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The Professional Student

Illustration for article titled The Professional Student

Is education always a requirement? Have you ever heard of someone being a “professional student”? I’ve been called this once or twice in my lifetime. Why? Because I’ve always loved school. Not only does it come easily to me, but learning has always been exciting and fun for me. Call me a nerd, a teacher’s pet, whatever you want. The truth is, I thrive on new knowledge, reading, and absorbing as much information as possible.


This was part of my reason for attending a graduate program. My undergraduate degrees are in English and history. The truth is, when I entered college I had no idea what I wanted to major in or what career path I would follow. I started as a communication major and quickly switched to English, per my mother’s suggestion. She reminded me of my love of writing and reading and it seemed like a natural fit. I fell in love with writing memoir. I also started taking history courses and after falling in love with the teacher and her style, I quickly added a double-major in history to my portfolio. But what did I want to do with these degrees? I had no idea.

What I did know is that I always wanted to go to graduate school. Funny enough, one of the main reasons was to say, “I have my master’s degree”. I guess vanity will take you so far in life, under certain circumstances. But on a personal level, I wanted to perfect the craft of writing memoir. I loved nonfiction and was obsessed with reading memoirs and imitating the style, descriptions, and dialogue. I read everything I could get my hands on and wrote daily. Receiving my MFA seemed like the natural next step.


I applied to Iowa’s Writers Workshop, one of the most prestigious graduate programs for writing in the country and was promptly rejected. Sure, I was bummed but not totally surprised. I also applied to schools in Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts. I was accepted to 2 out of the 3 and chose Lesley University in Cambridge. The campus was gorgeous, the mentors were all published authors, and the atmosphere was perfect for me. It was two of the most creative and wonderful years of my life.

But did I receive my MFA for career reasons? No. It was purely for my own, personal benefit. I went to graduate school to hone my craft as a writer and accomplish something for myself. Obtaining my MFA did not advance my career in any way, nor did it make me any more marketable for future positions. Currently working as a freelance writer, I’m sure that having my MFA looks good on a resume, but for most positions, your written portfolio speaks for itself. So when people ask me if I had the choice, would I have chosen to go to graduate school again and my answer is always the same. Yes. Undoubtedly, unequivocally, yes! And funny enough, I’ve flirted with the idea of returning for another two-years of study, perhaps in a different concentration of writing, to expand my knowledge and obtain additional skills. Maybe one day I’ll apply to Iowa’s program again and be accepted. After all, people don’t call me a “professional student” for nothing.

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