consumed my life for several years transpired while life went on for others and my achievement was mine alone. I suppose I thought that life would pause for everyone and there would be a parade in my honor. Unfortunately, there was no parade (not even balloons) and I was now faced with moving on and identifying new opportunities and learning experiences.

For me, the primary attraction of pursuing a doctoral degree in psychology was its versatility and utility in work settings outside of academe. In 2009, approximately one in five recent psychology doctoral recipients was working in a non-academic or non-direct human service position. As one of those individuals neither pursuing an academic job nor a career requiring postdoctoral training for licensure, there was an abruptness to the end of graduate study and entry to the professional world inspired anxiety demanding the development of skills to manage the transition. With fewer  psychology tenure-track positions available and growing breadth of options for non-academic careers, my story and experience is one most likely shared by other recent psychology doctorate recipients.

Continue reading to find out Dr. Michalski’s top 5 recommendations for transition from doctoral study to career.

One year out: Life after the diploma

While I love seeing graduation pictures of friends and colleagues on Facebook, it makes me think what a sudden change life brings after the celebration wears off. It seemed like one day I was knee-deep in dissertation data, and the next day I was hanging my new diploma on the wall of my new job here at APA. The transition from graduate student to early career psychologist (ECP) is fast, and sometimes furious.  I asked three graduates from one year ago how they navigated life after the diploma.

Meet the grads:

  • Rachel Becker Herbst is a 2013 graduate of the Counseling Psychology PhD program at the University of Miami and a postdoctoral fellow in Pediatric Primary Care at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
  • Amanda Kraha is a 2013 graduate of the PhD program in Experimental Psychology from the University of North Texas and will be a lecturer at Indiana University East this fall.
  • Steven Kniffley is a 2013 graduate of the PsyD program in Clinical Psychology from Spalding University School of Professional Psychology and a Child and Adolescent Acute Services Psychology fellow at Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School. He will be an assistant professor in Wright State University’s School of Professional Psychology this fall.

What has surprised you thus far about being on the other side of the doctorate?

Rachel Becker Graduation

Rachel Becker Herbst and her advisor, Dr. Etiony Aldarondo.

Rachel: Life catches up with you! Relationships, finances, and life decisions once in deferral re-activate, bringing relief that you can devote time to them, but they require more effort than you anticipated.

Amanda: Ageism is definitely something that has surprised me. I’ve actually had staff try to kick me out of my classroom (during a class, unfortunately) because they assumed I was a student. I was told to expect resistance from students due to my age, but that just hasn’t been the case—overwhelmingly it has come from staff and fellow faculty.

Steven: The aspect of graduation that I have found most
challenging is the transition from a trainee identity to a professional  identity. Inherent in the student identity is an expectation of evaluation,  deferment of final decisions to a supervisor, committee, or program, and a learning focus rather than a doing focus. Within a professional identity, the evaluative component includes a fluid self-directed evaluation; the idea that one is fit to do the work of psychology independently.

What advice can you pass on?


Amanda Kraha.

Amanda: I’d have to say get away from the “graduate student” mentality as soon as possible. If you start acting like faculty, you will start thinking like them. This transition will make both phone and campus interviews much easier.

Rachel: Network with other ECPs (early career psychologists) and lean upon mentors to learn how to navigate your post-graduate life. Learn strategies for loan repayment and EPPP studying, strive toward work-life balance, and navigate your newfound identify. Use your post-doc year to solidify your professional and personal identity, goals, and desires. Finally, ask questions. Many professionals have taken creative routes to their current positions. They are typically open to using their own experiences to share life lessons and struggles.

steven graduation

Steven Kniffley.

Steven: I have had to come to terms with the idea that I bring to the table a valuable skill set that should be compensated appropriately.

Have a diploma yourself, dear readers? Leave your thoughts and advice in the comments!