Some of you may know that I applied for a doctoral program in Higher Education at Boston College this past
fall, with designs on starting a PhD program this coming fall. I got the envelope this past week, and as the name of this post implies, it was a thin one.
For someone who essentially shut down after receiving a passing, but not to my standards, “3” on the AP European History (I was a high strung teenager, competitive high school program didn’t help), this could have been dangerous. The text I received from my mom after she heard makes me think she was expecting a similarly dismayed reaction. My heart swelled when I finally got to talk to her and she asked with confusion in her voice, “How could they not want you?” (For the record, I don’t see it that way.)
But I’ve had a while to think about it, when one adds up the time I spent working on the application, the time before my interview, and the time I waited for the committee’s decision. And I’ve realized that while there is a small percentage of me that wishes I had an acceptance to weigh in a decision “to go or not to go”, far more of me is happy to have the opportunity to explore other paths.
I have observed or been a part of several conversations about the state of our profession in the past few weeks, including a particularly deep one about how degrees are treated as (a) synonymous with competence, and (b) increasingly required for jobs where they may not be utilized. What’s more, as I start to look at the impact that i hope to have on my students, on the field, and (lofty goal ahead) the world, I can see where it may benefit me to diversify my experiences. Please don’t misunderstand me here- I harbor no ill will toward those who are pursuing degrees in this, nor would I ever question anyone’s motives for getting a degree. Nor, as I fully understand, are those motives any of my business. But what I saw with ever growing clarity as I progressed through the process, is that I’m not sure this path is for me. And in not getting accepted, I have a chance to think through my options, interests, and ultimate goals more than I had when I started the process. I didn’t enter into it thoughtlessly; rather, I entered into it with a narrower view of where my influence could be exercised.
I still have designs on a terminal degree, because I like research and love learning. And I have no plans to leave student affairs- for its many frustrations, I love this work and want to commit myself to its development. The right program at the right time will allow me to dive deeply into whatever area I choose to study (I’m looking with ever-growing interest in a degree in organizational psychology.) However, I’m no longer treating it as an essential element of my success. I can write, research, publish, contribute outside the confines of a doctoral program. And I intend to.
I look forward to what my next steps will be; what’s more, I’m genuinely happy that those steps won’t necessarily be on the path that I thought I would be following.