In my previous posts, I have written a great deal about the admissions processes that I navigated on my way to pursuing a doctoral degree. I’m going to shift gears and begin a new series about the specifics of the program in which I chose to enroll and my experience as a full-time doctoral student and full-time working professional. It is a unique program, and it is my hope that my experience will be of interest to the readers of www.higheredcareercoach.com. Please do not mistake this as a sales pitch for my particular institution or type of program . . . but I hope that it illustrates how I have attempted to balance doctoral studies with my professional career and family life.
I’m currently a first-year doctoral student in the Higher Education Administration Ed.D. program at the George Washington University. While GWU offers a traditional doctoral program experience at their Foggy Bottom campus in the District of Columbia, I attend classes at the Virginia Campus near Dulles Airport. I have chosen the cohort program model that GWU offers. In this program, a number of students are admitted each fall. This cohort of students takes all of their courses together for the first two and a half years of the program, seven credits each semester during the fall, spring and summer.
Courses for cohort students at the Virginia Campus are taught by the same faculty members who teach at Foggy Bottom, and course content and program requirements are the same, although they are adjusted a bit to accommodate for the unique needs of cohort students. All members of the cohort program are working in higher education, and most of us do not live in the D.C. area.
Here are the major factors that resulted in my enrollment in the GW cohort program, instead of a more traditional program at another institution.
- The ability to accrue meaningful professional experience while making progress towards my doctorate. As an entry-level professional in student affairs, I was concerned about being “overqualified” with a doctorate and limited professional experience.
- The idea of being in a cohort was really appealing to me. I knocked out my masters degree part-time while working full-time, so I never had the experience of being in a cohort and making strong connections with classmates. I felt like I was missing out on that during my masters program.
- GWU just seemed like a good fit for me. It’s not the most highly ranked program in the world, but everyone treated me well throughout the admissions process. They were really transparent about the strengths and areas for growth with their program. I really felt like they wanted me there, and like I would have support to do good work.
- They offered me some financial support (not full tuition or anything like that), which was nice.
Some of my concerns about the program included:
- Balancing 7-credits each semester with my 50-60 hours per week at work.
- Travel. One weekend a month while working in a position that requires me to be on-call is quite a commitment, while also adding to the costs of the program.
- Quality. GWU says the quality of the educational experience is just as good for cohort students as it is for traditional students. Would this be true?
In the end, I thought the pluses outweighed the potential negatives. To this point, I have been thrilled to be a George Washington Colonial, and I am find the delicate balancing act of work and school manageable. Next time, I’ll write about how I’ve negotiated things at work and home to make all of this possible.