Name One Thing with Dr Karin Admiraal | Graduate School Advice from a fellow academic coach

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Welcome to Name One Thing the interview series where I ask academics, researchers, postdocs, and other professionals what they wished they’d known in grad. school. Today, get advice from an academic coach and business owner, Dr. Karin Admiraal, who has spent years as an educator, advisor, and administrator in higher education.

Academic Success Coach, Dr. Karin Admiraal

Picture of Dr. Karin Admiraal's face and head.

Name: Karin Admiraal
Degree: Ed.D. in Adult and Higher Education
Current role: Owner, The Well-Ordered Mind, Coaching for Success in Academics and Beyond
Find her at:
Instagram: @wellorderedmind

1) Name one thing you wish someone had told you when you were a graduate student.

I wish someone had told me to relax and enjoy it. I was a graduate student twice.
The first time was right after undergrad. I started a Ph.D. program at the Institute
for Communication Research at the University of Illinois. It’s a great program, and
I was around students and professors who were doing interesting work. I liked
my classes and my research. But I didn’t realize at the time what an opportunity it
was to learn, grow, and talk to people about ideas. Instead, I got bogged down in
thinking about what was going to happen after grad school. I was scared
because I saw only one kind of career path, and it didn’t look appealing to me.
No one told me that there were other ways to be successful with a doctorate than
as a faculty member at a big research university. I ended up switching to a
master’s program in journalism and finishing that way instead. I think I would
have listened if someone had sat me down and told me: “Look, you can do all
kinds of things with a Ph.D. You are good at this. You enjoy it. Let yourself enjoy
it and don’t worry so much about what comes next.”
I returned to grad school about 25 years later and finally got my doctorate (in
education, not communications). This time, I was able to appreciate the work as
a valuable opportunity to think about things like educational history and
philosophy, instructional design and what learning is – things that are important
to my work, but that I don’t necessarily have space to think about in my regular

2) As a fellow academic success coach, you are frequently privy to the challenges that graduate students face but never tell their advisors. Name one thing you wish advisors knew about these students and their struggles.

I wish advisors knew that students struggle in different ways. It’s easy to assume that if a student is doing the academic work, then they are fine. But we are multidimensional beings. Students can struggle with physical, mental, or emotional health, impostor anxiety, lack of direction, family issues, time management – the whole gamut. Eventually, those things take a toll on the academics, and that’s when they usually come to light. It would be great, though, if advisors had a system to look at students more holistically, to try to catch other struggles and refer students to available resources.

3) Name one skill or ability you think graduate schools assume their students have but often don’t.

Writing. It is very helpful to be able to write clearly and efficiently. The kind, amount, and expectations for writing vary from field to field, but most programs require a lot. Even students who are “good writers” or had decent undergraduate training are not necessarily prepared for graduate-level, academic writing. A case in point is a former coworker of mine, who had been a professional journalist for years before returning to a doctoral program. When his advisor read a draft of his first dissertation chapters, she gave it back to him and said, “This is great writing,
but this isn’t a dissertation.” For students who have been out of school for a while and haven’t had to do much writing, thinking about writing a thesis or dissertation can be terrifying.

Most universities have a writing center that serves graduate students as well as undergrads, and this can be a great place to get help. My favorite book on writing well in general is Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White. If your program uses APA, I also suggest purchasing the APA Style Guide (the actual title is the Publication Manual (Official) of the American Psychological Association, 7th Edition. It has much more than just formatting rules and mechanics, and can be a helpful resource for both writing and publishing. Finally, ask faculty to recommend journal articles that they think are well written. Reading what others in your field have written is a great way to get a feel for academic writing. My business, The Well-Ordered Mind, also provides coaching in academic writing.

Thank you for sharing your experiences, Karin! Karin coaches both undergraduate and graduate students, so if you’re an undergrad. looking for coaching, or a graduate student (and I’m full up on clients 😁), please visit her over at The Well Ordered Mind.

Wishing You All the Best in Your Academic Success.
Dr. Cristie Glasheen, Your Graduate Student Success Coach.

Interview Disclaimer

We aim to share diverse perspectives and experiences. The views, opinions, and experiences shared by our guests in this interview series are solely their own. Their participation is not an endorsement of our services, products, or views, nor does it imply an endorsement of their services, products, or views by us.