Master's program woes. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 10-25-2010, 11:26 PM - Thread Starter
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So I'm not-quite-halfway done with the requirements for my master's. If I went the route I wanted to go originally I'd be not-quite a third of the way done. (One program is 2 years, the other is 3, for anyone as bad at math as I am, lol.)

I'm really happy with the program itself - it's all online, and it's something I can afford. Logistically it's perfect - I can stay at home with my toddlers and then by the time I would graduate, they'd be about school-age and I could then focus a bit more on work.

I also have danged little choice in the school - it's the ONLY one in the country so far that teaches the obscure subject. It's so new it's not even accredited (although it almost is, and it's legal degree-granting; the accreditation process just takes a while).

But umm. I'm still unhappy. There seems to be a bit of a mismatch between the other students and myself. There are a few other students in my age group but the majority are quite a bit older (I'm in my late 20's; most range from 40's to 60's even). That shouldn't make much of a difference, really, but it does, socially. There's a lot of discussion about feminism, politics, etc. - and coming from a different generation they have different perspectives on a lot of issues. And they have a lot of professional experience to talk about.

There are three individuals who are around my age, and one is in a very similar position as me - mother of two young kids, similiar in personality - but she has experience running a spiritual group, also works outside the home, etc. I don't feel at this point in my life that I have enough leeway in my life to start any sort of ministerial group. I'm getting out of an abusive relationship and my focus is being a SAHM to two VERY spirited toddlers. Running a group, even on a casual basis? Not happening. That's slated for the future - once this program is completed. That's been the plan all along - especially since it's a ministry training program. I mean, is it terribly unrealistic to get training BEFORE you start doing the work you're getting trained to do? Etc.

The other two ladies my age are childless (one of them for the time being, and one of them adamently childless-by-choice). Both of them are somehow... I don't know. I feel they're more respected.

Honestly I feel like I'm not respected much in the program. In college I didn't feel this way at all; here, I feel almost patronized. I don't slack on my work, I put in just as much energy as anyone else. In fact, I'm putting in more - I was told I was the only one who was taking a full courseload this semester (five classes) where everyone else only takes one or two. Well, but see, I actually care about finishing the master's program, whereas others aren't typically in it for the degree but rather a class here or there.

I'm learning a lot, and I think I have a lot to contribute to the discussions, but again, I just feel like my arguments are... again, that word, patronized. It's not just one class, either. Some are worse than others, but it generally tends to be the trend.

I think there's a groupthink that's started to happen within the program, and to be perfectly honest, I don't fit into it well. I just don't buy all the arguments they come up with and back each other on. I'm always respectful of my differences of opinion and back it up with literature that we're reading, and just... I'm not trying to go against the grain, but I am trying to present my authentic perspective as well. And it seems like it's just not fitting in well with the rest of the groups'.

So, OK. We've established that the program isn't a complete fit for me. But, I've started it and I don't want to just have all this time and effort wasted. Because it HAS been a lot of effort! The credits won't transfer to another program because the institution isn't accredited. I'd have to start all over with another Master's (my B.A. is a totally worthless English degree that I never got a job with, so I pretty much need a grad degree). And I probably couldn't afford another program. And there is no similar program to transfer to, anyway, because like I said, it's the ONLY one currently available in the country.

So, ye of the student mama's board... what would you do if you were me?
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#2 of 7 Old 10-26-2010, 01:02 PM
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I tried to complete a program recently that I chose to quit/postpone. Unfortunately, I waited until I was really cracking, and quit mid/late-semester, thus totally wasting the weeks I'd invested in showing up, taking kids to sitter, paying sitter, using caffeine, buying books, etc. There were very similar issues to what you describe. I felt v. v. v. out of place, but I did want the was affordable, local, hell, I still want it and will do it in a few years. And I felt like less-than-a-winner for not magically completing it despite my own feelings of alienation/degradation. Here's what I learned.

-It's better to take even one class (or the minimum for fin. aid) than none at all. If it's encroaching on your life enough, that it has the power to make you unhappy enough to consider quitting....better to string it out than quit entirely.

-When my life is fulfilling in other forms...good friendships, healthy family relationships, it's easy enough to tolerate school being less than delightful. When I was in that program, there was so much wrong in my life, both within my control and NOT, that the tediousness, the lack of fulfilling conversation/camaraderie of the program really pushed my mental health that much closer to not-fine. In other words, what can you tweak outside of the program? If you are mostly content in other aspects of your life, this one doesn't have to seem so heavy and you can more easily go through the motions of finishing it out. I didn't really realize how many crises I was wading through back then, until some of them resolved. Whew! I could prattle on and on...

My advice is to really take an afternoon of kid-free time to map this out. How might you feel in five years if you quit? How might you feel in five years if you complete, but are inherently intellectually unfulfilled by, the program? If you map it out on pen and paper, I bet you'll get your answer within a few hours of quiet time. And then, if you choose to proceed, you'll be able to come here and ask for insights on surviving a less-than ideal program. Venting somewhere safe and anonymous can be really gratifying!
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#3 of 7 Old 10-27-2010, 07:31 PM
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So you are doing all of this to get a non-accredited degree? I'm really confused as to why you would spend ANY money time or effort to get a piece of paper that has as much worth as one I could print out and send to you?

