Sunday, May 25, 2014

A new leaf

We all have bad experiences in life. Divorce, death of loved ones, and the acceptance of our shortcomings. Less often, we have experiences that change us. Events that leave us forever altered. There's good and bad in everything, and with such massive change, the bad can be more obvious. However, we can choose to see any event as a positive one.

I have an older friend who has gone through things most people can't even think about. One of these things was the loss of her 19 year-old daughter to a car accident. She is one of the most inspiring and positive people I know; she feels the horrible things that have happened but doesn't give in to her suffering - she may not be glad of what happened to her, but she will openly admit that she knows the purpose of her daughter's death. She accepts the worst thing that ever happened to her as necessary to her own growth. 

For some of us, the loss of a job can be worse than the death of a parent. Everyone's life-changing experience is different and it's impossible to determine how any one experience affects any one person. My experience leaving graduate school changed my life forever.  It was my most traumatic time but I choose to associate it also with my most profound and life-saving time as well. And I encourage all of you to do the same. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Role of Attrition

Whenever I talked about attrition (drop-out) rates with people, they are appalled. People drop out, and the programs think "what can we do to admit better students?" instead of the question they need to ask: "what can this program due to keep our students?"

It is required for schools to have attrition rates posted on their website. However, they tend to fall off sometimes at opportune times, such as during interviews. When I finally found my school's attrition rates, I realized they would lose 2 or 3 students per year, out of 5 or 6 - almost 50%. I realized this only a few weeks in, and I realized I was going to be the first one to step out in my year. A year later, 3 were gone of the 5 that were admitted. One had done a PhD for her parents when she actually wanted to go to law school. Another realized she wanted to have an actual life sometime in the next five years, get married, have kids.

There are countless reasons that people leave. However, the difference between various programs' rates demonstrates the severity of issues with programs specifically. Programs with set times, such as law schools and medical schools, have attrition rates often in the single digits. Social sciences can be as high as 40% while humanities often hovers around 29%. Further, different schools can have very different rates.

I suggest that anyone investing their time, money, and life into a program do the research. You have a right to know what you are getting into.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Who are we without our closed-minded, narrow versions of "success"?

I have never been a girl who wanted to be told she is beautiful. Based on my experience, this is pretty unusual. When someone compliments my work or intelligence, this is the greatest compliment I can receive. We all take pride in different things. For me, obviously, it was my academic success; I even have a tattoo of a Norwegian proverb meaning "the best kind of luggage is knowledge." For some, their children are their pride. Others, their looks. In my experience, pride is only okay in very small doses, and it often ruins our experience with the areas in which we take our pride. We push ourselves or others hard, and one day, our pride in one thing has caused negative affects in other areas of our lives. Too much energy towards one thing is never a good thing. Pride leads to expectation which can often lead to disappointment and desperation.

Because of the pride I had in being the best I could be in school, I allowed such passions as photography and writing to be forgotten, allowed this motivation to become more important than anyone in my life, dragged myself through two years of applications and moving my husband and I across state lines all to satisfy this sense of pride. When what I truly wanted, to help, could be done with a lot less school and less rigorous a program. But where would I be without my continued academic success, without becoming a doctor?

And we've all seen it dozens of times. Person pushes themselves too hard in a goal, and they lose everything they mistreated and neglected for so long. And then it hits them - they need it all back, and it may or may not be too late. The thing they need most - love and respect for themselves and what they have become - is gone as well.