Dear reader, I am very interested in hearing about your own personal experiences in doctoral work, especially if you are/were a married student or who attended a different kind of school. Please feel free to comment below.
Through the grace of God, the mercy of my advisers, and the support of my friends, after 5 full school years of doctoral work, I have my doctorate in hand! In light of that, I thought it would be beneficial to add some personal reflection on what went well and what could have gone better in my five years as a student. Naturally, doctoral work goes differently for everybody, and the perspective you have here is the rather subjective musings of a bachelor who worked full-time during his studies at a Southern Baptist school. Married students will have a significantly different perspective, as will those lucky few who didn't have to work full time. Naturally, attending a secular university or a school of a different denomination will also provide a different experience. Nevertheless, I hope that this post will provide some food-for-thought for those contemplating (or currently in) doctoral studies.
Overall, the experience was positive, and I believe that I experienced the Lord's leading both to and through this particular program. I want to emphasize that with a lot of help and support, I survived it, and I'm not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, so to speak, nor am I the most diligent of students (though I got better through the years). Thus, once again, let me stress that this was a positive though difficult experience. I want to start with some negatives, however, just so that I can end on a strongly positive note.
The following is somewhat subjective and focuses mostly on my own personal experience. Nevertheless, I hope it can be an encouragement and a forewarning for those considering doctoral studies. As I mentioned above, I am definitely interested in hearing from others who have already finished (or are in the midst of) this journey.
[updated 6/10/2013] As a friend recently pointed out in the comments, there is one very important option that all doctoral students should look onto: namely, teaching abroad. I know of two very recent grads from SEBTS that are doing so, one of them in an evangelical school and the other in a restricted access nation. Generally, you'll have to at least some support (some schools overseas may pay you a bit, but rarely will you get a full-paying job), but the benefits as to the experience you gain and the potential ministry opportunities cannot be matched. At the very least, I believe every evangelical doctorate should attempt to become involved with teaching overseas during summer or winter breaks; but for now, there are many positions overseas crying out to be filled by doctorates, and who better to answer the call than evangelicals? For more information on this, keep an eye or two open for a forthcoming JETS article by a friend of mine who is currently teaching overseas. [end update]