Program Insights

Earning Your EdD: Our Top 12 FAQs

By Alisa Bates, PhD August 9, 2018

If you’re interested in pursuing your EdD or are already enrolled, you may be curious (or nervous) about the dissertation process, or other aspects of Concordia’s program. To give you clarity, advice, or that boost of inspiration you’re looking for, we asked our EdD students and alums your top twelve frequently asked questions. Read on to find out what our knowledgeable Cavaliers had to say.

1. How have you organized your time and managed assignments?

“Do not get off of the train until you defend” was the direct quote from one of my first-year writing professors in the EdD program at Concordia. At first, I did not understand the quote. Three years later, as I embark on my dissertation-writing journey, the quote makes a lot of sense. Balancing work, life, family, and school can be challenging. To get my assignments completed, I sacrifice sleep by waking up at 4 AM and working on weekends. At the phase III level, you are no longer a student with deadlines; there is a lot of autonomy. But time management is the key to success to stay on top of school work.” – Marcette Fochier, EdD student

“I use a life planner and schedule absolutely everything, including meals, workouts, study time, and due dates for posts and assignments. I also pre-format my assignments during week 1, and save them in folders labeled with weeks 1 – 8 for each class. I also keep a running list of all references. Last class, I got overwhelmed for a couple of weeks, but picked myself back up and finished strong.” – Anna Christine, EdD student

2. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?

“The dissertation was unbelievable. It cut me down to size. However, I had the most amazing faculty chair who guided me and was encouraging and there for me all the time. It’s not just an intellectual challenge. It’s a mental and emotional challenge to go through the doctoral program. It’s not gonna be easy and Concordia’s not gonna make it easy, but they will support you, and you will have everything you need and you will be very connected. Just don’t stop. Go all the way and keep your eye on the goal.” – Debra Harper, EdD

Watch a clip from our interview with graduate Makeba Butler, EdD to learn about her doctoral experience at Concordia.

3. How did you stay motivated to complete the program?

“My faculty chair actually inspired me to move beyond what I thought I could do. She reassured me. She calmed me. She helped motivate me. She inspired me. She pushed me to think about my subject matter in a completely different way. Concordia took their dedication to me as a student to the next level.” – Lisa Fee, EdD

“I would say the biggest thing is to make sure your heart is in it. Make sure that you have that family and friend support. It’s worthwhile, but it’s a big commitment. Turn your family into your biggest cheerleaders. When my new books would arrive, my six-year-old would hold them and we’d take pictures. We’d look at them together and my boys would say, ‘Mom, you can do this.’ They saw a mom who was determined to finish this degree and do it well.” – Rachael Hoffert, EdD

4. What tips do you have for candidates currently in the program?

“Take it one day at a time, but do something each day. Do not get behind. The professors and staff are very supportive, so be willing to ask questions. Communication with the cohort and professors is critical to success.” – Warren Mize, EdD student

“The journey toward the EdD cannot be accomplished alone, so do not try to do so. Build connections with your cohort, utilize the resources provided by the program, and ask plenty of questions. The [private Facebook group] has been helpful in connecting and getting advice from those in the program or those who have gone through it. It is extremely helpful in keeping colleagues encouraged. Concordia University understands the strength that comes with group learning. Your cohort may be comprised of individuals from similar professional backgrounds as yourself or individuals who are looking for a career change. Through the use of Blackboard, you get a chance to learn more about everyone and find ways to connect with one another. Some of the most thought-provoking conversations have been with professionals who see education differently from their scope of influence. Opportunities like group work and projects allow you to journey through the field of education through the lens of your peers.” – Zakiya Brown, EdD student

5. What strategies did you use to narrow your research topic?

“I reached out to a recent graduate from Concordia who openly offered to help with the dissertation. She sent me a link to her dissertation as well as the questions that a student gets in the research class. Those resources helped a lot, as well as someone to talk to. My dissertation topics started with my background performing research with community college students and noticing how easily they learned compared to doing a lecture. After taking a few classes, I noticed that there were many trends in the literature and our textbooks that followed what I saw. It got me interested in transformative learning and creativity.” – John Hoskins, EdD student

“I allow myself to be guided by the research, looking for gaps, reporting weaknesses.” – Paulo-Juarez Pereira, EdD student

6. What’s your writing routine?

“It took some time to find my groove. After a few semesters, I learned quickly that I needed to dedicate two days to reading and allow two nights per week for discussion board responses. I usually allotted five or so hours every Saturday to writing. Sunday is my prep day in which I map out a plan for what to read and allow time for reflection and response.” – Amy Cooper, EdD student

