Monday, November 12, 2007

How to survive graduate studies

How to survive graduate studies

While working as the migrant desk project officer at the Jesuit-run John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues, and a first time Journalism instructor at his alma mater, Jeremaiah Opiniano, 31, an AB Journalism graduate from the University of Santo Tomas, took up MA Development Communication at the University of the Philippines- Open University in 1999. Learn how to be a master multitasker like Opiniano.

If you want to earn it – go for it. Jere says apart from growing professionally, nurturing his passion for non-profit work and communication studies prompted him to take up his master's degree. Apart from required courses, he also took up three cognates from UP-Diliman to get a feel of residential studies. "The degree is research-based. The training was difficult. I even got a 2.00 (or an "average" grade) for one of my electives but that's okay– I learned a lot. The whole process was really good," he recalls.

Set your priorities. With a 9-to-6 job and a 3-unit teaching load, Jere had to be disciplined to breeze through his graduate studies. "What's good in an open university is that it's a perfect fit for a graduate student who also works," he says. For him, graduate studies are also a responsibility, since you'll handle it among other things, including relationships. "If you really want it, you will do everything to get it. It also depends on the person if he or she can handle this added responsibility of further studies," he cautions.

Tap all available support. With a little savings, plus his parents' support, Jere was able to finance his studies at the start. Eventually, he set aside part of his income for school. The P20,000 grant he got from the Philippine Social Science Council, apart from the logistical support he got from the International Institute on Rural Reconstruction (his research subject), mainly aided his research, which was tedious and costly during data-gathering. He also credits ICSI for letting employees pursue graduate studies.

Develop the habit of scholarship. During the application process, it's always asked if you can really be a teacher or a researcher. "And you have to be willing to be trained like that – madali pa nga ang training dito, sa ibang bansa, mas pahirapan," Jere points out. But there are also some students who don't want to do theses since they are laborious and costly. "But for me, thesis is important because that's the measure of what you learned."

Aim for quality education. Seek one where you can learn the most, Jere says, whether you enroll in one of the top universities or other graduate or professional schools. If you think you're not cut out for graduate studies or that you can't finish the program because of burnout or other priorities, consider taking either certificate courses here or abroad. "There's really a disparity between the number of enrollees versus those who graduate. If you realize you can't do it, then leave. You can get professional advancement elsewhere," Jere advises.

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