Why I Hated Every Minute of Earning My Masters

Masters degrees. Or should I call them the new bachelors? Whatever you think of them, they're gaining popularity each year. I remember my senior year of college and learning that most of my friends were suddenly interested in earning another degree. Here I was under the impression that we were all going to move home and look for jobs.

When I graduated college many of my friends enrolled in a masters program to avoid the real world, ie, applying to those jobs we had been dreading. Two months at home led me to have to make a choice, live with my mom who enjoys orange juice with pulp (ew no) or move away once again and continue my education. Sure I had the option to just move away and get a job, but to be honest, I was scared.

I could have spent months or years working in a job that would have given me some sort of experience, and in a way I did do that, but my ultimate end goal has always been to be a therapist. And you just can't be a therapist without a masters. So I did the only thing I thought I could do, I entered a masters programs (and I got a job or two along the way).

Related Post: Advice for New College Graduates

Here's the thing though, I fucking hated every minute of it, and that's putting it lightly. It wasn't the coursework that made me incredibly unhappy, it was the entire process. The campus, the requirements on my time, and the nagging feeling that kept telling me how much I was missing out on because of constant coursework.

The reasons why I was so unhappy during my time as a graduate student, and why I'm glad I earned my masters anyways.


Before I started my masters I did what I always do, Googled searched like a mofo to find what other people thought of their schools, their programs, and the process as a whole. What I found led me to believe I was making the right decision, and even though I don't regret it, I cant sit here and tell you I'd want to do it again. So let's talk about it, the reasons why I hated every minute of earning my masters. 

I have so many emotions I don't even know where to begin. It also doesn't help that I took my exit exam just yesterday so I'm really riding that it's-finally-over wave. I'll start with the smallest thing, the lack of community.

LACK OF COMMUNITY

This mistake was all mine, so I am in no way blaming my institution or my fellow peers for why I felt so isolated throughout this process. I applied to the school I attended because I wanted to avoid paying extra student fees for things like recreation centers and division one sports. I've already had the classic college experience, so I wanted nothing more than my classes and basic student fees to affect my tuition. Well, I got exactly what I asked for.

My school had a complete lack of spirit, like zero, nada, none. I don't even own a tshirt with my school's name on it. Campus life was nonexistent since our campus is located in a building within downtown Washington DC. On top of no actual campus grounds, any campus events were typically held during typical work hours, meaning I had zero chance to attend. I was able to meet and interact with people while in classes, and while I've enjoyed most everyone I've gotten to know, I'd be lying to myself if I said I made lifelong friends. The thing is, at my school I was very much a minority, and being a minority made it hard to connect with those in my program. I'm sure I could have overcame that obstacle had I had more time to attend events or be more involved, but working two jobs it just never happened for me.

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POOR STUDENT SUPPORT

This piece of my graduate experience really made all the other problems feel 10x bigger, and although I'm a future therapist, it can still be hard to talk myself into thinking rationally. When applying to universities I knew the impact the staff would have on my experience, especially when you are juggling multiple responsibilities outside of school.

Unfortunately my school's staff had very different ideas of what my priorities should be, at one point encouraging I quit my job in order to be able to enroll in a certain class. Like, what kind of advice is that? On top of not being able to relate to student struggles, staff at my school felt as if they were difficult to reach, and even harder to get on your side.

My advice for anyone thinking about accepting a school's offer, whether it be undergrad or grad school, is to talk to current students outside of your campus tour. Talking to current students will get you unedited information on the campus climate that you wont find in the testimonials online or on campus grounds.

NO FLEXIBILITY

Before finishing my graduate exams I used to think this problem was very specific to me, but as time went on I realized just how many people were dealing with the same shit I was. The job market wants you to have continued education yet doesn't allow you the flexibility to attain that education, while many universities are not catering to students who need to work while attending school. It's a classic double bind and for three years I was caught in the middle of it.

I began my graduate career as a full time student working two jobs. I did that for about six months until I was completely burnt out. After quitting one job I continued to attend school full time for another six months while working a job full time. A change in my school's course offerings led me to have to make a decision, either work or school would have to be full time. Being surrounded by media and individuals who seemed to be able to do it all discouraged me completely, leaving me feeling like a total failure when I chose to work full time and attend school part time for a little over a year.

Fast forward to about a year ago when I decided to flip the script, quitting my job altogether to attend school full time in order to get the horrible process over with already! Here's the point, if you're lucky you'll find a school or job that is flexible, and if you're extremely lucky they both will be. Yes, online masters are always an option, but based on my experience they require more work, are more difficult, and will greatly increase your stress levels.

