Then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning. This is what my life feels like right now, haha. If you can’t tell from my past posts, I’ve really struggled with this program. I mentioned before that I was considering switching to Public Health for a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) and I did decide to do that beginning Winter quarter 2010. So I’d like to explain how this whole situation came to be, and hopefully offer some things to consider before you (someone who may be investigating graduate programs) choose a school/program.
I think I chose this out of fear, rather than passion. I applied to Fisher not even thinking they would give my application a second look. Obviously, I misjudged my ability to write a captivating essay. When I got accepted, I was floored, and for good reason. In December 2008, I had been laid off from my dream job (this is important to know for later) at the Columbus AIDS Task Force. In the meantime (@ 3-4 months later), I was still on unemployment, looking for work, and couldn’t even get an interview for an administrative assistant or bank teller position. That’s when the acceptance letter came. It’s kind of sad looking back, but I really felt like I had value as a member of society again because someone was actually intersted in me. Around the same time, I got accepted to the MPH program at OSU, too. Both came with NICE financial aid packages. As you may imagine, having no income changes your view on the importance of money. That is one of the perks about an MBA- you’re more likely to get a high salary compared to other career options when you finish. What can I say? I was unnaturally vulnerable and the starting salary stats in the Fisher brochures sang out to my survival instincts. (I should have known that business schools employ expert marketing techniques in their recruitment brochures, lol.) And this is how I ended up at Fisher.
Reflecting on my path here, it seems easy to see that this was not the most rational decision. So, let me tell you some tips to consider if you’re on the fence about ANY grad school program.
1. Studying something you’re not totally into takes twice as much energy as studying something you love. If you want to know what that program will be like, try to spend a full day in a real student’s shoes. Go to all of their classes (not just the most popular professor’s), read what they’re reading, etc. If you’re exhausted after a only a few hours, try something else. For me, I feel energized and more curious after attending Public Health classes. After 4 hours of business classes I’m exhausted and ready for the weekend on a Monday. This is important to know because you’ll be spending a lot of time studying. You want to have energy for life’s other pleasures afterwards.
2. If you’ve had a dream job (like me at CATF)- analyze why you love it. Even after I found out I was losing my job, I really didn’t want to leave because I enjoyed it so much. I even thought about “staying on” for free. Helping people, empowering others, and learning what it takes to make a difference for people society tends to forget about is my passion. It was also a small, intimate group of 30 people. So, think of grad school as looking for a new job. If something really works for you, find out if it’s replicated somehow in the program you’re considering. Turns out, Fisher is a little big for me. The intro classes have @ 75 people. In Public Health, there’s only 10-20. Also, while business school isn’t heartless, its focus is a little different, haha.
3. Trust your instincts!!!! I know, I know. Everyone says this, but ultimately you usually find out why you should have done it when it’s too late. I knew this was not the right choice for me before classes even started. While I questioned it silently, I never said anything because to everyone else it seemed like a great opportunity- especially given my circumstances of unemployment and being broke. This was my ticket out. A top business school. An MBA. Prestige & fortune (potentially, lol). I thought I could make it work by changing myself into the MBA-type. And I’d be successful and never have to worry about a career or income again. Turns out, I feel anything but successful now because in a way, I betrayed myself.
So, the moral of this story is that grad school is hard. It’s even harder when you have to devote so much time and effort to something that ultimately doesn’t work for you. Choose wisely, and choose for you. If you have doubts, explore them until you have answers. If you love something (your job or a subject), don’t discount it because there’s probably a good reason you love it and not something else. Don’t be afraid to explore new things, (I’ve learned a lot in business classes- probably a lot more than I bargained for), but don’t be afraid to reconsider.