Preparing for Success

by | April 1, 2010

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell

How much do we acknowledge to ourselves that success on our PhD journey results from preparation and learning from failure? Hard work, yes, I think that most of us expect to work hard in a PhD program. But preparation and failure?

When I started my PhD program I thought that having a prior degree in the same field had prepared me to start my PhD program successfully. In my first semester I discovered that I was unprepared for the advanced level of critical thinking, discussion, and reading of scholarly literature expected of doctoral students. I had to learn how to go beyond what I was reading in my courses about subjects and be able to place them in scholarly context. To prepare for success in my PhD journey meant learning all I could outside of my required readings, delving into professional journals to familiarize myself with scholarly debates. Preparation meant changing my reading habits and acclimatizing myself to the academic world. Preparation helped me be more successful in courses, pass my comprehensive exam, and move into dissertation research.

And failure? Oh yes, I nearly failed one of my first semester courses. Recovering from the blow, I learned more was expected of me than I first thought. I picked myself up and started asking more questions of my faculty and colleagues, getting the guidance I needed to be successful. I immersed myself in professional journals and library resources to see what all the fuss was about. Indeed, I found that the more I read, the more I made connections and started to see all that my academic field had to offer, and I found it fascinating!

Ask yourself how you are preparing for success in your doctoral program. Ask an academic advisor for help preparing to be successful. What steps are you taking to make the connections you need to the scholarly literature in your field? How are you learning from failure?

6 Responses to "Preparing for Success"

  1. Patricia A. Armstrong says:

    Hi Lian,

    Thank you for your comments. I can relate to what you are saying. I will remember your words when I am feeling overly confident. As a new student this perspective gives me a new mindset. Once I have read something that I feel I already know, instead of dwelling on that, I will ask myself what don’t I know about it and seek more information. Thanks for the scenario.

  2. Lian Partlow says:

    Hi Patricia,

    I am glad that my comments struck a chord with you. I feel strongly that the doctoral journey is one of reflection and growth that takes place both within the courseroom and within ourselves. We nurture the scholar within us by learning from failure and accepting challenges.

  3. Annette says:

    Hi Lian:

    Yes, the doctoral journey is quite rigorous as experienced it. I had never gone through such a difficult challenge before. I enjoyed working with my mentor and committee members. However, what I think is very critical is having a support network. My support group was able to pull each other up when the going got tough. I found perseverance is very important as well to get through the program. I have to admit that Capella has more tools to help a learner face the challenges.

  4. Margie Jones Dudley says:

    Hi Lian

    Your information meant so much to me. I am a new learner to the on line education.


  5. Sherry Pearson says:

    I find the information to be very informative and I am beginning to realize the importance of using my resources more. When I first begun my courses I had the concept that I could do more at the last minute and still be clear, concise and analyze. No. Now, I see and do understand that I can call my professors and ask my adviser for help and they will assist me. My goal is to use my online guides more, use more time management and ask questions ahead of time and not wait until the last minute.


  6. Denise Fuller says:

    Hello Lian

    It is the morning of the colloquium and I am so frustrated and so far behind. The only thing I want to do is call Capella and drop out. I had no idea I would feel like a failure. After getting my master degree I was supposed to be ready. I will be using all resources. Thank you so much