You survived the undergraduate process, and now you’re ready to further—or change—your career. A great means to that end is graduate school. If you’re like many people considering this fairly momentous decision, you’re probably wondering what the experience is like. Often, it helps to talk to someone who’s been there. So that’s what we did.
Name: Kevin L. Wright
Graduate School: Lewis & Clark College
Degree: Master of Arts (MA) in Student Affairs Administration
Duration: August 2014 to present (program ending in June 2016)
Full or part time: Full time
In-person, online, or both: All classes are in-person
Current Occupation: Graduate Assistant, Office of Student Activities
Why grad school?
I knew I wanted to enter the field of student affairs ever since I was a second-semester, first-year undergraduate student. I asked my mentors what I would need to do to have their jobs and they gladly responded by informing me that I would need to go to grad school. As an aspiring college president, I plan to obtain my master’s degree and my PhD in order to further navigate through the field of student affairs and higher education as a scholar-practitioner.
How did you find the right program for you?
I’ve been told many times that student affairs is a field where opportunities find you, not the other way around. After searching through many institutions, I didn’t have the best luck with obtaining admission into a program that could financially assist me. Once I was offered admission and a graduate assistantship into a program that had a focus on social justice, I couldn’t say no.
Did you study something different from what you studied in undergrad, and if so, why?
As an undergraduate student, I studied business communications with a minor in sociology at Northern Arizona University. I studied this because it was a subject that could keep my interest for four years until I graduated before being able to study something that aligns with my passion. I have no regrets since much of what I learned from my program is applied on a daily basis as I navigate through graduate school.
What were some of the biggest differences you noticed between your undergraduate and graduate studies?
I attended a four-year, mid-sized public institution with 20,000+ students in Arizona as an undergrad. Currently I attend a small, private liberal arts college with approximately 3,400 students in Oregon as a grad student. Just the institutional type and the change in scenery were pretty big differences. Another difference I noticed was that I don’t have to worry about tests, quizzes, or final exams in grad school. However, the trade-off in my program is that I do a lot of extensive reading, critical analysis, and Socratic discussion, and I write a few papers in between. Lastly, I noticed how as a graduate student, my program is specifically designed for me to take certain courses in order to get in, learn, and get out in two years as a full-time student. This is slightly different because as an undergraduate student, I had more choices for which classes to take, but at the same time, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about choosing which courses to fit my schedule. As a graduate student, the courses are already picked, scheduled, and set for the entire time I’m in the program. Plus, I appreciate how I don’t have to worry about getting waitlisted for a class or not getting into a class at all because it is full.
Did you hold a job during grad school? If so, how did you manage your schedule?
As a full-time grad student, I work as a Graduate Assistant to help pay for the finances of my program. I also have three other part-time jobs and do some volunteer work on the side. Time management is a skill I had to develop at a very young age, and I have made an effort to further enhance that skill as I go through life. At the end of the day, I make sure nothing gets in the way of my academics. I am not going to say it is easy for me, nor am I going to say it is not possible to do all this and still excel academically. It is all a process and I have faith in myself, my faculty, my mentors, and my supporters to ensure that I am successful in all of my personal, professional, and academic endeavors.
What effect did attending graduate school have on your career?
It hasn’t had any effect as of right now since it is expected of me to attend grad school in order to build a foundation to my future career.
What would you do differently?
There are many things I would do differently; however, it does not negate the fact that the life I have now is the present, and I shouldn’t waste too much time focusing on the past.
What advice can you offer students pursuing a similar program?
Cherish the moments that make you a stronger individual. Hope for nothing but the best. Have faith in all that you do to get where you want to be.
Bonus question! What was your favorite class and why?
My favorite class so far has been Student Development Theory because it helps me connect the many entities of the student affairs field that contribute to holistic student success.
Check out all of Kevin’s grad school blogs on CollegeXpress here!