There's No Business Like School
(Continued from 2)
The Third and Fourth Degrees.
It helped a lot that my GI Bill was paying for it all,
because I had no costs other than my books (averaging
$100 per course). I proudly marched down the aisle to
accept a Master of Education degree in 1982 and then
again for a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in
1986. Each degree was 36 semester hours of no-nonsense
My life had changed by degrees! At my high school
commencement, it was the furthest thing from my mind
that I might wish to go on to study nights and/or weekends
and earn four degrees. I remember high school as boring,
at least the classes. I enjoyed the plays and concerts,
the fun stuff.
Nobody was more astounded at my academic turn-around
than my parents. I always mailed them photocopies of
my grade reports and they remained my steadfast cheerleaders.
With each degree completion, they sent cards and gifts
and called to congratulate me. They, who had saved so
hard for my college tuition, had never used a cent of
it. I encouraged them to go on a cruise, enjoy the money,
have fun being retired.
I had used up almost every penny of my GI Bill benefits,
but after a while I was itching for a doctorate. I missed
the excitement of going to classes. Also, it seemed
I had too much free time on my hands. My full-time job
was a guidance counselor, but I delivered pizzas a couple
of nights a week and did some tour guiding on weekends.
I did some volunteer work and I enrolled in several
semesters of German language classes in an adult education
program and that kept me busy for a while. There were
no credits involved, but improving my German was a plus,
considering I was living and working in Germany.
It was a bit scary, but I started classes for the only
doctoral program available on base. It was an Ed.D.,
though a doctor in education degree was not really my
cup of tea. New students could take three courses before
formal acceptance, so there I was, sitting in class
with assistant principals and well-seasoned teachers
at the other desks. I felt pushed up against a brick
wall at times and also looming in front of me was the
strict requirement that overseas students had to spend
two summers on campus in the U.S. I knew I could never
afford that. True, my tuition would be covered, but
I'd be on leave-without-pay for those months and would
have to pay for a place to stay those summers.
I dropped out. It was the biggest bump in the road
in my long educational journey. My grades were dismal.
I was miserable. I wasn't even sure I wanted or needed
a doctorate, but if so, certainly not one in education.
Since living abroad was a permanent situation for me,
I decided I had to opt for my old stand-by - a non-traditional
method. Getting a doctorate actually was not half as
intimidating as I had thought. Basically one needs 60
semester hours beyond the master level. I already had
an additional advanced degree (beyond my Master degree)
under my belt, plus the few credits from my short gig
with trying for an Ed.D., so was more than half way
there at the starting gate.
I enrolled with Pacific Western University by mail
and awaited their evaluation of my credits. This time
I was paying my own way and, if all went well, I'd be
awarded a Ph.D. in Behavioral Science.
The news was great! I would need to do a couple of
small research projects on my own and write up papers
of 10 pages or so for each. My transfer credits looked
fine. Not only did they come from accredited institutions,
but I had maintained a decent GPA. I faced doing a research
proposal, which went well because I'd learned a lot
about that - perhaps the sole benefit of suffering through
those Ed.D. classes. The final credits would come from
the completed dissertation, which had to be at least
I remember laughing when I found out I had six years
to complete it. Who needs six years? But the library
research (back in the days of microfiche, not Internet),
the questionnaires, the crunching of numbers, the writing
to a specific format, it all took time. Lots of time
-as in years. I wasn't laughing anymore.
I felt alone in the world. It would have been easier
to finish a dissertation with fellow students and professors
ready to answer questions. I tried not to panic and
I didn't rush myself. I examined a number of completed
dissertations. Even though the subjects were not at
all similar to mine, I was concentrating on the format,
the presentation, everything. I wanted my research project
to be worry-free and the dissertation as close to perfect
as I could manage. I knew if I found any errors in my
basic calculations, I'd have to start over.
The Fifth Degree.
From start to finish, it took me just over five years.
For weeks I waited for my educational advisors to evaluate
my research and dissertation. They had a few minor questions
for me, but all went smoothly. I was elated - I did
it! As before, I could not attend the commencement ceremony.
My degree arrived in the mail, along with a hardbound
copy of my dissertation.
A 20 Year Journey.
From start to finish, my college
"career" lasted almost 20 years. I consider
it a journey of learning unlike no other. My milestones
along the way:
High school graduation - 1970
Associate of Science in General Studies - 1978
Bachelor of Science - 1980
Master of Education - 1982
Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study - 1986
Doctor of Philosophy in Behavioral Science - 1993
I'm not so sure the story is over. The family saga
continues. My son was 24 when he enrolled in his first
evening junior college class. Who knows? Give him another
couple of decades and he just might be the next doctor
in the family.
Roberta Beach Jacobson, 52, currently lives in Karpathos,
Greece. For more information and a list of writing credits