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GSCBlogPic Aug 19, 2019

A Day in the Life of a Doctoral Student

It’s back-to-school season! Now that I am on the other side of my doctoral education since graduating with my PhD this past May, I wanted to reflect back to where I was before starting the Counselor Education program at Virginia Tech. After I was accepted into the program in March 2016, I remember contacting current students to ask them what a “typical day” as a student looked like. Many of them told me there was no typical day and that each day looked different. Now that I have graduated, I can say wholeheartedly that they were so right! Each day of this three-year process was different from the next. As I move into this new phase of my life as a counselor educator, I’d like to *try* to give you a snapshot into one day in the life of a doctoral student. This certainly isn’t a snapshot into everyone’s day, but I think you’ll see the delicate balance of work, personal life, and self-care that is echoed in most graduate students’ daily experiences. 

6:00 AM-7:30 AM- Wake up and exercise. If I don’t hit snooze once or twice, I can probably squeeze in a 3-4 mile run. Making it to the gym can be tough, so I also worked out at home. Such an important part of my self-care and a great way to start my day!

7:30 AM-9:00 AM- Breakfast and shower. Gotta get ready to seize the day and that starts with my favorite meal- breakfast. If there is extra time, I might read the news or respond to emails.

9:00 AM-12:00 PM- Assistantship/Internship. Depending on the day, I would head to either my graduate assistantship working in our Assessment and Evaluation office or to my Internship (clinical, teaching, or research). 

12:00-1:00 PM- Lunch break. I really tried to make it a break, despite my nasty habit of working while eating at my desk. This was definitely the time for me to take a walk outside. It’s important to not be in an office all day. It was also my time to transition to my afternoon tasks. Rarely did I stay at my assistantship or internship all day. 

1:00-4:00 PM- Time for class! This might be a research class (one of my areas of focus), a human development course (another area of focus), or a counselor education course. 

4:00-7:00 PM- Schoolwork/dissertation. In addition to working on my dissertation, I was also taking an advanced statistics course. It was a balance between completing my work for that course in addition to writing for dissertation. I would often split these hours in half to accomplish both (and wake up early to finalize anything additional I might want to do--thank goodness I’m a morning person!).

7:00 PM-8:00 PM- Dinner. As a doctoral student, I found quickly that meal-planning was essential for me and allowed me to have more time to enjoy my meal rather than cooking each night. Often, I would choose to go outside and eat dinner on my deck. This helped to break up the routine of work, get me away from my desk, and enjoy some fresh air. 

8:00 PM-10:00 PM- Maybe sneaking in a little bit more work, but absolutely sneaking in some self-care. Maybe Gilmore Girls? Maybe a bubble bath? Maybe some pleasure reading? Maybe a little bit of all 3? But absolutely something was necessary for me to reboot after a long day and prepare for the next.

10:00 PM- SLEEP! In a perfect world, this is my target bedtime. 

Of course, this is all an ideal schedule and day-in-the-life. As a structured person, I tried to stick to it so that I could balance all of my needs. I quickly learned the importance of self-compassion and self-care (especially during dissertation). Juggling the many spinning plates and wearing your many hats as a doctoral student are all possible endeavors! If you’re considering doctoral studies or need a little extra support, reach out to the ACA Graduate Student Committee. We’re here for you! 

    Contributing Author

Ariann Robino is an Assistant Professor at Nova Southeastern University. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Louisiana and a Board-Certified Counselor. She is the ACA Graduate Student Committee Co-Chair. Her research interests include the human-animal bond, animal-assisted interventions, addiction, criminal justice, and human development.



Graduate Student and New Professional Blog
We are all taking 12-15 credit hours per semester, participating in research opportunities, managing work schedules, maintaining a social/family life, or we just transitioned into our New Professional role and have no idea what we are doing! ACA’s Graduate Student and New Professional Blog offers real life vignettes of life, academics, and how to keep yourself afloat despite your crazy schedule. Any suggestions for what you would like to hear more about, please email the Graduate Student Committee.

Columns can be reprinted in full or in part with attribution to the American Counseling Association’s Graduate Student and New Professional Blog.

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