4 questions to ask before deciding on your graduate program

President of HEI

Dr. Mary Landon Darden is President of HEI, LLC. She served in education administration for 20 years and last served as a university center dean in San Antonio, TX. Darden is the author of a book co-published with the American Council on Education and Rowman and Littlefield titled Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Universities in America.

1. What is my passion?

Let’s face it, teaching and working in schools is not for the faint of heart.  It will take more than a paycheck to keep, not only, persisting, but thriving in the classroom.  When selection a graduate degree, success will likely be mote forth-coming and the outcomes more fulfilling, if the field of study aligns with your passion. In my experience, the best fuel for success is to identify subjects, goals, missions, that tap into your passion or sense of calling.  This was the number one trait I have sought in my 20 years of hiring teachers and it proved to be extremely fruitful.  If you are not sure what you are passionate about, ask yourself where you experience joy; what projects do you enjoy so much that you would not only do them at work, but would do them for no pay and even stay up late by choice to work on them?

2. What are my greatest gifts and talents?

You likely know what you do well, what comes naturally, what you excel at.  These are frequently indications of your natural gifts and talents.  I have often found that students struggle with success when they do not align their degree choice with their natural abilities.  I have seen many students select law or medicine as a degree pathway, even though they have no real interest, aptitude or gifts that relate to those fields. It is my opinion that many of these students are attempting to please someone else by pursuing a field that they think will earn approval or praise from family, friends and community, or will make the most money, rather than an area that will be personally fulfilling and inspiring. So much financial expense, time and heartache could be avoided by tapping into the better fit to begin with.

 3. What are my long-term goals?

I know people with three or more Master’s degree.  This is perfectly fine, if a person loves going to school and has the funding to support it.  However, I have seen this happen more often from people changing their mind or deciding to go in another direction, often because they did not think things through regarding long-term goals, which can waist time, money and energy.  It can be a career limiter to become highly specialized, particularly if long-term goals do not exist.  If the long-term goal is to become a Superintendent, at some point a move needs to be made to educational administration and Superintendent Certification.  This process usually involves becoming a principal first and perhaps holding a Master’s degree in Educational Administration.  It is becoming increasingly common for Superintendents to hold a doctorate in Educational Administration along with their Superintendent Certification. Thinking your degree plans through to the ultimate goal, is the most effective and efficient way to pave your educational pathway.

4. What are my limitations?

Things that may impact your degree program choices and success that should be weighed accordingly may be:

  • Place-boundness – are you free to move for your career or not?
  • Financial limitations – how much debt to you have and what can you afford to take on?
  • Proximity – do you have to drive to attend or can you take course online?
  • Scheduling – time for study and class – will your schedule allow you enough time to study and attend class?
  • Available job opportunities – if you complete a graduate degree path, are there likely to be position options opening that you could consider?
  • Wellness level – is your physical, mental and relational situation strong enough to endure the stresses of graduate school?

President of HEI

Dr. Mary Landon Darden is President of HEI, LLC. She served in education administration for 20 years and last served as a university center dean in San Antonio, TX. Darden is the author of a book co-published with the American Council on Education and Rowman and Littlefield titled Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Universities in America.

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