You can be ALLLLLL the Way Up, but you cannot forget who put you on to get all the way up to begin though! That is the reoccurring theme for my life, especially with this doctoral journey ya’ll.Never in my life did I ever think that I would apply to a doctoral program, let alone, actually get into a program that I LOVE! I made the decision to start a doctoral program last fall alongside my now-fiancee aka Queen Diva after doing the adult thing and planning out a life together. We found that there wasn’t a better time than now for BOTH of us to go WHILE working full-time AND PLANNING A WEDDING!? I know you’re probably saying: “what in the blue balls of uncle sam are they thinking?” because I damn sure was. But you know, #BlackExcellence and #MelaninPoppin! We’re both in a space in our lives where we’re putting in the grind and have the passion to further our education before the more serious commitments come down the pipeline (Trump becoming President, beautiful Black ass kids, and any life-threatening sicknesses) which all can be a hindrance as we look to progress in the field of higher education. My goal is to become a a high level administrator at a university (think Dean of Students, Vice President of Student Affairs, etc) and as a Black man, I know that I have to come with a little extra when applying for these positions and having a terminal degree. Additionally, there’s the “can I do it factor?” Not many people from where I grew up in DUUUUVAAAALL county have gone on to obtain terminal degrees and successfully
When deciding on this huge, three year commitment, I consulted with those on my Board of Directors (EVERYONE NEEDS TO HAVE A BOARD OF DIRECTORS IN THEIR LIVES. These are close friends and mentors that can provide guidance and give vision to some of life’s greatest blind spots) and garnered the positive/negatives of this endeavor. Needless to say, they were all for it and they agreed, there wasn’t a better time than now. I spoke to my supervisors at my institution who supported me fully. I have the support and prayers of everyone closest to me, however, how am I, a 2 time first-generation college student who comes from the bottom succeed in a doctoral program? I don’t know and that’s why God is so integral in this process! He’s given me the favor more times in my life than I can count and He always shows up to show out if you let him! I researched a few universities around me that had the following criteria:
- Class schedule that could be complimentary to my full-time job and the work that I get to do on a daily basis. This also includes travel time to/fro my place of residence.
- Finances! M.I.A.M.I. (Money Is A Major Issue-Word to pre-pop Pitbull)
- Study Abroad component. This is one thing that I didn’t have the opportunity to do and if this is the last time I’ll be in school, I need to have this!)
- Small class sizes. Both undergrad and graduate school had quite a few people in my classes that I felt took away from the learning experience. Need something small and intimate.
- Cohort-based model. Another thing I wish I had in graduate school. Although we created an informal cohort, it made things difficult at time. So this is a must!
- Completion rate. What’s the point of getting into a program and nobody is graduating!?
These are just a FEW items, but truly the most important ones for me. I applied to one institution and surprisingly, I got an interview. I was asked a few questions and told that I should receive information regarding my acceptance later in the mail. A week later , I received the acceptance letter and in black/white letters, “Congratulations, Jamal, you’ve been accepted into ….” Mind you, I knew if I was in this program, I would not only give everyone in it all of this Black Kingship and be successful, but, I knew it was the easy way out. The level of rigor and challenge I was looking for I didn’t think it would offer what I needed. In addition, the program wasn’t too known in my circles in higher education. I was proud that I accomplished the first step and I held out on the program. It did not feel right for me despite the financial aid package I was going to get to alleviate the financial burden of the program.How did I handle this? Well, I did what any person in demand would do and had them wait while I looked to entertain other better offers without the high salary cap! Like Jay Z said, “I’d rather die enormous than live dormant” and I couldn’t do it at that university despite the amount high numbers of emails, phone calls, and messages to get me to accept. Can’t wait to share what happens next! Just know that momma ain’t raise no fool.