Courage to Conquer Grad School - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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February 28, 2018

Courage to Conquer Grad School

In his book The PhDictionary: A Glossary of Things You Don’t Know (but Should) about Doctoral and Faculty Life (2016), Herb Childress advises prospective graduate students to “take a cold-eyed look at the numbers, and determine whether the risk is acceptable and how much you’re willing to invest in the gamble.” Google whether you should go to grad school, and you’ll get boatloads of similar advice.

But suppose you’ve chosen a career path that requires an advanced degree after you finish your bachelor’s. Or maybe you’ve caught the same bug that infected your professors, and you’re interested in teaching others about your field. Is graduate school as treacherous as everyone is warning you?

Now that I’ve navigated the transition to grad school—and talked with many other Geneva alumni who’ve done the same thing—I can assure you that it’s possible. In fact, if you’re thinking of taking the grad school plunge, the core values of a Geneva College education will prepare you to excel. Here’s how:

  1. Serve with grace.

Graduate school can be filled with new pressures and obligations. Especially if you receive an assistantship, you’ll need to learn how to serve your department quickly and cheerfully—from stuffing envelopes to picking up famous scholars at the airport.

Geneva grads are marked with grace, not just from the numerous service opportunities their college offers, but because of time spent learning under Jesus Christ. Geneva grads serve with grace because they serve Christ himself, whose every word is full of “grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV).

  1. Pursue Godly wisdom.

Grad school can involve intense exertion and cutthroat competition as students strive for entry into a narrow career field. Geneva College equips graduates to compete well in academic performance. At the same time, Geneva grads measure their learning by more than the length of their CV.

The apostle James contrasts two kinds of wisdom. One is earthly, unspiritual and demonic, characterized by bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). The second kind of wisdom, not the first, is the Geneva grad’s goal.

  1. Foster academic strength.

In Geneva’s Communication department, my professors assigned graduate-level readings during my junior year of classes. If you’re serious about your studies, there’s no question that Geneva’s liberal arts core and Christian intellectual foundation will prepare you to interact fruitfully with difficult ideas.

But Geneva is not interested in producing academics who love intellect merely for the sake of intellect. A Geneva education harnesses academic strength in service to God and neighbor. The world needs more brilliant minds, but it also needs steady hearts and ready hands to accompany them.

  1. Engage culture faithfully.

Master’s programs can induce culture shock as students encounter myriad competing “truths”—or claims that no truth exists at all. But St. Augustine’s classic On Christian Doctrine encourages us to seek wisdom in secular authors as well as in the Scriptures: “All truth is of Him who says, ‘I am the truth.’”

Geneva’s integration of faith and learning, particularly in the humanities, encourages graduate students to discover Christ’s truth in unlikely places and people. As a professor reminded me, “You can read anything confidently because you know Jesus.”

  1. Inspire vibrant hospitality.

During Geneva’s freshman orientation, you knew what it was like to be an outsider. Gradually, as your mentors, professors and RA’s offered hospitality, you began to realize that you belonged. Now, you may find yourself showing hospitality to new members of the Geneva community.

The first week of a Master’s program may once again leave you anxious, overwhelmed and lonely. As a Geneva grad, however, you’re still backed by a caring community of classmates and former professors who can offer support and encouragement. And as you gain your footing in grad school, you can turn to extend that same hospitality to others.

  1. Honor one another.

With intense pressure and tough competition, it’s easy to see how blow-ups and meltdowns can become common in grad school life. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Dr. Calvin L. Troup, President of Geneva College, describes meekness as strength under control. Geneva prepares its students for meekness, combining hard work with patience, kindness, and self-control. By honoring your classmates and professors, you honor the Lord.

If you’re passionate about continuing your education, don’t let dire predictions dissuade you from graduate school. With a biblically-grounded, Christ-centered foundation, you can take courage and excel.

Geneva College offers four graduate degrees – M.A. in Counseling, M.A. in Higher Education, M.S. in Leadership Studies (fully online) and MBA (fully online or classroom). For more information, visit Geneva.edu/graduate.

Michael Kearney ’17 is a graduate student and research assistant in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Duquesne University. He recently received the Pennsylvania Communication Association’s Top Graduate Paper Award among M.A. and Ph.D. students for a paper composed at Geneva College.