“Honestly, I like writing at a place like Panera Bread or coffee shops. It forces you to do what you came to do: write. At home, I can be easily distracted. For example, I procrasti-clean, meaning I will opt to clean as opposed to writing. Terrible habit. Being in a different location can refocus your thoughts. It’s what I would recommend to someone in a writing slump. Put it away for a day or so, and go somewhere else. Let thoughts percolate.” – Brittiani, EdD student

7. How many hours per week have you spent working on your dissertation?

“On average, I spend two to three hours daily on my work; it varies though. I never spend less than 10 hours a week or more than 30 hours per week.” – Amy Cooper, EdD student

“It depends. I would say about 10 – 15 hours a week is my goal. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Sometimes you’re in a holding pattern, for various reasons outside of your control. But I aim to do something dissertation-related every day. “ – Brittiani, EdD student

“I can tell you that throughout the doctoral program, from Monday through Thursday, I didn’t go to bed until two in the morning. And sometimes, a whole weekend was gone. So you have got to have the passion. If you don’t have the passion, don’t even start. In fact, probably get out of education. If you do have the passion, then you’re wasting your time for every month that goes by that you’re not in the program.” – John Paul Sanchez, EdD

8. How have you built community or made connections with experts outside of the university based on your topic?

“I’m getting an APA reader and maintain contact with a few students on the same level. Outside the university, I search for TED speakers who address my topic of interest.” – Paulo-Juarez Pereira, EdD student

“Because our program is online, we are not exposed to a structured internship or practicum experience. To further develop my skills and to build connections outside of the program, I have reached out to professionals in positions that I am interested in and have scheduled lunch meetings to learn from them. Additionally, I have volunteered my time in an area of higher education, creating a practicum for myself.” – Zakiya Brown, EdD student

9. How have you persevered when you’ve felt overwhelmed?

“If you’re in your EdD program right now and feeling overwhelmed, I’m here to tell you that the challenge is completely worth it. I felt the exact same way. As the program progresses, it becomes more challenging. You feel those demands both on your time and your mind. But it’s amazing to come through that process and to watch the growth that takes place personally, professionally, and the skills that you gain. It’s all so worth it. “- Camille Schuler, EdD

“It is in those moments when we feel like giving up that we grow the most. Growth is uncomfortable but the rewards of maturing into our true selves are worth it. Take it from a middle school drop-out. All things are possible!” – Wilkie V. Law, III, MEd graduate and current EdD student

10. What strategies have you used to find work-life balance?

“I try to compartmentalize the different areas of my life, e.g., work, home-life/family, school, play, etc. but I also look for ways to leverage overlap. For example, I work in Cube World. So at lunch, I might set up the next two to three days of assignments and either save the work to Google Drive or email myself docs that I’ll be working on later that evening. Also, I make normal family times, reading times, etc. Finally, I don’t overstress about things. I only do this occasionally, but if I’m really tired, instead of fighting fatigue and rushing to get an assignment done, I’ll go ahead and go to bed and then wake up early to finish an assignment (not TaskStream assignments). I’ve been able to do better work because I’ve gotten some rest.“ – Joe Vrazo, EdD student

“I carefully consider things I need to do and prioritize them. Do not procrastinate in your school work; it will become overwhelming. Make a schedule for the day – or even better, for the whole week. Distribute your commitments at work, school, time with family, and very important, time for yourself. We are so busy with everything. We tend to forget about our health and state of mind. Pencil in your me-time in your weekly schedule. It will keep you active and mentally sane at the same time. Start your day with the Word. It will give you the tools you need to overcome those little things that happened in life but are not on your schedule.” – Teresita Caldwell, EdD student

11. How do you feel now that you have completed your degree?

“I feel like I have more credibility. I’m a young, African-American female, and I look young too. So if my experience is not enough to establish credibility, the fact that I have a doctorate in education helps me establish that. When I introduce myself, people know that I’ve worked extremely hard and completed a rigorous process to earn my doctorate.” – Monique Woodley, EdD

“Now that I am finished with my degree, I find myself in a perpetual state of empowerment. My efforts have proven to me that I can do anything with perseverance and I feel an innate duty to use my degree to better the world.” – Danielle Taylor, EdD

12. People say that the doctoral program is transformational. How have you transformed?

“Knowing what I know now has changed my entire perspective on teaching and education as a whole. I love Concordia’s online program.” – John Hoskins, EdD student

“I’ve gained insight into others and into myself through this process that has come in no other way.” – Camille Schuler, EdD

“My studies at Concordia are enabling me to capitalize on a growth mindset and are giving me the confidence to boldly express ideas from concept to reality.” – Warren Mize, EdD student

“I have transformed…I feel a sense of duty or obligation to advocate for effective leadership in our schools and to make my best effort to transform organizations to better all students.” – Danielle Taylor, EdD

Watch a clip from our interview with graduate Lisa Fee, EdD to hear her take on how Concordia prepares doctoral students.

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