Tag Archives: masters-degree

GREs and Back (Hopefully) To Grad School

My previous set of GRE General Test scores exceeded their five-year limit this past April, so in order to go back to grad school and start work on a Ph.D. in Statistics, I need to retake the exam and generate a fresh set of scores. This actually isn’t as bad a thing as it might seem, even though taking the GREs is about as much fun as spending three hours at the dentist. The first time I took the exam, I scored somewhere around the 98th percentile on the Analytical section. I performed pretty well on the verbal, as well – the actual number escapes me at the moment, however. The Quantitative, though, kicked my butt – and hard – much to my chagrin. I’ve always been pretty good at numbers, so I was pretty dismayed at how difficult that section was for me. Hazards of having not used much math in the couple of years before taking the exam. This opportunity to take the GREs again is my chance to redeem myself. I really need decent scores on the Quantitative section, especially considering that statistics is a pretty quantitative field. Makes sense, right?

I’m scheduled to take the computer-based GRE again on Dec. 8. This means that I get to experience the joy that is the two new question types on the exam. For the verbal section, this means completing questions that have two or three blanks in a sentence or passage, as opposed to the single blank in the former type of question. For the quantitative it means filling in a number blank for either a number or a fraction. It means that the GRE is probably going to be a bit more difficult than it was previously, but the advantage is that I have a month to study, and I have a couple of really good study aids at my disposal.

Provided everything goes well with the GRE, I’m hoping to enter Purdue’s Ph.D. program in statistics next fall. It might mean taking a couple of ‘remedial’ stats courses to catch up, since my stats background consists of three graduate level courses I took during my Master’s program at Ball State. I’m good for that, though, and I’m really hoping that everything will come together well enough to gain admittance. Plan B, of course, would be to enroll in the non-terminal Master’s program for statistics and use that as my testing ground to prove that I can handle the coursework to move into the Ph.D. program. Purdue is also my obvious choice for this program, since I can get the faculty/staff discount on tuition.

Now, the one aspect of the Ph.D. program that makes me nervous the quarter-time minimum teaching requirement. I’m really not much of a public speaker, and I certainly develop a level of performance anxiety whenever I get in front of people. It helps, of course, to remember that my knowledge and expertise will be greater than that of the undergraduates I’d be teaching, and I’m sure I’d become more comfortable with the idea of teaching as I do more of it. And there’s always the chance of stepping into a professorship down the road, so being able to teach and having some experience in that area will certainly help.

Lots of good stuff ahead, I imagine, and believe it or not, I actually look forward to taking the GRE and seeing just how much knowledge this head of my possesses. The idea of going back to school again and getting my Doctorate doesn’t sound half bad, either.

To Serve

In order to be a servant, one must first be willing to serve. Seems like that would be common sense, right? Not necessarily so. I went through a bleak period not so long ago during my work on my master’s degree where I wallowed in depression and where, while not exactly turning my back on Him, I did not exactly seek God out. I was cynical and bitter, with the bitterness leading from the cynicism. I was disgusted with my fellow man and felt that he got everything he deserved, myself included. I had watched people create their own problems, ask for help, be given good advice, and then ignore that advice or give up when the solution to the problem proved to be more work than expected. It was frustrating and painful to watch (still is), and inwardly I threw my hands up and said, Fine, have it your way. This isn’t worth it.

And so I trudged my way through my master’s education, ultimately dropping the counseling from my double-major and specializing solely in social psychology. Part of this decision hinged on my bitterness, but mostly it was because I found out that counseling was just not a good fit for me. I didn’t enjoy it, choosing rather to focus on theory and philosophy and analysis, capitalizing on the gifts and interests that God gave me.

Somewhere along this process I realized that something pivotal had been lost. During my undergraduate education, I had been both humbled and pleased to find that friends sought me out often for counsel and advise (part of the reason why I thought counseling _might_ be a good fit for me). Even after we had graduated and gone our separate ways, there had been a certain amount of a continued long-distance consultation. But at some point that had all come to an end. No one sought me out, no one asked for my advice.

It didn’t take me long to figure out why. I had become so cynical and bitter that I didn’t want to be bothered. I had, essentially, lost hope in my fellow man, lost the optimism that he could change. I’m sure that I unconsciously communicated some of this angst, but I believe also that God stopped using me for a while, stopped blessing my ministry to my friends. I had a bad attitude; I was no longer a servant, just a selfish, depressive individual with no heart for ministry.

I have been pleased to note that things are changing for the better as I struggle to get my heart right with God. It’s a daily process, typical of the Christian walk. Some days I am eager to reach out to God and serve Him, while other days I struggle just to get out of bed. But my heart has changed, softened, and while I don’t ever walk perfectly (I do LOTS of stupid things), I do at least feel like I am making the effort. And there must be some evidence of that because people have started seeking me out again. It always surprises me when it happens, too, because I truly do not feel like I have much to offer, being the prideful, oft-arrogant, struggling person I am. Yet, apparently God sees something in me I do not for He has sent people my way. I can only hope and pray that I am able to help in some small way without becoming ever more arrogant. Of course, it helps that whenever I become too comfortable, something happens to knock me down a couple of notches again.

God’s funny like that…

Sifting

I love psychology. It is, after all, my chosen field. And I must say that getting my master’s degree from a secular institution has been interesting, to say the least. I always have to include a personal mental disclaimer to every lecture. For example, in my Social Cognitions class last night, we discussed briefly a classic psychological “chicken-or-the-egg” phenomenon — which affects which first? Physiology or affect (moods/emotions/etc.)? (See? Chicken. Egg.) Does physiology initiate an action and thus mood is interpreted from the aroused physiological state? Or does affect/cognition initiate the arousal and thus the physiological reaction.

Enter disclaimer — “Note to self: present company has little to no notion of the spirit/soul, and few theories even mention the topic, let alone discuss it. Be sure to account for that in your own personal practice.

That’s a continued problem I run into (and probably will for the rest of my professional life) – most of these theories are so frustratingly unilateral and unimodal. The theories attempt to fit all the facets and nuances of human behavior into a nice, tight little package of cause-and-effect (impossible!). And while some theories are better than others, none is perfect (or necessarily even great) at doing the job. So, I sift, sift, sift through the theories and take out the useful stuff (using a biblical, as well as a practical, foundation)and, with a VERY critical eye, blend it with what the Bible says about the human condition and the human relationship to one another and to God. Very tedious, yet at the same time, really quite fun. Especially when application can be made — and one can watch it work!

So, I sift the theories, but mentally add the element that nearly every theory neglects — the spiritual side of humanity. If you can’t identify ALL the pieces of Man, then you can’t properly address all the NEEDS of Man.