Doctoral education in the US

The number one thing that attracted me to further my education here in the United States is my discovery about how America produces the largest number of PhDs. For me, my undergraduate education was exceptionally joyful because of like-minded peers. We would organize study times and ask each member of the group to study a particular area to teach all of us. This proved to be useful since we all contributed to avoid the arduous task of having to cramp large volumes of text in our heads. Reading that America produces the largest number of PhDs for me meant that, the doctoral journey is not going to be as lonely as I have imagined PhDs to be with students learning only from their academic supervisors. With more people in a program, there is higher probability of collaboration among students and not an entirely lonely study.

I love that almost all doctoral programs in the US require students to either be research assistants or teaching assistants. I have realized that all graduate students at some point serve as teaching assistants. I believe that this is a good practice since doctoral students are able to realize, before they graduate, whether they want to pursue a career in academia or industry. This practice gives students the needed experience to develop personalized styles of teaching, work on their flaws and ultimately, become better versions of themselves. Aside the confidence boost primarily from having to stand in front of a bunch of students, the practice of graduate research and teaching assistants forces students to build relationships with both their students and colleagues. For me, this is the number one pull towards US doctoral education.

Doctoral education in the US has taught me about the focus on advanced student learning rather than on the specific doctoral program, type of degree or the institution offering the degree. Doctoral students in the US are all different because of the programs they are pursuing but a common identifier among all of them is the cultivated ability to think and behave scholarly. Personally, I have learned to inadvertently become more independent about my thought process, formulate my own opinions and support my decisions with firmly rooted facts. This is a skill I would not have picked up had I been in a more rigid educational structure outside of the US.

US doctoral education has a lot of diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, gender and also age. I look at the demographics of doctoral students in Ghana for instance and it is very monotonous. It has a lot of upper middle age abled men spiced with very few women and devoid of young students. In the US, I am sure to come across 22 year old doctoral students upwards to 70 year old students from different backgrounds, race and gender. I particularly like that about doctoral education in the US since it contributes to a lesser feeling of the imposter syndrome among students because students know that they only got in because someone found them to very qualified to get in and not because they fit a particular template. I think this is very important especially for when doctoral students get into the phase where they don’t think they can continue anymore. I will not be surprised if the rate of doctoral education completion is higher in the US compared to other countries with lower diversity.

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