Fourth Time’s The Charm?

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein

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I wasn’t going to do this for a really long time. When I chose a Bachelor’s degree program, it was clear which one was the right one. I signed up at Charter Oak State College, finished it, and was done. Similarly, I had no problem selecting the right Master’s degree program. The program at George Washington University was the right one at the right price, and once I enrolled I never doubted that I would finish it, even when things got tough.

Doctoral study has been different. I’ve made three different attempts to scale this particular mountain, and in each case I haven’t reached the summit. I enrolled in the Doctor of Health Education program through A.T. Still University but lost interest in it after a few terms when it became clear it wasn’t a good enough fit for my interests. I enrolled in the PhD in Economics program at Swiss Management Center, only to look at the first course and realize that four years of hard core economics was similarly not sustainably interesting to me. More recently, I applied to a set of universities here in the States for programs in Higher Education, and enrolled at the University of Memphis. Well, I ended up concluding that that one wasn’t my doctoral home either, and have withdrawn.

It’s not that Memphis was bad, because much of it was good. I liked my advisor, and one of my courses was excellent. It’s true that my statistics course was being taught by someone with zero aptitude for or interest in teaching, but I was still on track to get an A in it when I withdrew, so that wasn’t really it either. I just didn’t love it. Maybe this is absurdly idealistic of me, but I want to love it. Or at the very least, I want that same “this is it!” feeling that I got from previous schools where I’ve finished what I started.

So now what? Interestingly, shortly after I’d reached this conclusion I got an acceptance letter in the mail from Northeastern University in Boston. I’d applied to them at the same time as Memphis and Liberty, but their admissions cycle was so much longer than the others that I hadn’t heard back until about six months after I’d submitted everything. I realized that one of the issues I’d been having was with enrolling in programs that were “close enough”, but the program at Northeastern is specifically in International Higher Education, which is my exact primary area of interest. So I decided to take one more chance, and respond affirmatively to them.

I guess there’s no such saying as “fourth time’s the charm”. I hadn’t planned to blog about this until I was a few terms into things just so I’d be sure that I wasn’t going to withdraw from yet another program. But too many people know at this point for me to pretend it’s not increasingly common knowledge, so rather than say nothing I’ll go ahead and occasionally relay my experience with this. I’m going to do a residency during my very first term, which will be different from previous programs, and I like to think that it will help that the “connection” feeling that so far has eluded me in doctoral study.

So that’s what’s happening. And if this confirms your suspicions about my lack of sense, fair enough.

2 Comments

  1. Comment by Jeffrey Deutsch:

    Hello Steve,

    I’m very sorry that Economics didn’t work out for you. I know what you mean about needing to find your passion…and about seeking second, third and fourth chances.

    Good luck at Northeastern, Steve!

    Jeff Deutsch

  2. Comment by Tom Nixon:

    I hope Northeastern works out for you. Good school with, hopefully, a program that matches your needs.

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