Last year at this time, I found myself neck deep in work–completing the Ohio residency program, planning a large wedding, and finishing my masters program…all while also working full time. As I reminisce this chapter of my life, I truly wonder now how I survived. I had to take every day one step at a time. I could get ahead in planning with teaching, but my nights were filled with making phone calls to the wedding coordinator and writing paper after paper for graduate school.
Here I am. A teacher. A student. All at the same time.
So how does one work full time, attend graduate school with max hours allowed, and have a life on top of that? What are the best and worst things about graduate school? Are there ways to make it easier?
Let me break down the five most basic questions everyone in this position (or pondering this torture) will encounter at some point. These are things I wish people would have helped me when I earned my degree in Curriculum and Instruction.
- How do I pick a graduate school and major that fits me? Ask yourself:
- Do I even want/need to go to school? Yes. Read on. No. Read one of my other posts. 😉
- What am I good at? What aspect of my undergraduate degree do I want to expand
- What do I want to improve?
- Online or Campus? Let me recommend online as long as you can work basic computer programs. Best. Decision. Ever. I loved working in my PJ’s at home on my own time.
- What can I afford? In the good ol’ U.S. of A. we sadly have to pay most of our schooling bill. It’s a sacrifice, but that’s the road to success. When picking a graduate school, I looked at schools that had my major, provided online options, and would not dig me deeper in a debt ditch or contemplate paying student loans or eating.
- Find what works for you. Figure out what you want. If you’re spending this money and time for another degree, it needs to meet your needs and wants.
- What is the workload like?
- Depends on your degree and work ethic. Generally…it’s a lot. Plain and simple.
- Can you type quickly or know shortcuts to search for key words to insert in a paper? Can you use Google? Sounds silly, but you’d be surprised. Everything depends on your skills, work ethic, and time management. For example, reading the entire text book in three days may not be likely (especially if you value your life). However, I recommend using an online textbook. Why? Ctrl + F baby. Looking for a specific word or need information for a research paper. Ctrl + F. It allows you to find what you need quickly and cut down on some time searching through hundreds of pages. That’s graduate school. Yes, you learn, but you have to find ways to eliminate times of waste as well.
- Word smarter not harder.
- Is it possible for those with a family?
- Is It possible? Absolutely. Single mothers do it. Parents do it. Older individuals do it. Young people with zero money in their pocket do it.
- Sure, you’ll be busy. You’ll need to set a specific amount of time each night (or day) to work on school work. You may need your spouse to take care of the kids for an hour each night. Maybe it ends up being video game time for the kiddos for that hour or two. You’ll be exhausted, don’t misunderstand me, but it is possible.
- What should I expect that no one will tell me upfront?
- In my situation, the thing NO ONE told me about was the amount of group projects. Oh….I LOATHE group projects! As I stated before, I earned my degree in Curriculum and Instruction which involved educators from around the country. It shocked me how many teachers were lazy. I felt like I was dealing with my students. I found myself begging individuals to do some of the group work (as the workload was enormous since it was supposed to be split), and teachers would either not respond at all, put the work load on other individuals, or do 1/4 of the work, while I was left with the other 3/4. What a pain in the behind. Furthermore, I found that professors–you know, the people who are teachers to the teachers, were giving those who did nothing the same grade as those who did all the work. Sure, I told my professors what happened. Yes, I explained the situations in the group evaluations. Didn’t matter. I only had ONE professor that graded us fairly. You know…the way we are supposed to grade our own students. So what’s the point of this rant? There are things you will absolutely encounter and no one mentions–people are incompetent. It doesn’t matter which department, which professor or peer…it happens. The financial aid office “loses” your payment or scholarship aid. The professor punches in the grades wrong and confuses your 96% for a 69%. The dean stops reading your emails when you explain you’re not paying the university to edit and fix their technology issues on a daily basis. Not like any of that has happened to me… Hang in there folks, the end is worth it. I promise.
- Is it worth it?
- In the end (and for those of us who have to pay), yes. Within my first 15 graduate credits, I received a pay bump. By the end of my masters degree, I was given a more significant pay bump. Although it may not seem huge right now, in a few years I will be making close to 10k more than those with an undergraduate degree. Additionally, I will be making more every year as I get closer to that time where the pay gap is larger. What about more than just the price? Let’s talk about the fact that I did actually learn things essential to my career. It helped me become a better teacher. I learned new methods, technological tools, strategies, research, etc. I came out of it more educated about my field. Even with my frustrating time pursuing my graduate degree, I am so happy to have my degree.
Is this time stressful? Yes.
Is this time of stress, tears, frustration, dedication, and sacrifice worth it? Yes.
Learn more. Better yourself.
“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”~ Aristotle