How to: Get your Master’s Degree, Part III

Note: So, I recognize these are likely the most boring, odd posts for me to be writing and expecting people to read. They are partly inspired by my sister who suggested I write a “How To” post about changing names after marriage. She said she had difficulty finding resources online that included ALL the necessary steps. So, along those lines, I thought I’d share my experience of the process of a graduate degree for those out there that are maybe doing or thinking about doing the same thing and wondering where to begin!

Step 3: Answer time!

Here we go….hit that list and GO FOR IT! Here are some of the answers I’ve managed to come up with.

1) Why am I doing this? What will I get out of it at the end? What will I get out of it as I go? What will keep me going a few years into the process when the end seems nowhere in sight? Potential for a new career; professional development for my current career; I desperately love Psychology and learning and reading and experiencing more of it whenever I possibly can; to grow and develop myself personally; options in or out of the school system; prestige (I’m not afraid to admit I’ll feel pride about it); money (ya, SOMEday it might lead to me earning more); a personal and professional challenge; something to keep me moving on the days life seems rather stagnant; joy! 

2) What is the application deadline? Are there multiple pieces of the application that have different deadlines? December 1 seems to be the magic date for all of it. 

3) Do I meet the most basic criteria like number of previous credits or degrees, minimum GPA, and so on? Yes, Yes, Yes. While my GPA may not be off the charts, I overshot the Psych credit requirement by 21…maybe more. 

4) Who do I need to talk to to answer my questions? (So far, I’ve found a possible three people that may or may not be the right person.) Do I have the correct contact information (e-mail, phone, fax, or office address)? Best way to solve the problem? Contact EVERYone. The best part was, each of the three I e-mailed responded happily, promptly, and ready to answer – most importantly they shared the dates and times for information sessions. Note: Get on the info search early enough to not MISS these precious info nights. 

5) What is the minimum number of years this degree can take? Maximum? For this degree, three and six. And yes, there IS a maximum. I can’t take longer than six.

6) What are ALL the fees associated with applying and completing the degree? Do I have a plan (as vague as it may be) to pay for it? Is this worth it to me to get a loan for? Be in debt? Take the time to save up? Sacrifice other possible monetary opportunities for? Lots of fees – for applying, for being a student, etc; additional ones if it takes longer than four years. Yes, it’s worth debt, time, and other sacrifices. 

med2a7) Can I work full-time while completing the degree? If not, do I have the option to work part-time? Potentially both – during course work I can definitely work, practica are in the summer. However…the 1200 hour internship WILL need to be a full-time commitment and I will NOT be able to work at the same time.

8) Can I change my status between full-time and part-time student from semester to semester? Year to year? Yes, Yes, Yes! Hooray!

9) Do I have enough relevant (and willing) references to write letters for my application? Relevant, yes. Willing? Well, we’ll see!

10) Have I kept track of all the universities (physical and “open” or distance ed) and courses I’ve taken to obtain the necessary transcripts? Do I really need the transcript for that one joke of a 200 level Psych course I did through…. some Open University in my third year of my first bachelor’s?! Despite that my first University no longer exists, I can still request transcripts, Phew! Only the last two years of relevant course work are looked at, so my random Psych course…not going to bother with hunting that one down.

11) What order do I submit pieces of the application? Should I wait to send my sealed transcripts to the U of C (in my case) until after my application? Or try to have it all arrive at the same time? Or submit a copy WITH my application and also have copies sent directly from the university? Check, check, check. Sealed transcripts are fine rather than directly from the university and so long as they arrive shortly after the application date, all is swell!

12) Are there options for scholarships, bursaries, grants, or PIF money (as I have recently discovered the CBE has)? I’m eligible for PIF, but working full-time renders me ineligible for any monetary awards, through U of C at least, but doubting anyone will fork out cash to me. Sounds like my best choice for a PIF will be a partially-paid leave for my internship rather than tuition/books.

13) What the heck is PIF and how does it work? Who do I call? Is it a one-time deal or can I apply for funding every year? Can I get both funding and time off, or just one? Find the contact person: check. Information session: Check. One-time deal for partially funded time off, multiple years of nearly 100% tuition and books coverage with a one-time application. 

14) What are the requirements for the practica and the internships? Time commitments? Can I still work full-time around these? Can I do my internship within the CBE? Practica – set up by the University of Calgary during two summers. Internship: TBA. Seems like it MOSTLY is arranged by me; IS a full-time commitment and cannot work during that time. And sadly, no, cannot do my internship with the CBE.

med215) After considering how many questions I have, people I need to talk to, research I have to do, money I’ll have to pay, time and effort I’ll have to request from others, etc, and so on, do I STILL want to do this? Possibly even more than before! Hooray!

Step 4: Actually completing all the paperwork required for the application!

Step 5: Keeping fingers and toes crossed the application is approved and accepted!

I’ll try and write something a little more spicy and entertaining soon!

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