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MISSING OUT ON LIFE

The goal was to title this section was going to be fear of missing out, ie FOMO, but let's be real for a second. I wasn't fearing missing out, I was missing out. College friend reunions, Sunday brunches, trips back home, all of that time was soaked up by the fact I either had to be focusing on schoolwork or my actual job to be able to continue going to school.

For the longest time my life was either attending school and finishing my assignments or working my ass off to be able to afford the tuition. Any extra free time was spent with my significant other or taking a moment to myself to breathe, and even that time was merely just a few hours on the weekend.

Anyone who has completed a masters program knows the struggle that comes with wanting to enjoy your life but also having the responsibility of homework on top of work and familial responsibilities. Those of us who can manage it all and still come out alive are a special breed, and I seriously commend you for being able to get through it because I know it wasn't easy.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

Is that heading clear enough for you? No part of me was prepared for how expensive a masters degree would be, with even less preparation for how to manage tuition and high rent prices in a city like Washington DC. Now at the end of my masters I'm amazed I never missed a rent payment, but lemme tell you, it wasn't easy.

Sometime in the future I want to write a post on budgeting, teaching others how I curbed my need to impulse shop, lived off of my savings for a year, and overall managed to still enjoy my life will giving all my money to that thing we call tuition.

In all seriousness though, be prepared to spend a lot. There are ways to save but I'd be lying if I said the financial aid was the same as it was in undergrad. To help make ends meet I stopped buying books altogether, yep, I didn't buy a single book during my graduate degree. To read how I managed without buying the required textbooks, click here.

The reasons why I was so unhappy during my time as a graduate student, and why I'm glad I earned my masters anyways.

JEALOUSY

You might think this relates to fear of missing out, and in some ways it does, but not always. Jealousy is that painful feeling you get in your gut when you envy a person but somehow pity yourself more. For example, last week I was stressing over my piles of flashcards and feeling like my brain was gonna slide out of my head. Meanwhile my boyfriend was laying on the couch, scrolling Twitter and eating chips too loudly in my opinion.

After a long day at work for both of us, I got to come home and study, he got to literally lean back and relax. These are the moments when you have to stay focused on what your end goal is, whatever it may be. Yes it sucks that you cant come home and just chill or spend your extra money on a night out, but in a few years you'll be thanking yourself that you didn't put it off till later. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

WHY I DID IT ANYWAYS

Okay, so there you have it, the reasons why I hated every minute of earning my masters. Despite all my problems, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy my classes or the opportunity to interact with my professors and classmates. My internship experience taught me more than the three years of taking coursework, with my clients progress being the motivation I need to push myself towards graduation in the fall.

If you're considering applying for a masters program, my best advice is to go into it with a realistic perspective. Knowing the time, energy and money you will have to commit is the first step to not getting burnt out fast, second being finding a support group of people who are going through the same stuff as you.

Like always, if you have any questions about anything I mentioned or the process overall, feel free to visit my contact page to find out how you can reach me for more advice, resources, or just a person to vent to when financial aid puts you on hold for an hour.



Are you thinking about applying to grad school? If so, what questions do you have? And if you've already attended, what's a piece of advice you wish someone had told you before enrolling?


P.S. You can now sign up for my weekly newsletter for more truths, advice, and resources for twenty somethings who are just trying to figure out how to adult correctly. 


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4 comments

  1. More than anything I think I wish I knew that there is way more drama than meets the eye in some departments. In undergrad you don't really notice the drama because you are sort of shielded from it, but once you really get to know professors and work with them through things like graduate and research assistantships, all the daily drama really comes out. It was really hard for me to focus on my assistantship and school work often because of that drama. Getting a deeper understanding off my professors was great because I got to know a lot of cool people, but it also ended up causing unnecessary drama in my life in the end because of the professors I got to know.

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  2. Love the honesty! I WANT my masters, but yet still not sure I "need" it for my career and I know the money would be the biggest deterring factor for me, it's just not there.

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  3. I was in the same boat in terms of I needed a masters degree to pursue the career I wanted. My program was very short and by the time I got to my last semester I was completely over the coursework, grades, going to class, etc. etc. Luckily for me I found community in my program and formed bonds with mostly everyone in my classes since there were less than 15 of us in a classroom. There are so many things to take into consideration before heading off to grad school, so having posts like this will definitely help LOTS of people!

    www.insearchofsheila.com

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  4. It really does feel like a Master's is the new Bachelor's degree. I really enjoyed undergrad and I thought a 1 year Master's program would be more of the same - but I was wrong. Being in a smaller class size magnified the fact that I was also "very much a minority", which was pretty uncomfortable. Luckily I did make friends in other graduate programs. Also since our program was new, some of the advisory staff was not clear on what classes we would count for our degree. I'm glad I completed my Master's because it got me the job & pay I have now, but I have no interest in going back to school.

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