Graduate School is Not a Destination

I used to believe that going to college was the key to getting a job. When things didn’t shake out like I hoped, I updated the belief by swapping out college with graduate school. Entering my 9th month of my Masters of Public Administration program, I realize now that my belief was wrong.

Snow covered Hall of Languages.

As a first-generation college student, going to college was a big deal. It brought immense pride to my parents, both unable to pursue higher education after obtaining their high school degrees. I knew the moment I crossed the stage to receive my college degree was the first time I was ever part of something larger-than-myself.

When I was unable to get a job prior to my college graduation, I felt like I failure. Sure, I knew the degree was mine but without a job, what was it all for? Immaturely, I refused to change my view of this input-output relationship between college and a job.

Refusing to change my belief, I submitted job application after job application once I began my MPA program. Months went by and the success of securing a job continued to escape me. The weight of rejection after rejection began to be too much for me to bear. I wasn’t happy and I knew why: this mentality was a zero-sum game.

View from Newhouse looking at the Hall of Languages.

This mentality buried all the personal and professional growth I made while pursuing higher education. It ignored the friends I made, the opportunities to challenge my assumptions about the world around me, and learn how to stand on my own two feet since graduating high school. For the first half of my time here in Syracuse, this toxic mentality blinded me from gaining pleasure in all the positive ways I’ve grown as a man.

It has taken me 22 years to realize that investments of time can be just as valuable as financial investments. By going to college and further pursuing a graduate education, I have afforded myself the opportunity to discover passions and interests. Be it books on presidential history, foreign films, or data science, all that matters to me is my enjoyment when it comes to how I spend my time. No longer is the goal to simply obtain a job; the goal is to be happy.

I want a career that incorporates data science to improve the lives of everyone, especially those in need. I want my fiancé to be able to pursue her own career goals as well. Together, no matter where her and I live, I always want to spend the holidays with our families. These statements of desire are only possible after taking the time to figure out what matters most to me. This degree is a testament to me finally realizing all of this.

Rare warm day in February.

Graduate school is not a destination; it is a place that gives you a framework to pursue whatever passions or interests you have at a professional level. Thanks to my short time here at Syracuse, I know what matters most to me.