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Dr. Houston gives graduates advice

As the celebratory Graduation ceremony looms closer, my mind switched to the thoughts of Graduate school and the different programs I could attend. Should I stay in Florida? What programs would best suit the next stage of my life? Is this pursuit something I can juggle along with my other responsibilities?

Currently, I am a Holt Evening School student and I work full time. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position where I can quit my job and attend school full time, because in addition to financial aid in the form of student loans and scholarships, I do pay a portion of my tuition out of pocket. So when I started looking at Graduate School options, in addition to finances, I became discouraged. I felt like I lacked the time it would take to dedicate myself entirely to my new, future educational endeavor. After all, I barely get sleep now; imagine even heavier coursework!

To help answer these pressing questions I had, I asked Dr. John Houston, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Organizational Behavior Program at Rollins College, to provide some insight from the perspective of an educator and someone who has also gone through a graduate and doctoral program. He touched on all the things that I was concerned about, which were mostly financial and familial setbacks, but he also discussed some factors that are just as vital to my decision.

He said, “While the future is always uncertain, a thoughtful decision about pursuing a graduate degree demands a careful assessment of your current knowledge, skills and abilities as well as your goals and aspirations. Setting aside the issue of financial cost for the moment, quality graduate programs require a considerable amount of personal resources including time, mental energy, and dedication.”

He shared with me that graduate school had more trials than simply anything financial or familial, “Generally speaking, graduate school is demanding and additional responsibilities make it more demanding. Skillful time management may mitigate some problems but students must recognize their own limitations and balance short and long-term goals. While some degree of sacrifice may be inevitable, finding acceptable trade-offs and maintaining a reasonable quality of life are key concerns.”

He then went on to share that students like myself who seek out a professors advice on whether to pursue higher education were met with conflicting answers, which is why deciding on what is right for us lies on our discretion.

He said, “We all must rely on self-knowledge and realistic expectations when making important life decisions so it is not surprising that different people will come to equally thoughtful but different decisions.”

Above all, Dr. Houston said not to underestimate the importance of passion in your chosen field of study. He commented, “Graduate students who are not excited about what they are studying are unlikely to find graduate school a positive experience even if they have the ability to do well.”

If all the above seems like very obvious advice, I’m profoundly glad you are so sure in your choices. For others, perhaps your passion alone will drive you to continue on with your education, and everything else will follow. No matter how difficult life may make it seem to do so, it is important to note that passion is innate and time is in your control.

I try to not let money run my own major life decisions, even though it sure does put up a fight. When it comes to your education, don’t be afraid to take up a challenge. You may surprise yourself.

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