Life Lessons from a Graduate Degree

Dec 17, 2018

Life has the habit of getting in the way, and after a few setbacks in other departments, this feels pretty damn good. Yesterday, I earned my Master of Science degree in Computer Engineering. This was something I had to put on hold for a few years after completing my undergraduate degree.

During this time, I learned a lot academically, about myself and about life in general. Along the way, I met amazing people, inside and outside the classroom, from whom I also learned a lot even if they didn’t realize it. I definitely see this experience as a journey. It was expensive, but I still believe education is one of the best investments you can make in yourself.

Graduate school gives a more comprehensive training in your field of study and can potentially advance your career. More importantly, I think, it gives you a greater perspective into your field so that you are able to “see” and make connections you may have missed before. Also important, it makes you realize how much you still don’t know.

As a non-traditional part-time student, it took me twice the time (and probably the effort) to complete, and there were moments when I seriously doubted I was going to finish my degree. I just kept going.

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So, I felt this was a good time to throw out some good old unsolicited life advice. I think I can summarize it in three sentences: be patient, be willing to make sacrifices, and don’t ever, ever, ever give up.

Be Patient

This is probably the hardest part, but it's critical. Good things, things that are worth pursuing take time and effort. And, almost always, the path to achieving these things is not a straight line. Thinking otherwise is foolish and naive. Sometimes all we can do is take a baby step, but as long as we take it, we are making progress. Remember that slow progress is not equal to no progress. Patience these days is a virtue.

Be Willing to Make Sacrifices

Yes, it’s true, we need to make sacrifices in order to achieve great things. We see it all the time and in all walks of life. What constitutes a sacrifice will depend on the individual, but there’s no doubt you will face them at one point or another, and you will need to choose. If you are committed and passionate about your goal, it will be a little easier. Set your priorities straight and don’t lose sight of your goal.

Don’t Ever, Ever, Ever Give Up

When I first applied to graduate school, I got rejected twice. My original plan was to get into the Computer Science program, but since my background was in Electrical Engineering, I didn’t meet all the prerequisites. Then I tried with the Applied Statistics program and also got rejected. Until finally I was accepted into the Computer Engineering graduate program.

After a while, it starts to mess with your mind getting rejected. You start to rethink if you are actually capable and even begin questioning your intelligence. Luckily, I kept trying. I can say that at this point in life I’m very intimate with rejection. It’s just one of those inevitable things that often happen.

A valuable lesson is that sometimes when something doesn’t work, you just need to change your approach and try different things. However, there are also times when it’s best to just let go and move on. I’m not saying it’s easy to recognize when to attempt which, but with time and a little perspective, we tend to get a little better at it.

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I hope reading this will provide some motivation to keep reaching for your goals. I honestly believe that if I was able to do this, then anybody can. Trust me, I’m only human.

Me with diploma Me dabbing