Like most of the students in my Masters program, I took a big risk in going back to school. For me, it meant leaving a steady full-time job in an economy where such a thing is a luxury. It meant facing the uncertainty of returning to my studies after a multi-year hiatus. I broke it down into baby steps.
Register for classes. Check.
Go to the bookstore. Painful check. I had forgotten how expensive textbooks were – even used ones!
Fill out financial aid forms. Check, though I had forgotten what FAFSA even stood for.
Even with my careful planning, I felt what confidence I had faltering when I stepped into my first class. There were only eleven students, a much smaller class than any I had attended in my undergraduate program. What if the professor called on me? What did I know about counseling? There was no hiding in the back with my head down in this class. Sure, I read the first chapter, but so what? It would be so embarrassing!
I felt lost those first several weeks, juggling reading assignments, presentations, group projects, and papers. Counseling was so different from my previous degree in Political Science, and much of the material was new to me. I didn’t know what grades to expect at the end of the semester or if I could continue taking such a large class load each and every term. Late nights and pots of coffee became commonplace, along with rain checks to see friends or catch a movie.
I burned the midnight oil studying and kept putting one foot in front of the other. By May, it paid off! (I actually refreshed the webpage of my transcript several times to make sure it was right.) My jitters abated and I am now in my third semester in graduate school.
Any time we return to school, switch careers, or move to a new city, we take a leap of faith. We are never exactly sure what will await us on the other side, but the need for a change is strong enough to give us the courage to forge ahead. And, with a little bit of hard work, it may turn out just fine.
Tara Overzat is a counselor-in-training at Mercer University in Atlanta. Her interests include multicultural issues and acculturation amongst college students.