The Challenges and Rewards of Getting a PhD
By Maurice France (12th Grader)
As a senior at Health and Science School and am currently diving into the deep abyss in what is commonly known as college. I’m still learning about all the different components of college and looking into different schools and options of what seems to feel like a million different majors and types of degrees.
For a student, especially one about to go to college, you hear a lot about what an associates, bachelors, and masters degree is. I don’t know a lot about PhD’s and the amount of work that goes into getting one. I wanted to get more information, so I went to the best person I know to ask: My writing teacher, Mrs. Wenger, who is currently getting her doctorate. She will soon complete the process of getting her PhD in December. I thought she would be the best person to interview because she is very honest and will not sugar-coat any of processes, hard work, or rigorous steps it takes to become a PhD student.
Mrs. Wenger was accepted into the School of Education at the University of Missouri. She is getting an interdisciplinary degree meaning that she is focusing on more than one subject. When you become a PhD student, you have to write a dissertation, a book or long essay on a specific study relating to the subject of your school. So, in Mrs. Wenger’s case, the school of education. Mrs. Wenger’s dissertation is on why teachers have their students read certain books and why?
All of this sounds like a lot of work. The next thing I wanted to know was how long it would take to complete the whole process of getting a PhD, start to finish. I found that a PhD can take up to 10 years. Mrs. Wenger has been working on hers for five years and is almost done, so they can take a shorter amount of time. It made me so curious to know what kept her going. How did she stay motivated to work on one project for so long?
I found that a lot of what kept her going is self-motivation and internal drive. She also likes being a student and is good at it, which is something she repeated multiple times within this interview!
Next I wanted to know if being a researcher has changed her as a teacher or as a person.
“Absolutely! As a teacher and as a person. Now I have research to backup what I’m teaching in class. It also makes me set aside time in my life for certain things. Being a PhD student has made me a much better writer and thinker and has changed my goals. Academic writing is a strength for me and had helped me move into professional writing.”
The most important takeaway was the advice for hopefully future PhD students.
“Wait to have children. And don’t do it [get a PhD] to make more money, that’s not going to work. You need to be intrinsically motivated to do it. You need to have a lot of self-motivation. It’s not easy, pace yourself! That’s the only way you’re going to get it done. It’s important to choose a thoughtful and diverse committee, diversity pertaining to what that professor is interested in. Choose people who are interested in what you’re researching.
I wanted to know if she would do it all over again.
“Absolutely! I’m really good at being a student, I knew I wanted to go into higher education since high school. I thought getting a PhD would be a repeat of getting my masters, but it was completely different. As a PhD student you will learn how to publish works and how to be on committees. “Now that I’m done I can do professional writing. It’s high pressure, but pressure is motivating.”
Talking to Mrs. Wenger about the challenges and rewards of getting a PhD has helped me realize that getting a PhD is all about motivation and how hard you’re willing to work to succeed. The possibility of going into higher education makes me excited about the next chapter in my life.
Maurice France is currently a senior at Health and Science School. He plans on going to college to major in a business field. In his free time, Maurice interns at the Oregon Zoo as a Zooteen.