Why I Dropped out of Grad School

That awkward moment when you announce on social media that you’ve been accepted into graduate school fully funded and you get 300+ likes and dozens of congratulatory comments, only to find out that it was NOT in fact God’s timing.

grad school letter

Yep. That’s what happened. I received the acceptance letter in May and by July, I decided that I wasn’t going to enroll in the program. (Okay, so “dropping out” isn’t 100% accurate, but it was a catchy title. Don’t judge me.)

In my last two posts, I talked about turning down opportunities and how to deal with unmet expectations. Well, this post is following right along with those themes.

I realized that school was going to be too much to add to my plate. I was already struggling with finding a healthy rhythm at my job, so why would I put myself through the agony of slaving through a graduate program that I wasn’t ready for?

My God is so good because He gives FORESIGHT!

The only reason why this degree would be fully-funded (at least for that 1st year) was on the condition that I kept my job. I worked for the university system and would be eligible for tuition exemption as long as I was in that position.

What I didn’t know is that, by November, I would be stepping down from my job and taking a full break from work, period.

If I had enrolled in the program, I probably would’ve flunked out (due to stress), and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford it at the point where I was no longer working.

I had to let go of the dream, slow my roll, and be okay no matter the outcome.

What made this so confusing from a spiritual standpoint was that it seemed like EVERYTHING aligned.

  1. I chose the program specifically for its flexibility, in that we’d only have class every other weekend.
  2. It would be a small cohort (and ya’ll know how much I love me some small group discussion!)
  3. I always wanted my graduate degree to be paid for since I didn’t have to personally pay for my undergraduate degree.
  4. I took a “course preview” and felt like it was a program that aligned with my values and the way I want to make a mark on businesses and organizations.
  5. I was even granted permission from both of my bosses to work four 10-hour shifts on the weeks where I had class, so I could have Fridays off to better manage my schedule!
  6. I was awarded a scholarship that I didn’t even apply for, based on my merit and community service.
  7. I didn’t have to take the GRE!
  8. My spiritual mentor graduated from the same exact program and offered to pray me through it!

“Surely, the LORD is in this place,” I thought to myself like Jacob (see Genesis 28:16).

But even if it was the right program, right provision, and right promise, it wasn’t going to come to pass if it wasn’t the right TIMING.

Pause and think about it for a minute. How many situations in your life would’ve been better if you would’ve just waited a little while longer?

Maybe you bought something full price and the next week it was on sale for a fraction of the cost. Maybe you entered that relationship before you were fully healed, and you and your partner suffered the consequences of a wounded heart. Maybe you accepted a job offer that was mostly what you were looking for and then a few months later your dream job got posted.

Makes you think, right?

Now, looking back, there probably were other things “off” that I couldn’t see before in this particular set-up.

For one, although the job would pay for my schooling, I knew that I wasn’t being valued enough in my role and I didn’t want to do the same work for another 2 years, just for the sake of a graduate degree. That’s silly.

And on top of that, if I didn’t 100% love the work I was doing (although I loved it in the beginning), who’s to say that I wouldn’t change my mind with this degree program? That would be a very expensive change of mind. No thank you.

Also, can I be real? My bachelor’s is in philosophy. Did I really want to earn another degree where I had to explain to people what it meant? Probably not. [Although, this is probably just my insecurity talking.]

Oh, and I forgot to mention in my lovely list of “wins,” that I received letters of recommendation from 2 top professors of color at the [predominately white] university, who taught in each one of my majors! And even though I was 4 years removed from college, I still maintained relationships with them so they could vouch for my academic work AND professional work. (I didn’t read their letters, but I’m sure they were superb!)

So, I had to do the proverbial “walk of shame” and email them, thanking them for their support, but letting them know I wasn’t going to be in the program after all. Ouch!

They, of course, were very gracious and offered their support no matter what my decision was. I didn’t give them specifics; I just said it was due to “personal issues.”

But, I’m not defeated. It was a blessing in disguise, clearly.

I listened to a podcast the other day and one of the hosts, Yvonne Orji, also a woman of faith, was talking about the notion of God’s 2.0 version.

Something didn’t work out the way you expected it to, even if it seemed like it was a divine set up?

That just means something better is on its way! Simple as that.

And better could be the same thing (graduate program, relationship partner, job, etc.) but just in a greater form.

Whatever the case may be for me, I’m not going to force it this time.

I loved school so much. I was great at it all my life. Attending my alma mater increased my love for education even more, especially higher ed. And not going to graduate school immediately after college when a lot of my peers did was hard for me. I waited 4 years and it looked like I finally got my chance to get back out there.

But, not yet.

So many of our frustrations and disappointments are really “not yets” that feel like flat out “nos.”

And honestly, sometimes we aren’t dreaming big enough!

I’m starting to think that was the case for me with this grad program. I didn’t dream big enough.

But I praise the Lord for taking me through a process and showing me that His provision would back me up when the timing is right. And by “provision” I mean the aforementioned list: great letters of recommendation, scholarships, schedule flexibility, etc. (And I’m still hoping for no entrance exam!)

Maybe I just needed to know what a yes felt like. Maybe I just needed to celebrate a win in life—to taste some of the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness during a hard time. Because Lord knows this has been a hard few years!

The most recent sermon at the church I’ve been attending was called “Do It Again.”

And Yvonne Orji from the podcast episode I mentioned referenced a popular worship song called “Do It Again.”

There’s a pattern.

God is speaking.

He’s going to do it again!

It may not be until a few more years when I get my opportunity to go back to school. Or, maybe my dream program is right around the corner!

Or maybe both! Maybe there’s some in-between opportunity lined up to better position me for a full-time degree program. I’ve been known to join shorter-term cohort programs (like the one in New York, if you’ve been following me for a while) to sharpen my skillset.

And hey! Maybe I’ll actually create the program this time around. Who knows?

God can do it!

There are endless opportunities. We just have to open ourselves up to our path not looking the way everyone else’s does. It’s easier said than done, though, because the comparison trap is REAL.

But I wanted to share this story as the testimony is in process. This is where my faith is built— in the “in-between” places. In those times where doubt and discouragement creep in. Or, in my case, where they get totally unleashed like an avalanche!

I’m here to say, it’s all good.

God has pretty much given me a paid vacation to work on my favorite craft: writing!

So all is balanced in my world. All is well.

Everything will come together.

Here’s a verse I want to leave us all with. Grab a hold of it and don’t let go!

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Until Next Time,

Jess

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2 thoughts on “Why I Dropped out of Grad School

  1. Thanks for sharing your story! I’m currently praying about whether it is the right time to start grad school in the Fall as well. I pray that God will continue to reveal to you your path and that in His timing you will return to school!

    Like

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