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#4 of 7 Old 10-28-2010, 11:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Witch's - Thanks for that advice. The "look five years down the road and see how you would feel" is really good. Sometimes it's good to just take a step back and look at the situation more clearly.

Bobandjess - Well, not quite the same thing. I've been to a "real" graduate program before, and the work here is, if anything, more comprehensive and intensive than that accredited (and EXPENSIVE) program - and for the same degree, it's actually twice as long. Further, it IS a legal degree, and the school SHOULD be accredited in the near future. They're fulfilling all the reqiurements for accreditation, but it takes a few years for the actual accreditation to kick in. Moreover, even if in the worst case scenario, in the larger world the degree wouldn't be recognized, it is still a well-known institution within its community, and well-known individuals teach there as well. And with the small class sizes, it's kind of a no-brainer that you get to meet these people - networking etc. They're well-known authors, individuals who have spoken at the World Parliament of Religions, etc. And there are in-person conventions and intensives, so again, more opportunities for networking. So, no, if you wrote me out a piece of paper with a degree on it, it wouldn't necessarily be the same.

I ended up putting one of the classes on the back burner for this semester and concentrating on the other four which I am doing better in. I think I'm in a better place and although I'm not sure what to do next semester yet, but I'm definitely going to finish up this one. I'll re-evaluate afterwards.
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#5 of 7 Old 10-28-2010, 03:13 PM
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My husband is in a program where everyone is a different age and political outlook. It really gets him down. I spent some time in a program that was academically inferior to the one I graduated from and frankly, it was really hard to work with students who weren't very prepared academically and had less professional experience. It is hard to be in a program with a mismatch.

That being said if you find the work interesting and think it will prepare you for a future career I would continue with it. You might find it less annoying if you took a smaller course load so that it occupied less of your life. It sounds like there is a lot of "else" that goes on with the classes-- maybe you could cut down on activities or conversations that weren't strictly related to the coursework. It would be better if you graduated well after the accreditation is granted.

I would personally never take classes that weren't accredited because a lot of places *don't* get the accreditation they persue, especially for-profit or religious groups. Is there a larger accredited university with accredited programs that backs it up? A degree without accreditation is worthless, regardless if it is legal. You wouldn’t be able to even transfer the credits. Does the school offer your money back or transfer to another program if they don't get it?
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#6 of 7 Old 10-30-2010, 07:30 PM
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I would stick it out. Those people in your program, they don't have to be your friends; you don't even have to like one another, you just have to have some sort of professional civility. I liked almost no one in my grad program, which was very touchy-feely and full of "let's all give each other a hug!" stuff that has no appeal to me. I graduated and moved on and never see them or think of them, really. Now I am about to start a 2nd Master's program (and now I fit into that 40-something with lots-of-experience category) and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can learn from the younger students. Things in my field are constantly changing and I know I'll get a lot of good ideas, as well as ideas I'll discard after turning them over. I'm enrolling in this program with three colleagues (including my supervisor) and I have such respect and affection for all three, I'm really looking forward to having an opportunity to work more with each of them. But as for not liking my classmates -- when I was in my early 20s and finished my first MA, yes, I found the older students, at times, annoying; we youngsters were the minority in the program and I did get ruffled sometimes because I felt I wasn't taken as seriously as some of the more experienced students, but my piece of paper had the same degree on it, which was the end goal... it was never my intention to be a social group with them; my social group was already established.

Joy, mama to Aquaboy (10), Goldilocks (8), Squidge (4)
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#7 of 7 Old 11-01-2010, 12:04 AM
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I have made a career in higher education, hold two masters and am currently 3/4 of the way to a PhD myself so believe me I am very pro-education but I too side with the folks who would not seak a degree from an unaccredited institution. I was just part of the national accreditation process for the state university where I work and let me say it is a very difficult, tedious process and that was for an accreditation renewal! A few years ago Syracuse University's accreditation was in question. Believe me, if an institution like Syracuse can be at risk of losing accreditation, it is a stringent, high caliber process.

Through my work I am in the process of earning an additional masters from an unaccredited university. Now the organization is famous but the long and short of it is that they are not currently accredited. They have been working on getting accredited for over 5 years. Make no mistake, this is a lengthy process. My employer pays for me to take these courses but if I had to pay for them on my own I wouldn't think of it...the lack of accreditation means no federal financial aid and frankly, the degree will mean very little when I am done except to that particular organization.

I once worked with a masters student who had attempted suicide. Through his recovery it came out that he didn't really like grad school. My advice to him was that he needed to quit. Masters work is very specific and once you are into a program you should LOVE IT. If you don't, for whatever reason, it is not the program for you. This young man left grad school and after re-evaluating his live went on to be a very successful math teacher, without a masters degree. From what you have written, you too have not found your fit, whether it be the program or the school. It may be time to look elsewhere.
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