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Still Resolute

Jim Wasserman

AT THE BEGINNING of 2022, I wrote about our resolution to go back to grad school. The short update: Jiab and I are indeed doing it. We’re enrolled in the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program at the University of Texas at Dallas.

We scrambled to get the application paperwork done before classes started Jan. 18. Neither of us had applied to school for ourselves since the introduction of online registration, but we found it fairly easy. The only holdup was getting our prior transcripts submitted. My undergrad university and law school both said they didn’t have electronic transcripts “that far back,” so I had to have hard copies mailed.

A full load is three classes. We opted for two our first semester, so we could get acclimated to school again. Good thing we did. We have a regular weekly assignment load of about 100 pages to read and then writing reflection essays of at least 500 words each. We now complain to our kids that we want to do something but can’t “because we have homework.”

The age of the students ranges from just out of college to 60—that would be me—with people from all over the world. The exchange of ideas from so many perspectives is magical, though I sometimes listen to the theoretical descriptions of life and think, “Sorry, it doesn’t work like that in the real world, but you’ll find out in your own time.”

One of the most intriguing assignments so far was writing an intellectual autobiography. Basically, it’s a review of the events of your life—both academic and personal—that have shaped how you think today. It was daunting at first, especially as I had almost three times as much life to cover as the fresh-out-of-college kids. But connecting the dots of events and influences was fascinating and extremely helpful for my understanding of my understanding (“metacognition” in grad jargon). I recommend it as a great exercise. The professor kept saying that the intellectual autobiography would be helpful in future stages of our life, such as looking for a job. I agreed, though I said it’s best use for my future was probably as a first draft for my eulogy.

Jiab and I are determined to keep going. At first, we thought the main motivation to continue would be justifying the tuition we’d paid ($5,462 per person for two courses), plus $250 to $300 in application fees, a parking sticker and books (thank goodness for cheaper or even free online versions of texts). There’s a number of discounted—and even free—tuition programs for seniors, but we didn’t qualify.

We’ve come to love the possibilities that grad school is opening up. Jiab is delving deep into gender discrimination, a topic she can look at critically and with greater distance, now that she doesn’t have to worry about the repercussions from speaking out at her job. Similarly, I’m taking a broad view of media literacy, deciding if I want to focus on education reform or advocating for industry change.

It’s like when you first start exercising to lose weight but, at some point, realize the exercise itself—and the great feeling that you’re doing it—is the reward. We plan to sign up for summer classes and then take the fall off. As Jiab correctly observed, travel will be cheaper then and less crowded.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m on spring break. I gotta show these youngins how to do it “old school.”

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Ronald Wayne
Ronald Wayne
7 months ago

Good luck to both of you! I started a master’s program in Mass Communication at the University of Florida, where I worked, when I was 52. At the time, the state wasn’t giving raises but did pay tuition for full-time employees. So I took the GRE and was accepted. I took just one course a semester and never in summer so I didn’t finish until I was 58. Sadly, my position was eliminated that year (after 10 years in the job), and the degree didn’t help me find a new job in my field of media relations or PR. In some ways, it might have hurt because I often interviewed with younger people who didn’t have grad degrees. But I don’t regret the work especially since I didn’t pay for it. It expanded my knowledge and thinking skills.

BenefitJack
BenefitJack
7 months ago

In Ohio, we can audit classes for free on a space available basis. In Texas, it looks like it is age 65. http://www.collegeforalltexans.com/apps/financialaid/tofa2.cfm?ID=565

While I’m approaching age 70 myself, I haven’t retired. I got my last degree at age 60, in 2013. In fact, all my post-secondary education occurred at night or on weekends, while working full time. If I’m still in Ohio when I retire, I’m looking forward to becoming an eclectic student – whatever topic I feel like. https://www.ohiohighered.org/students/lifelong-learning

If we relocate, before or after retirement, this will be one important component to factor in.

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
7 months ago

I’m very impressed by you and Jiab. I’m a big fan of lifelong learning. I would love to read an intellectual biography – it’s a very intriguing concept. Thanks for bringing it to the HD community’s attention.

John Daniels
John Daniels
7 months ago

I enjoy yours and Jiab’s pieces, which remind us of non-financial aspects of retirement. I think I’ll try my own essay, now that I have an idea what “metacognition” is.

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