human, being


Grad School, revisited
June 1, 2009, 11:11 am
Filed under: grad school | Tags: , , ,

On Friday night, I had dinner with my friends Jenny and Josh. Jenny and I used to work together in the mid-90s, and somehow we’ve stayed friends despite not sharing office space for nearly a decade. She and Josh have three kids under the age of 6. They both work full time, and they are both in grad school.

Jenny is getting her MBA, and Josh is getting his MS in Management at the university I work for. (Coincidentally, I took Jenny’s job when she left. Yes, she’s that good of a friend.) She started the MBA program five years ago, when she was in this job, because as employees we get 6 free credits a year and you may as well use them. During the past 5 years, she’s had these kids, including a now-7-month-old. Their lives are packed, but in six months she’ll be done.

I’ve wanted to get a graduate degree since I graduated with my BA in Journalism. I did apply to MFA programs in 2000, got into two and was waitlisted on one (all really good schools, too). But all would require a move. And I had Lauren about 2 months before I was to move my family to St. Louis. So I deferred.

I’ve regretted and not regretted that decision. Regret, because I always wanted to go to grad school, and I think I chickened out. Not regretted because my marriage wouldn’t have survived the move, and I would have been in St. Louis with a newborn and a grad program … or I would have dropped out.

Besides, I thought I needed the MFA so I could be a “real writer.” (I have this thing about not doing something until I am a so-called expert in it … part of the perfectionism I’m working on.) I learned from talking to MFA students that many of them hoped for jobs in corporate communications when they were done. Just like the job I had without an MFA. I’m lucky that in Denver we have this wonderful writers group called Lighthouse Writers. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a workshop with them, but those I’ve taken are at the level I imagine MFA classes to be. And those workshops are about $200, as opposed to about $5,000 for an MFA class.

I don’t need to take classes to become a writer. I need to write.

So, I’ve been toying with getting a business master’s degree instead for a few years now. I even have most of my application packet complete for a master’s in organizational leadership at the University of Denver. However, right about the time I was sending it in, Steve lost his job and I needed to put it on hold. That program would cost me about $35k. I could be done in 2 years, but I would again be $35k in the hole as I’d have to take out student loans.

After talking to Jenny and Josh about my university’s programs–she’s taken most of her classes online and he’s taken most of his in person–I have a better feeling about it. I want to go to grad school to learn, but I also want the degree behind my name so I’m competitive. My university has the biggest business grad program in the state. It’s not a high-ranker, like the Daniels College of Business at DU, but it’s also half the cost — less if I use my credits. I’ll still need to take out loans for some of it, but student loan debt is good debt to have. You actually are getting something for the money you’re financing.

But if I go to my university, I’ll actually have to take the GRE. Drat! I’ve always been good at multiple choice tests. I’m sure I’ll have no issues with the verbal section. However, I think I’ll do the online study guide for the math section. The university has a great scholarship available for people who score in the 650+ range. If I practice, I bet I can get one.

Given my current level of stress, the idea of taking on something new like school is unnerving. Is it smart? I don’t know. I do know that one thing contributing to my stress is my lack of career satisfaction, and in this market, I cannot compete with just a BA and 20 years of experience.

I’ve been putting off something I want for 10 years for every reason you can think of. Maybe now is the time to do it.

If Jenny and Josh can do it with their full lives, why can’t I?