University of Calgary

Program helps doctoral students overcome fear of the unknown

UToday HomeFebruary 20, 2013

By Trisha Kingcott

Doctoral students packed the Preparing for your Candidacy workshop at Taylor Family Digital Library. Photo by Trisha KingcottDoctoral students packed the Preparing for your Candidacy workshop at Taylor Family Digital Library. Photo by Trisha Kingcott“What kinds of questions will they ask me?”

“I have no idea how to prepare.”

“I’m in denial and trying not to think about it.”

The candidacy exam is one of the most stressful times in a doctoral student’s life, says Tara Christie, PhD, manager of the My GradSkills program of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

The faculty requires all candidates for doctoral degrees to pass a two-hour oral examination, often with an accompanying written component, to be admitted to candidacy.

It is the last exam doctoral students have to take, and the licence to write their doctoral thesis. It allows the students to call themselves doctoral candidates and have the opportunity to teach undergraduate classes.

On Jan. 22, My GradSkills ran a workshop called Preparing for your Candidacy with a panel of experienced faculty members and two doctoral students who recently completed candidacy.

More than 70 students packed Gallery Hall in the Taylor Family Digital Library to ask questions and hear the panel’s advice.

Victoria Lukasik, a doctoral student in geography, has just begun preparing for her July exam.

“It’s exciting and scary,” Lukasik says. The fact that she will be over the milestone and able to focus on her research, has her jumping to get past the exam. But the fear of what questions the examining committee might ask, of having to write multiple papers in the two weeks prior to the exam, and massive amounts of reading she needs to do to prepare, has her slightly stressed.

Lukasik attended the workshop to motivate herself to start preparing. “It put me at ease,” she says. “I feel more confident and have more of a focus on what to do to prepare.”

That’s just the impact Christie hoped the workshop would have. Student feedback shows most attendees feel better prepared and would recommend the workshop to others.

The My GradSkills program has two goals: build academic skills for success in graduate school, and build transferable skills for success in the job market.

Preparing for your Candidacy will be offered on a semi-regular basis to support doctoral students.

“We think this is a good way to calm their fears and provide them with tools for the road to success,” says Paul Schnetkamp, associate dean, faculty of graduate studies, and panelist at the event.

Learn more about My GradSkills workshops and events.


Follow UToday on Twitter.
Check the UToday website for news about events, people and trends at University of Calgary.
Follow what’s happening on campus using our interactive calendar.