Saturday, November 17, 2007

Graduate school blues

You Should Go to Grad School

Grad school definitely isn't for everyone, but it looks like it's for you.
You have a pretty good idea of what you want to study - and how it will further your career.
So go ahead and go for it! You're ready to be a PhD.

Yesterday was supposedly the last day of enrollment (but the university announced later that it is extending enlistment up to Wednesday, November 21), I crammed to enlist (although I already did one procedure - to enlist online). But I got this letter (attached with the list of courses I took and the grades I earned) that I now need to apply for extension of my program (five years is the maximum you're allowed to complete the program, and I'm already beyond that period). Bugger.

I knew months before I had to ask for extension - but I forgot.

So, I talked to the department chair and asked for her approval, and she did approve, then haphazardly wrote to the dean, and submitted the forms and letter to the student records' keeper (who despite all the annoying, inquiring students like me - she remains one of the most patient personnel in the college).

She asked me to type my letter though (see, I just scrawled it), so I did - first in the college library, good thing this staff there allowed me to use the computer, but wasn't able to print since the university Internet system shut down. So I had to run to one of those rental shops within the campus to type and print the letter, took a jeepney ride back to my college, and disturbed the records' keeper during her lunch break to accommodate my letter.

I rushed to Makati for an interview (work this time). After, I rushed back to the university to check the status of my request, and the records keeper said it's already with the dean. Then I clarified with my department whether I already need to take a penalty course this start of second semester, but no clear answer, so I had to check with the graduate department chairperson, who earlier also approved my request. She accompanied me back to the records keeper and yes, I have to take a penalty course now.

And that I learned the dean critiqued my letter and even commented, "is this how an MA student writes?" Good thing the graduate studies chairperson pulled out my letter and allowed me to use her computer to rewrite it (a more convincing letter at that) with a course plan - or what I intend, and must do during the extension year I'm asking. A short letter at that, and took me eons to write it. After, the graduate studies chairperson and I went back to the dean's office, with her my revised letter and course plan, she entered the dean's room, while I waited nervously and impatiently in the lounge area.

The dean's voice was loud at some point while talking to the graduate studies chairperson, but not that clear for me to overhear what she was saying. Jittery, I stepped out of the dean's office and got myself a monoblock chair and waited there for another 10 minutes or so. When the graduate studies chairperson finally stepped out, she chatted briefly with a colleague and when she saw me, she gave me two thumbs up, and told me to get the approved letter on Monday from the records keeper.

Whew. I thanked her profusely for the assistance she extended me. And as far as I remember, I was also able to thank the records keeper, the secretary in our department, the librarian staff, for all their help. It was nearing 7pm already, and I haven't had my lunch yet, so to kind of celebrate, I bought myself a burger meal on my way home.

I'm now working doubly, triply hard to accomplish everything I can accomplish while I'm still here - since I am up to another stage in my life - becoming a wife, settling in abroad, and building a family. My studies, no matter I love spending time in the university, is really taking a backseat due to my more pressing priorities, but as what the graduate studies chairperson told me as how the dean said it, it's not only me who has work to attend to, and that I'm not the only graduate student who is both working and studying - there's no excuse if you really are aiming for as important as a master's degree (some countries though allow you to proceed immediately to Ph.D.). Right.

And then I remembered this article of mine on how to survive graduate studies - right. So apt for me now:

How to survive graduate studies
From content sharing with and MoneySense

By Lynda C. Corpuz
Last updated 08:45am (Mla time) 11/12/2007

While working as the migrant desk project officer at the Jesuit-run John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues, and a first time Journalism instructor at his alma mater, Jeremaiah Opiniano, 31, an AB Journalism graduate from the University of Santo Tomas, took up MA Development Communication at the University of the Philippines-Open University in 1999. Learn how to be a master multitasker like Opiniano.

If you want to earn it – go for it. Jere says apart from growing professionally, nurturing his passion for non-profit work and communication studies prompted him to take up his master’s degree. Apart from required courses, he also took up three cognates from UP-Diliman to get a feel of residential studies. “The degree is research-based. The training was difficult. I even got a 2.00 (or an “average” grade) for one of my electives but that’s okay– I learned a lot. The whole process was really good,” he recalls.

Set your priorities. With a 9-to-6 job and a 3-unit teaching load, Jere had to be disciplined to breeze through his graduate studies. “What’s good in an open university is that it’s a perfect fit for a graduate student who also works,” he says. For him, graduate studies are also a responsibility, since you’ll handle it among other things, including relationships. “If you really want it, you will do everything to get it. It also depends on the person if he or she can handle this added responsibility of further studies,” he cautions.

Tap all available support. With a little savings, plus his parents’ support, Jere was able to finance his studies at the start. Eventually, he set aside part of his income for school. The P20,000 grant he got from the Philippine Social Science Council, apart from the logistical support he got from the International Institute on Rural Reconstruction (his research subject), mainly aided his research, which was tedious and costly during data-gathering. He also credits ICSI for letting employees pursue graduate studies.

Develop the habit of scholarship. During the application process, it’s always asked if you can really be a teacher or a researcher. “And you have to be willing to be trained like that – madali pa nga ang training dito, sa ibang bansa, mas pahirapan,” Jere points out. But there are also some students who don’t want to do theses since they are laborious and costly. “But for me, thesis is important because that’s the measure of what you learned.”

Aim for quality education. Seek one where you can learn the most, Jere says, whether you enroll in one of the top universities or other graduate or professional schools. If you think you’re not cut out for graduate studies or that you can’t finish the program because of burnout or other priorities, consider taking either certificate courses here or abroad. “There’s really a disparity between the number of enrollees versus those who graduate. If you realize you can’t do it, then leave. You can get professional advancement elsewhere,” Jere advises.

From the September-October 2007 issue of MoneySense, the country’s first and only personal finance magazine. Visit for more.

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All right. More graduate school blues waiting for me - but I'm ready for them.