In our family, we have 3 students of different levels. Younger child is in high school, her older sibling is an under-grad while I’m a post-grad student. The kids are cheering me on for PhD! As a firm believer of life-long learning, yes I hope I could do so as it has been my wish to do my PhD before I kick the bucket. For now, let me settle my Masters first.
Based on my experience, being a college student at the young age right after high school was much better than being a mature student. When you are a young college student, all you really, seriously need to worry about is making that grade at each exam. Your time is spent mostly on attending classes, studying in the libraries, meeting friends, traveling during the semester breaks and occasional parties. For some, with the inclusion of part-time jobs.
As a mature student, with family and a job, it is tough to try to fit in as many tasks as I wish, into the same amount of time everyone has. Weekdays are spent doing full-time job, attending to family and weekends for full-day classes. There is no break in between as all 7 days are taken up. Most time, studies get attended to after doing works which I’m paid for. Family is important too, and will have to settle the kids first before I get to do my assignments. My take is, if at all possible, study as much as you like before you settle down with a family. Studying while working is not easy but you can handle it best when you are single.
I started my course when my son was still in high school. Usually most part-time mature students complete their masters within 2.5 years. I’m not that model student. It has taken me 5.5 years to finally complete my MSc Finance (pending thesis approval). At the beginning of the MSc journey, I went through all the required 10 courses, core and electives combined, as scheduled; but I ‘wasted’ 3 years after that, lying idle – where my thesis was concerned. Those 3 years I spent every wakeful hours, with very little sleep doing financial advisory works for my clients and being active in the PTA at my children’s school. At that time, I felt that my job and the PTA needed my attention more than the thesis. The only sin I committed was getting too committed to my job and executing my role wholeheartedly in the PTA. Of course, there’s my family, occupying my 24/7 – on top of the list.
Finally, in December 2016, I left the workforce hoping that I could switch my focus to completing my thesis while serving the PTA. That move certainly took away quite some weight off my shoulders. Where the thesis was concerned, it was tough to pick up from where I left off. Kind of like the engine had gone icy cold. It took some time for me to warm up to resume writing.
When I first started writing my thesis, the abstract to be exact, I thought I could write just about anything, easy-peasy. I was so wrong! My first dissertation was done way back in 1997. Today, at post-grad level, the expectation and standard of writing is much higher. I admit that I was struggling a lot with it, moving at snail pace. Finally, a friendly lecturer advised me to read between 50 to 100 journals before beginning to write my thesis. I was reluctant to stop writing to make a u-turn to reading more journals. I didn’t get her then. When the same advice was repeated by other lecturers, including my supervising professor, it started to dawn on me that, like it or not, I had to do just that if I wanted to complete my thesis. Yes, it was dry and boring stuffs, reading almost similar contents over and over again but by different authors. Dozing off while reading was a normal scene, even with a cup or two espresso to accompany. Reading relevant journals wherever I was, whenever there was a pit stop while sending and fetching daughter for her school activities and running chores. Now the best part…Having read through past researches, I discovered that the more I read the clearer my mind became. Ideas started pouring in and a structure was slowly taking shape in my mind. Finally, after all the hard work, right before the PTA AGM 2018, I completed my thesis. Yay!!!
For students reading this, whenever your teachers advise you to read more books, you know why now. It helps to enhance your writing skill and boost your creativity. It also helps you to see a clearer roadmap ahead on how to write your essays, project papers or thesis. There is a standard pattern to academic writing. The only difference between one author to another, is incorporating your thoughts or personal opinion into your writing. How we perceive a certain subject is different from the next person. That is why we cannot copy others’ works and treat it as ours. Treating others’ works as ours is committing plagiarism. It is a very serious offence in the academic world. Therefore, be mindful when you write your papers. I believe in my own work regardless how long it takes me to complete it, no matter how imperfect it may be. I’d like to look at the finished product with pride in my eyes and clear conscience in my heart. It takes a bit, or rather much longer in my case, slowly but surely I completed it. That’s what matters.
I wasn’t an A student; just an average student. I love outdoors more than classrooms. The only indoor I like was the library or book shops because I love reading books. Believe it or not, I began to enjoy studying only when I started working. I realised that in the workforce, being smart in a logical way, hardworking and all weren’t enough to climb the corporate ladder. I was an ambitious young woman out there. I wanted to achieve the extraordinary, to break my own records. What I found out is that we need to have higher qualifications accompanying the quality of work we produced to be promoted more quickly. Without the certifications, it takes teens of years to get a promotion if you’re lucky. That was told to me by a senior in the office. I was like, seriously??!! I couldn’t wait forever to get my promotion!
I asked my boss (at the age of 23) why people with degrees or masters get high position jobs without much experience? He replied, a person with qualification, though lacks experience, can be taught or trained more easily and they tend to grasp the knowledge and skill more quickly. The grads armed with theories (supposedly), will put the theories to practice and execute the jobs well. That motivated me to be a student again.
Now, I study to enhance my knowledge so that I could sharpen my skill. Additionally, I’d like to see myself as a role model to my children, showing them that age doesn’t stop a person from seeking education. I was told by a librarian in my uni that the oldest post-grad student to graduate was in his sixties!
Why do I study besides being a role model to my kids? Well….education is the key to opening doors to more opportunities. The more you study, the more keys you have to open more doors (opportunities). What do I mean by that? In case you are seeking a new job, your certs may be able to provide the chances you need to secure one, regardless where you are, locally or abroad. Why restrict yourself with just one key of opportunity? The more equipped you are, I’d like to think that the more secure your future is going to be. I may not use my certs right now as my job doesn’t require anymore certs, but who knows what might happen in the future? I still attend seminars occasionally to learn new things and to keep abreast with this fast changing world.
Lastly, when you get the chance to study, study hard (if you notice, I did not write “study smart”). Make sure to get a good return from your investment….your investment is your time; your return is acquiring knowledge and graduating from the course you studied for. If you are a student doing part-time job(s), treat it as PART-TIME. I know when you see your payslip, you’ll be tempted to put in more hours to earn more. I’m telling you, this is little money. If you cannot handle assignments and PT jobs, you’ve got to let go the little money no matter how tempting it is. Your investment as a student is Education. Leave the tuition fee to your parents. It is their responsibility. If you are in a more difficult situation where you’ve got to rely on yourself, then, study harder to earn a scholarship…when there’s a will, there’s a way. Speak to your student counsellor about your options. Failing which, take a study loan then.
Being a student is FUN. Yes, you read me right. If you think it sucks, you have not entered the workforce yet. Part-time isn’t really into the workforce yet. Almost there but not there yet. That’ll be another post to cover. Right not, enjoy being a student with exams, assignments and projects to worry about. Take a step at a time. If you ever have any issues, always talk to your counsellors or advisors. Some unis have student advisor, some unis assigned academic advisors and career advisors to their students. Meet with them often to seek guidance. Be not afraid to admit that you are weak, for the ones who seek are the ones who are actually strong. There are always people around you who are willing to extend their hands to you. All you need to do is grab that hand and let yourself be led till you get yourself on your feet again. When you do well, volunteer to help others.
I hope you get to learn something from this post. All the best for your studies. Take a break when you need to but do not give up!